Share 8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

The umbrella of speculative fiction covers many subgenres: sci-fi, fantasy, surrealism, and everything in between. The books in this list draw from ancient and modern history as well as present-day anxieties about climate change and technological revolution. They’re set in dystopian America, ancient empires, and analogue fantasy worlds. But alongside their compelling imaginations, these books also encompass political and social commentary with implications for the world we live in today. 


The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
by Ken Liu

This short story collection includes a dizzying variety of spec fic genres. The title story, THE PAPER MENAGERIE, follows a simple but heartbreaking relationship between an immigrant mother and a son unwilling to learn her language. Each story examines a different facet of language: how it’s interpreted through literature, the role it plays in collective and individual memories, how translation filters through time, space, and species. Liu’s recently published second collection, THE HIDDEN GIRL AND OTHER STORIEScontinues his innovative work in speculative fiction. 

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The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
Ken Liu

Featured in the Netflix series Love, Death & Robots

Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his multiple award-winning stories for a groundbreaking collection—including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features many of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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Jade City
by Fonda Lee

If THE GODFATHER was set in an island nation inspired by twentieth-century Asian metropolises, it might look something like JADE CITYThe country of Kekon is ruled by two insular clans of Green Bones, warriors who can harness the power of bioenergetic jade. At the center of this novel is the Kaul family, who’s forced into a street war with their rival clan. Beyond the action-packed violence, predatory foreign interests and economic pressures make the worldbuilding of this fantasy novel one of a kind.  

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Jade City
Fonda Lee

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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Trail of Lightning
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Decades into the future, much of the world has fallen to apocalyptic floods. Only Dinétah, the land of the Navajo people, has survivedalong with monsters and gods from Navajo myth. Maggie Hoskie’s job is to hunt down these monsters, and when a particularly troubling series of killings surfaces, she sets off to uncover whoor whatis responsible.  

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Trail of Lightning
Rebecca Roanhorse

2019 LOCUS AWARD WINNER, BEST FIRST NOVEL
2019 HUGO AWARD FINALIST, BEST NOVEL

Nebula Award Finalist for Best Novel

One of Bustle’s Top 20 “landmark sci-fi and fantasy novels” of the decade

“Someone please cancel Supernatural already and give us at least five seasons of this badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick.” —The New York Times

“An excitingly novel tale.” —Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse and Midnight Crossroads series

“Fun, terrifying, hilarious, and brilliant.” —Daniel José Older, New York Times bestselling author of Shadowshaper and Star Wars: Last Shot

“[C]rafts a powerful and fiercely personal journey through a compelling postapocalyptic landscape.” —Kate Elliott, New York Times bestselling author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

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Ninefox Gambit
by Yoon Ha Lee

The oppressive Hexarchate empire has dominated a universe ruled by mathematics for millennia. When a heretic faction rises, Captain Kel Cheris is sent to quell the rebels with a secret weapon: the consciousness of General Jedao, a brilliant war criminal who has never lost a battle. The universe in NINEFOX GAMBIT is mind-blowingly innovative, where mathematical calendars serve as the basis for mass warfare.  

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Ninefox Gambit
Yoon Ha Lee

From New York Times best-selling author Yoon Ha Lee! The ground-breaking first installment of the Hugo Award nominated Machineries of Empire series (Best Series)

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics.  Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics.  Cheris's career isn't the only thing at stake.  If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris's best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao--because she might be his next victim.

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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The Fifth Season
by N.K. Jemisin

This first book of the Broken Earth trilogy is unparalleled in its vision of a continuously apocalyptic world. Every few centuries natural disasters upend society, and orogenes, who have the power to control earth elements, are persecuted out of fear. THE FIFTH SEASON follows Essun, an orogene who must find her missing daughter when an apocalypse to end all apocalypses occurs, the book shifting through myriad timelines of her life to describe a society as ruinous as the earth it occupies.  

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The Fifth Season
N.K. Jemisin

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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Follow Me to Ground
by Sue Rainsford

Ada and her father are not quite human. Born from a patch of land they call the Ground, they have the ability to extract illnesses from people’s bodies. The village they’ve lived in for decades without aging is deeply strange and isolated by poverty, a malicious lake, and land with a will of its own. But when Ada begins an affair with a man named Samson, it will have consequences for her father, the villagers, and the Ground itself.  

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Follow Me to Ground
Sue Rainsford

Palm Beach Post, BuzzFeed, and LitHub’s Most Anticipated of 2020

A haunted, surreal debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal—one that upends our understanding of power, predation, and agency.

Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson. When they strike up an affair, to the displeasure of her father and Samson’s widowed, pregnant sister, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover—and eventually comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.

Follow Me to Ground is fascinating and frightening, urgent and propulsive. In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. Slim but authoritative, Follow Me to Ground lingers long after its final page, pulling the reader into a dream between fairy tale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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The Devourers
by Indra Das

In present-day Kolkata, a professor meets a stranger who starts to spin a tale of shapeshifting beasts. The stranger presents him with a series of notebooks to translate, and the story spirals back into history. Immortal shapeshifters wander through the Mughal Empire, a young woman is drawn into their violent world, and the professor begins to uncover his stranger’s connection to this centuries-long saga.  

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The Devourers
Indra Das

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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The Poppy War
by R.F. Kuang

Set in a high fantasy world based on Sino-Japanese historythis book follows an orphan girl named Rin who tests into the most prestigious military school in the country. She struggles to keep up with classmates from elite families—and then the empire plunges into war and her problems become that of life and death. In order to save her country, Rin turns to shamanism, drawing on the powers of the vengeful Phoenix god with terrible consequences. THE POPPY WAR is ruthless in its portrayal of the realities of war, an addicting and utterly unpredictable read.  

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The Poppy War
R.F. Kuang

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8 Great Speculative Fiction Novels to Add to Your TBR

By Johanna Dong | March 20, 2020

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