While you may not know what gothic science fiction is, you’ve undoubtedly heard of some of the novels in the genre. Most notable, of course, is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, with its exploration of humanity and monsterhood. Or, another classic, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, explores the anxieties of good and evil after the main character experiments with a new drug. Both of these novels show key characteristics of the genre mash-up, with new technology, the terrorizing consequences of messing around with something that ought to have been left alone, not-the-most-likable main characters, and a strong sense of place. They’re key examples of the continuing sub-genre.
Also known as “space goth,” the sub-genre is full of mystery, terror, and the supernatural and explores scientific experimentation, mutation, and anxieties about the development of new knowledge in the characters’ world. More modern books in the gothic science fiction arena explore gender identity, nuclear fallout, and newly emerging technology that has yet to be entirely figured out, with consequences awaiting those who push the emerging science too far.
If this sub-genre sounds at all interesting to you, check out these eight gothic science fiction novels! They’re sure to both terrorize and entertain you in equal measure!
Leech by Hiron Ennes
After a doctor working in an isolated region dies, the Institute sends another in their place. What’s worrying, however, is how the doctor’s death managed to escape detection by the others linked to them through a shared consciousness. When an isolated mine and persistent parasite collide in the snow-stuck city, the doctor and those connected to them race to find a cure before no one is left.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
After university student Victor Frankenstein shocks a conglomeration of body parts back to life, he flees, leaving the now awake and confused creature to fend for itself. Left to a life of isolation and cruelty, the monster struggles on the outskirts of society, trying to find someplace he belongs. Eventually, his isolation breeds anger, anger at his maker for leaving him this way. Anger that will do damage beyond his one target.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Living with her father and his human-animal Hybrids, Carlota Moreau’s life on their Yucatan property is peaceful enough. But when the son of one of her father’s wealthy benefactors arrives, and her father’s hidden financial troubles come to a head, their stable life is upended, and she starts asking questions about her father’s inventions she may not want to know the answers to.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
After Mary Jekyll’s mother dies, she finds herself with little means to support herself. When her family lawyer tells her about money being sent to a mysterious society for the keeping of “Hyde,” she’s confused and determined to investigate. Teaming up with others curious about the society, they find there is no limit to the lengths some will go to live forever.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
The nine houses live under the Emperor and his all-powerful Lyctors. When each house is invited to compete to become one of these elites, Gideon is forced to compete with the Ninth House’s heir in exchange for her freedom. As those around them begin to disappear and the secrets of what becoming a Lyctor start to reveal themselves, the cost of the win might outweigh what they’d gain.
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
After nuclear war ravishes Earth, human Lilith Iyapo is in a prison-like cell being asked questions over and over again by not-quite-human creatures. She learns she was one of a few humans saved from the no-longer-habitable Earth by an alien race in the middle of a war. As Lilith bonds with one of the alien species, she learns about their ways, and they learn from her, too.
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright
After losing his best friend in an explosion in Baghdad, Hadi compiles the disparate body parts strewn in the streets to give him his rightful resting place. However, the body parts, once stitched together, come to life full of anger on behalf of those who they used to be. Soon after, people start to disappear, and the monster doesn’t seem to be stopping its path of revenge anytime soon.
A Botanical Daughter by Noah Medlock (release date March 19th)
Gregor, a botanist, lives in an isolated greenhouse with his lover, Simon, out of sight of the society that rejects them. When the opportunity arises to showcase his experiments to the Royal Horticultural Society, Gregor dedicates his time to creating Chloe, a conglomeration of flora and fungi reanimating the body of a dead woman. What is life and what is death in this greenhouse gothic new release?
I hope you check out one of these gothic science fiction novels! If you’re in the mood for more science fiction, check out these 20 genre-bending science fiction novels, or, for a taste of more gothic stories, check out these recent gothic horror books!