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Science Fiction and Fantasy

What is Science Fiction?

Science Fiction is a type of speculative fiction set in worlds based on plausible scientific theories. The genre traditionally describes future worlds and technologies, but past settings have grown in popularity (alternatie histories, steampunk). While there is some crossover with fantasy, science — rather than magic — drives the stories. (Source: Novelist)

Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction

1984 by George Orwell
Portrays life in a future time when a totalitarian government watches over all citizens and directs all activities.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In a dystopian future where births are declining, handmaids are women valued only for their viable ovaries.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradberry
A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners, Guy Montag, suddenly realizes their merit.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Amidst as bleak backdrop, a man and his young son slowly make their way toward the coast. Avoiding roves of marauding cannibals and fighting off starvation, they gain hope and stamina in knowing they are some of the remaining few virtuous people.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
A tale set in a world of reversing evolution and a growing police state follows pregnant twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, who investigates her biological family while awaiting the birth of a child who may emerge as a member of a primitive human species.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
An actor playing King Lear dies onstage just before a cataclysmic event changes the future of everyone on Earth. What will be valued and what will be discarded? Will art have a place in a world that has lost so much? What will make life worth living? (Source: LibraryReads)

Afrofuturism and Afrofantasy

The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monae
Whoever controls our memories controls the future. Dirty Computer introduced a world in which thoughts—as a means of self-conception—could be controlled or erased by a select few.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
In 2025 California, an eighteen-year-old African American woman, suffering from a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others’ pain as well as her own, flees northward from her small community and its desperate savages.

Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
This award-winning series tackles themes of metaphorical racism and climate change apocalypse behind the stunning Afrofantasy story of Essun, a woman who is part of an oppressed group of people called the Orogenes who can manipulate the Earth’s geological forces.

Dark Star Trilogy by Marlon James
Filled with shapeshifters, witches, and warring parties with complicated motivations, this series fuses quest and detective story themes with lush and convincing world-building.

Classics

Dune by Frank Herbert
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family–and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

Heir to the Empire series by Timothy Zahn
With Leia expecting twins and Luke starting a new line of Jedi Knights, all seems well. However, Admiral Thrawn, one of the last warlords of the Empire, is ready for war with a Dark Jedi at his side. This trilogy takes place 9 years after the Battle of Yavin during the New Republic Era (5-25 years after the beginning of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
In a glass-enclosed city of perfectly straight lines, ruled over by an all-powerful “Benefactor,” the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState are regulated by spies and secret police; wear identical clothing; and are distinguished only by a number assigned to them at birth. That is, until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery: he has an individual soul.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Captures the strange world of twenty-first-century Earth, a devastated planet in which sophisticated androids, banned from the planet, fight back against their potential destroyers.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Chronicles the off-beat and occasionally extraterrestrial journeys, notions, and acquaintances of galactic traveler Arthur Dent.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future–a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.

Journey to the Center of the Earth; Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea ; Round the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
In “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, an obsessive German professor and his nephew travel towards the earth’s core in the steps of a medieval explorer beneath an Icelandic volcano where they discover a lost world. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” is famous for its portrayal of the Byronic Captain Nemo and his submarine, the Nautilus, in which he explores the ocean while wreaking vengeance on mankind for their wickedness. In “Around the World in Eighty Days”, a starchy Englishman suspected of robbing the Bank of England accepts a bet that he cannot circumnavigate the globe in that time, and proceeds to do so, accompanied by his resourceful valet, Passepartout.

Memory’s Legion: the Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey
When Captain Jim Holden’s ice miner stumbles across a derelict, abandoned ship, he uncovers a secret that threatens to throw the entire system into war. Attacked by a stealth ship belonging to the Mars fleet, Holden must find a way to uncover the motives behind the attack, stop a war and find the truth behind a vast conspiracy that threatens the entire human race.

What is Fantasy?

Fantasy fiction consists of stories that take place in other worlds — sometimes very different from our own and occasionally parallel — infused with magical, paranormal, or otherwise unexplainable elements. Unlike science fiction, scientific means cannot explain these elements. They live in the realm of the fantastic, often drawing upon folklore, mythology, and ancient history for inspiration. (Source: Novelist)

Popular Series

A Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin
The aristocratic Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and the arrival of barbarian hordes.

The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
The epic Lord of the Rings trilogy is a world-building fantasy about a quest to rid the world of a great, terrifying menace. Richly detailed and magnificently descriptive, the series is populated by creatures drawn from Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology. It may be read either as adventure or as an allegory for the battle between good and evil.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Pevensie siblings and other children are magically transported to the land of Narnia where they battle evil witches, help kidnapped princes, and go on many other exciting adventures guided by the lion Aslan who is the guardian of this world.

The Age of Madness series by Joe Abercrombie
This world-building epic fantasy series is set almost three decades after the First Law series that focuses on the power struggle between those who cling to magic and those who want to usher the industrial age.

A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
Drawing inspiration from fairy tales, these dark, inventive fantasies star Feyre, a semi-literate girl who hunts to keep her family fed. A chance encounter with a wolf draws her into a parallel realm inhabited by faeries — a world where she discovers her true nature.

Earthsea Saga by Ursula Le Guin
During a spell recalling the dead, the boy Sparrowhawk, a sorcerer’s apprentice, unwittingly unleashes evil on the land. He grows to manhood while attempting to subdue the evil he unleashed on the world.

Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
When the Chamber of Secrets is opened again at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, second-year student Harry Potter finds himself in danger from a dark power that has once more been released on the school.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
The richly detailed Wheel of Time series is epic fantasy chronicling the adventures of reluctant heroes forced to defend humanity against monsters and dark prophecies. Lushly written, possessed of a strong sense of place, its rich detail and intricate plotting guarantee one hair-raising adventure after another.

More Fantasy Novels

The House of the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist.

Watership Down by Richard Adams
In a constant struggle against oppression, a group of rabbits search for peaceful co-existence. Chronicles the adventures of a group of rabbits searching for a safe place to establish a new warren where they can live in peace.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Harboring secret preoccupations with a magical land he read about in a childhood fantasy series, Quentin Coldwater is unexpectedly admitted into an exclusive college of magic and rigorously educated in modern sorcery.

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
Chosen to compete for five spots within The Alexandrian Society, the protectors and benefactors of the world’s greatest source of knowledge, six powerful, young magicians must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to win one of the coveted spots.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Days before his release from prison, Shadow learns that his wife has been killed in an accident. On the plane ride back home for the funeral, he meets Mr. Wednesday, who offers Shadow a job. Shadow accepts but soon discovers that Mr. Wednesday is far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book.

Book of Night by Holly Black
In a world where shadows have feelings and memories and can be altered, a low-level con artist/bartender is pitted against doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves and her own sister while trying to keep out of trouble.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
A new novel offers an exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel
Kaikeyi, the magic-wielding woman determined to gain power and exert control over her own life, even if that means defying the gods.

All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in the near-Renaissance world of A Brightness Long Ago, two assassins hired by the most dangerous men alive begin a mission that, if successful, will alter the destinies of empires and the lives of all people.

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen
From the NYT best-selling author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go.

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean
Part of The Family, a secret line of people for whom books are food, Devon, raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories, discovers that real life doesn’t always come with happy endings when her son is born with an insatiable hunger for human minds.

Spotlight: Becky Chambers

Award-winning American science fiction author Becky Chambers writes far-future space opera that explores themes of humanity and interpersonal relations with heart and humor. And though the universe she’s built is not always a friendly place, her characters (including a variety of richly imagined aliens), each of whom has their own personal struggles, strive to connect and work together for the greater good.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go backuntil the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how. They’re going to need to ask it a lot. Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter? (Book 1 of the Monk & Robot series)

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
While on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds, Ariadne O’Neill and a team of explorers, shifting through space and time, discover that the culture back on Earth has been transformed and must make a difficult decision.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Joining the crew of the aging Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that has seen better days, loner Rosemary Harper must unexpectedly risk her life when they are offered the job of a lifetime, which teaches her valuable lessons about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t the worst thing in the universe. (Book 1 of the Wayfarer series)

Updated September 2022

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