Science Fiction/Fantasy

Where to Start with Science Fiction

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Swapna Krishna

Staff Writer

Swapna is the Comics Editor at Book Riot. She's a Space Columnist for Paste Magazine and writes for Syfy Wire—Fangrrls,, Bustle, and other sites. She co-hosts a podcast called Desi Geek Girls. You can find her incessant ramblings on Twitter at @skrishna. She lives outside Philadelphia.

I’m an unapologetic science fiction fan. I’ve watched Star Trek pretty much my whole life, I grew up on Star Wars, and every time any TV show is announced that’s set in space, I do a little happy dance. I love being a sci fi geek—it really is one of my greatest pleasures in life.

That being said, for most of my reading life, I rarely (if ever) read science fiction. I can’t really say for certain why I avoided it. At least part of it was due to aesthetics: when I think of the sci-fi from my childhood, I recall tattered mass market paperbacks with yellowed pages, and as someone who absolutely judges books by their covers, I can’t say that was appealing.

But as I’ve gotten older (and arguably wiser), those sci-fi roots have been tugging at me, especially as there’s been a renaissance of the genre in movies and television. I wanted to start reading more science fiction, but I didn’t know where to start. The genre seemed forbidding, and I wasn’t especially inclined to get involved in books with 85 sequels; I just wanted some well-written and engaging stories that were set in space. And I’m glad to say I’ve found a few books I really loved; science fiction is such a huge genre and the following books are accessible and entirely entertaining.

The Martian Andy WeirThe Martian – Andy Weir

My favorite book of the year so far, The Martian is hilarious and smart and just everything you want in a book. It’s about a man, Mark Watney, who goes to Mars as part of an expedition. Something goes wrong, and the rest of the crew leaves in a hurry for Earth, thinking Watney is dead. Well, he’s not, and he must find a way to survive until he can be rescued—only no one on Earth actually knows he’s alive. Mark Watney is smart and full of winning wit, and the whole book is just made of awesome. The engineering aspects of it are fascinating, even for those (like me) with absolutely no background in the subject. I know I’m not alone in putting this book at the top of my “best of” list.

ready player oneReady Player One – Ernest Cline

My love for this book knows no bounds. It’s a sort of sci-fi/dystopian novel that was crafted specifically for the geek children of the 1980s. It’s about a guy, Wade Watts, who lives in a society where most socialization is done online, in a world call OASIS. The founder of OASIS created a legendary treasure hunt, in which his ridiculous fortune would go to the person who could decipher his clues and find the end prize. Of course, Wade tries his hand at it, and it becomes this amazing quest and it’s just SO MUCH FUN. Seriously people. Read this book. It’s full of the best amazing geekery out there.

glow - amy kathleen ryanGlow – Amy Kathleen Ryan

YA trilogies are a dime a dozen, but Glow is awesome because it deals with such serious heavy issues, ones that you wouldn’t expect to find in a novel marketed toward teens. It takes place aboard a spaceship called the Empyrean, in which a fifteen year old girl named Waverly must make some heavy choices that determine the line between life and death for the women aboard her ship. It’s a cryptic description, but this series is amazing for how it examines women’s rights, and specifically reproductive rights, all in the guise of a really gripping story. It’s got some issues, to be sure, but it’s really an interesting story, and the two sequels have since been released, so you can try them all in one fell swoop.

Are there any other science fiction reads that you can recommend? I need MOAR books, as I want to read the genre but have no idea where to turn next.


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