Fantasy and Science Fiction
The Poppy War by R.F. KuangWhat it’s about: In this historical military fantasy, dark-skinned war orphan Rin surprises everyone when she aces the entrance exam for Sinegard, the most revered military academy in all of Nikan. Will her discovery that she has shamanic powers help her prove to herself and her classmates that she’s worthy of her place?
Why you might like it: Punctuated with mysticism, treachery, and martial arts, this debut novel (the (the 1st in a planned trilogy) is inspired by real events in 20th-century China.
Only Human by Sylvain NeuvelWhat it’s about: Ten years after alien robot invaders kidnapped scientist Rose Franklin, she has returned to Earth to find a startlingly different landscape than the one she left behind. Now, Rose must uncover a way to hold the planet together before it's too late.
Series alert: Only Human is the 3rd entry in the Themis Files science fiction trilogy after Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods.
Reviewers say: “an addictive blend of science fiction, apocalyptic thriller, and chillingly timely cautionary tale” (Kirkus Reviews).
Song of Blood and Stone by L. PenelopeStarring: outcast Jasminda, thrown out of Elsira because of her gift of Earthsong; and injured spy Jack, whom Jasminda heals with her voice and then partners with to save her homeland.
Is it for you? This epic fantasy, which is inspired by Native American and African mythologies, is for readers who like stories with romantic elements.
You might also like: N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which also features a strong-willed female heroine.
Space Opera by Catherynne M. ValenteWhat it's about: “Glamrock messiah” Danesh Jalo is fighting for mankind’s continued existence -- by taking center stage in an intergalactic talent show bursting with glitter, lipstick, and rock and roll.
Reviewers say: An “endearing, razzle-dazzle love song about destiny, finding one’s true voice, and rockin’ the house down” (Publishers Weekly).
Is it for you? If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, David Bowie, or the Eurovision Song Contest, you'll like this humorous science fiction extravaganza too.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. BeagleWhat it’s about: In her quest to seek her own kind, the last unicorn leaves the safety of her forest home and goes in search of other magical creatures. During her travels in the outside world, she finds some intrinsically good humans -- such as Schmedrick the Magician -- but also finds selfish people, mortal danger, and a stunning change in herself.
Did you know? First published in 1968, The Last Unicorn is a modern fantasy classic beloved by many; it was adapted into a 1982 animated children’s film.
The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik PohlWhat it is: a collaboration between science fiction giants Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl, in which Sri Lankan mathematician Ranjit Subramanian writes a proof for the “Last Theorem,” bringing him much acclaim. But an impending alien invasion will test him like never before.
Who it’s for: Readers who enjoy adventure, hard science, and mathematical puzzles.
You might also like: The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, also featuring an impending alien invasion and hard science reminiscent of Clarke.
The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel KayWhat it's about: In an alternate 9th-century Britain, conflicts between the Viking-esque Erlings of Vinmark, the Saxon-like Anglcyn, and the Celtic-inspired Cyngael escalate through a series of seemingly unconnected events that eventually converge to devastating effect.
Is it for you? If you like multi-layered narratives, you'll enjoy this sweeping historical fantasy.
Related books: The Last Light of the Sun is set in the same world (but a different time period) as The Lions of Al-Rassan and The Sarantine Mosaic.
The Last Days of New Paris: A Novella by China MiévilleWhat it’s about: In 1941, a surrealist bomb explodes in Nazi-occupied Paris. A year later, Parisians and Nazis are fighting for control of the city, now known as New Paris, while “manifs” -- physical realizations of surrealist paintings -- are loose on the streets, creating their own bizarre chaos.
Read it for: an imaginative coupling of art history and speculative fiction.
You might also like: The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy, which also features warfare, art, and surrealism.
Last Year by Robert Charles WilsonWhat it's about: Jesse Cullen lives in 1870s Ohio; the woman he loves is from the 21st century. Both are involved with the City of Futurity, a metropolis built by time travelers to give 19th-century tourists a (selective) glimpse of the future. However, the word on the street is that the portal connecting Futurity and the world of the time travelers is about to close forever.
You might also like: the time-travel classic Time and Again by Jack Finney.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. WintersWhat it’s about: In just six months, Earth will be destroyed by an unavoidable asteroid. Although some people see little point in doing much of anything anymore, New Hampshire homicide detective Hank Palace doggedly keeps at it, hoping to bring a killer to justice.
Is it for you? For anyone looking for something a bit different, this police procedural science fiction story fits the bill perfectly.
Series alert: This is the intricately plotted 1st book in a trilogy, followed by Countdown City and World of Trouble.
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