DELVE INTO SOME SCI-FI BOOKS THAT AREN’T WRITTEN BY MEN.
THE DISPOSSESSED by Ursula K Le Guin From one of the most influential names in sci-fi (who sadly passed away last year), The Dispossessed is a gripping tale of two planets torn apart by centuries of conflict, and a physicist, Shevek, trying his darndest to bring them back together. Even though it was written in 1974, it tackles topics that are still incredibly relevant, like feminism, anarchism, capitalism and utopianism. (And a few other ‘isms’, too.) If you can’t get enough after tearing through this novel, check out the other books in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle series, which is set in the same universe – The Left Hand of Darkness is particularly popular.
KINDRED by Octavia E Butler This time-travelling tale follows an African-american writer, Dana, as she flits between the present day (in this case, 1976 Los Angeles) and a pre-civil War America. There, she’s confronted with the realities of racism and slavery, and has to make some tricky decisions to save both herself and the people she meets along the way. Written in a non-linear style, the novel is a masterclass in creative storytelling, melding a compelling narrative with strong social messages. The first book in the sci-fi genre to be written by a black woman, Kindred is considered a classic of black American literature, as well, paving the way for plenty of page-turners that have come after it.
IDA by Alison Evans If you could go back in time and make a different decision, would the you who had made the initial decision still exist – and what would happen if you ran into that version of yourself? (Trippy, eh?) That’s the question this Aussie sci-fi novel asks, as its protagonist, the titular Ida, stumbles across her shadowy doppelgänger on the train. Who is Ida, really, and can she get back to herself? Packed to the brim with queer themes and bite-your-nails suspense, this debut from Melbourne YA author Alison Evans has won a whole bunch of awards, and heralds a new generation of diverse sci-fi novels.
THE FIFTH SEASON by NK Jemisin Welcome to The Stillness: a single supercontinent making up the entirety of a planet. Every few centuries, the inhabitants of The Stillness are hit by a ‘fifth season’ – a period of catastrophic climate change. This ‘cli-fi’ (climate fiction) book follows the lives of three women of the Orogene race across different time periods, as they prepare for the end of the world. It’ll give you plenty to think about, from the future of our own planet to very real systems of oppression, and if you dig it, there are two more books in the Broken Earth series to dive into.
BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor At just 96 pages, this little pocket rocket of a novella will knock your socks off with its power. Originally published online in 2015, the Afrofuturist story follows a black woman, Binti, who’s one of the first of her people to be offered a place at a prestigious intergalactic university. To go, though, she must give up her family – and things get a little curlier when she realises the world she’s entering is smack-bang in the middle of warfare with an alien race. Will she make it out alive? This is also the first book in a series, so get ready to sink your teeth in.