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11 Stellar Speculative Fiction Books

These riveting reads are out of this world.

Buckle up, book lovers. Speculative fiction is a dazzling supergenre that blends multiple literary galaxies into one cosmic whole, from sci-fi and futuristic fantasy to magical realism and twisted literary fiction. Some of these narratives present a dark-humored vision of the not-too-distant future; others offer a haunting reflection of our all-too-familiar present. If you’re eager to take a ride to the outer limits of literature, you’re in luck: We’ve assembled a list of fresh speculative fiction books that you’re sure to enjoy and added a few recent releases that you may have missed.

Kaitlyn Johnston
Image for Alexis Schaitkin's book Elsewhere, featuring a fire in the foreground rising up to the Elsewhere text

Elsewhere

By Alexis Schaitkin

In her remarkable new novel, author Alexis Schaitkin (Saint X) transports us to a remote mountain village high in the clouds. Time moves differently in this isolated community; it’s a place steeped in tradition, where girls become women and women become wives and mothers. It’s also a place plagued by a strange affliction — sometimes the mothers of the community simply vanish into the mist. Vera understands the affliction all too well; her own mother disappeared when she was just a girl. Now, as Vera approaches motherhood, she wonders if she’ll get to see her own child grow up, or if she too will vanish into the clouds. Entrancing and provocative, Elsewhere is an “elaborately imagined, ethereally detailed” (Kirkus) new narrative that explores the dark mystery of community, autonomy, and the expectations of motherhood.

Related: Alexis Schaitkin, Author of Elsewhere, on the Timeless Questions of Motherhood

How High We Go in the Dark

By Sequoia Nagamatsu

How High We Go in the Dark, by national bestselling author Sequoia Nagamatsu, follows a host of complex characters, linked over the span of centuries. In 2030, an archeologist continues his late daughter’s work in the Arctic, where the perfectly preserved body of a woman who died of an ancient virus is uncovered. The released Arctic plague will change life on Earth for generations. Connected to this world-altering event are tales of a cynic who falls in love with a desperate mother, a scientist who gets a wild second chance at fatherhood, and a widowed artist and her teenage granddaughter who together search for a new planet to call home. Through narratives of love, loss, and new beginnings in the face of tragedy, Nagamatsu guides us across the stars and into a deeper understanding of who we are.

Klara and the Sun

By Kazou Ishiguru

Kazou Ishiguru’s acclaimed 2021 literary sci-fi novel examines eternal concepts of love and loneliness through a uniquely modern narrator. Klara is an Artificial Friend. From her spot in the store, she carefully observes the shoppers who come in to browse and the people who pass by outside, patiently waiting for someone to choose her. Brimming with imagination and insight, Klara and the Sun is a spellbinding tale that “will make you think about life, mortality, the saving grace of love” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR).

Goliath

By Tochi Onyebuchi

In his acclaimed new novel, Tochi Onyebuchi delivers a sweeping sci-fi epic that touches on themes of race, class, and survival. The novel takes place in 2050. Civilization has collapsed, and the mega-wealthy are fleeing Earth for the safety of outer space colonies. Those who remain fight to make a life out of what’s left, salvaging what they can as demo crews sweep through the crumbling cities harvesting building materials for the colonies above. Told through the intertwining narratives of a journalist documenting the devastation of Earth, a lovelorn space-dweller gazing down on the planet he left behind, a group of laborers sorting through the rubble, and an investigator striving to solve a kidnapping, Goliath is an ambitious speculative fiction novel packed with stellar storytelling and probing social commentary.

The Grace Year

By Kim Liggett

New York Times bestseller The Grace Year by Kim Liggett is part horror fairy tale, part survival story, and all unputdownable speculative thriller. In Garner County, girls are taught that they emit a powerful aphrodisiac that lures in men and drives women mad with jealousy. This is why they must endure a year of exile known as the Grace Year. Tierney James is 16 and dreams of a better world — one where girls on the cusp of womanhood aren’t banished into the woods on their 16th birthday in a dubious attempt to purify them of their sexual magic and make them suitable for marriage. Not everyone comes back from the Grace Year. And it’s not just the poachers prowling the forest to be wary of — sometimes it’s the other girls who are the greatest threat of all.

Follow Me to Ground

By Sue Rainsford

Somewhere between fairy tale and nightmare lies Sue Rainsford’s 2018 debut, Follow Me to Ground. This darkly captivating speculative fiction follows Ada, an otherworldly being gifted with the ability to heal. She and her father, seemingly ageless, live on the outskirts of the village, where they cure ailing villagers in visceral rituals that draw on the curative magic of the Ground. Ada has never been interested in the human folk who seek her healing touch — that is, until she meets Samson. To the disapproval of her father, Ada falls into an affair with Samson and must soon make a choice between the possibility of a future with her lover and the life she’s always led. Her decision may forever alter the person she loves, the community she serves, and even the bewitching power of the Ground itself.

The Farm

By Joanne Ramos

In her acclaimed 2019 speculative fiction debut, Joanne Ramos delivers a provocative tale about the pressures of motherhood that The Economist calls “unnervingly plausible.” The Farm takes place at Golden Oaks, a luxury retreat in New York’s Hudson Valley that boasts every amenity you could imagine, from personal trainers to organic meals prepared just for you. It’s all for free. More than that, the proprietors will pay you — handsomely — to come and stay at their facility. All you have to do is agree to remain on the grounds, cut off from the outside world, for nine months. Just long enough for you to produce a perfect baby for someone else. Jane is an immigrant from the Philippines who yearns for a better life, so she agrees to be a “host” at the Farm. Soon after becoming pregnant, however, she starts to have second thoughts about her decision. Now all Jane wants is to escape her stark predicament and reconnect with her loved ones, but doing so will cut her off from the payout she needs to turn her life around.

The This

By Adam Roberts

In The This, Adam Roberts imagines a near-future world dominated by social media where smart technology and artificial intelligence have infiltrated every aspect of human life. Sound familiar? The This is the newest social media platform; you get it injected into your mouth, and it spreads into your brain, allowing you to connect to the network without even touching your device. It’s all the rage, but skeptics are calling it a cult. Then there’s Adan, who just wants to stay home with his smart device, which provides everything one could need from a companion.

Nevertheless, he ends up in the army, where he soon discovers that he’s able to survive the attacks of the sentient robots invading America. Could he be destined for a greater purpose? Roberts’ The This is “an utterly bonkers, structurally ambitious novel about love, immortality, and the technological singularity” (Locus Magazine).

The Kaiju Preservation Society

By John Scalzi

From New York Times bestselling author John Scalzi, The Kaiju Preservation Society injects some sci-fi adventure into our distressing present. As COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie struggles to make ends meet as a delivery app driver. He’s worried he’ll be stuck in this dead-end job forever, until a fortuitous delivery to an old acquaintance lands him a new gig with a mysterious animal rights organization. And yet, this isn’t your typical eco-activist campaign: The group’s preservation efforts take place in an alternate reality where towering, dinosaur-like kaiju creatures roam a human-free Earth. As Jamie struggles to get to grips with his new role in the Kaiju Preservation Society, it becomes clear that others have discovered this alternate dimension — and that their reckless intentions could spell certain doom to millions of people back home.

The Fervor

By Alma Katsu

In The Fervor, celebrated author Alma Katsu adds a supernatural psychological thriller twist to the real-life horrors of the Japanese internment camps. It’s 1944, and World War II is raging. Meiko and her daughter Aiko are taken from their Seattle home and confined to a camp. It doesn’t matter that Aiko is an American-born citizen; their Japanese heritage is enough for the U.S. government to view them as a threat. But the real danger lurks within the confines of the camp, where a mysterious disease spreads among the detainees and turns them violent. The doctors who arrive to investigate the outbreak are just as malignant as the disease itself. Meanwhile, Meiko soon realizes that a demon from a childhood folk tale is determined to creep into the real world. Katsu brilliantly explores humanity’s backslide into inhumanity in this “atmospheric, detail-rich historical horror” (Library Journal, starred review).

Glitterati

By Oliver K. Langmead

Fashion, opulence, and lavish living — as a member of the Glitterati, that’s Simone’s world. In Oliver K. Langmead’s wicked near-future fable, the trendsetting billionaire class rules society. When Simone accidentally starts a new trend with a nosebleed at a party, someone else takes credit, igniting a rivalry that threatens to destroy their luxurious inner circle. Dripping with grandeur, glam, and savage wit, Glitterati is a sharp dystopian satire that spies on the lives of the elite through the cracks in their facade.

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