Science fiction and fantasy are untapped genres for many book clubs. While the books may take us to distant worlds or a galaxy far, far away, they explore topics and themes that are very familiar to our world—and ripe for discussion. Consider these science fiction and fantasy novels for your next book club selection.
What happens to a matriarchal society when girls stop being born? This is the question G.R. Macallister asks in SCORPICA. This phenomenon deemed the “Drought of Girls” threatens centuries of peace for the five queendoms, evoking deep societal changes that’ll have your book club chatting away. If your book club still prefers fiction based in our world, don’t worry; Macallister writes historical fiction as well under the pen name Greer Macallister.
A centuries-long peace is shattered in a matriarchal society when a decade passes without a single girl being born in this sweeping epic fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Robin Hobb and Circe.
Five hundred years of peace between queendoms shatters when girls inexplicably stop being born. As the Drought of Girls stretches across a generation, it sets off a cascade of political and personal consequences across all five queendoms of the known world, throwing long-standing alliances into disarray as each queendom begins to turn on each other—and new threats to each nation rise from within.
Uniting the stories of women from across the queendoms, this propulsive, gripping epic fantasy follows a warrior queen who must rise from childbirth bed to fight for her life and her throne, a healer in hiding desperate to protect the secret of her daughter’s explosive power, a queen whose desperation to retain control leads her to risk using the darkest magic, a near-immortal sorcerer demigod powerful enough to remake the world for her own ends—and the generation of lastborn girls, the ones born just before the Drought, who must bear the hopes and traditions of their nations if the queendoms are to survive.
A sibling novel to Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize–winning A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD, CANDY HOUSE takes us through a trippy world of gaming, portals, and alternate worlds. Bix Bouton is considered a tech demi-god due to the success of his company, Mandala. His latest venture, though, is about to revolutionize memories. With Own Your Unconscious, people can access every memory they’ve ever had and exchange those memories for access to the memories of others. Egan introduces characters through various narrative styles, from epistolary and first-person plural to omniscient, and even one chapter told entirely through tweets. CANDY HOUSE asks readers to analyze their concept of love, family, connection, and, of course, memory.
Watch author Jennifer Egan discuss CANDY HOUSE for Book Club Favorites' April book discussion!
From one of the most celebrated writers of our time, a literary figure with cult status, a “sibling novel” to her Pulitzer Prize- and NBCC Award-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad—an electrifying, deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity and meaning in a world where memories and identities are no longer private.
The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. It’s 2010. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.
In spellbinding interlocking narratives, Egan spins out the consequences of Own Your Unconscious through the lives of multiple characters whose paths intersect over several decades. Intellectually dazzling, The Candy House is also extraordinarily moving, a testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for real connection, love, family, privacy and redemption. In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter and a chapter of tweets.
If Goon Squad was organized like a concept album, The Candy House incorporates Electronic Dance Music’s more disjunctive approach. The parts are titled: Build, Break, Drop. With an emphasis on gaming, portals, and alternate worlds, its structure also suggests the experience of moving among dimensions in a role-playing game.
The Candy House is a bold, brilliant imagining of a world that is moments away. Egan takes to stunning new heights her “deeply intuitive forays into the darker aspects of our technology-driven, image-saturated culture” (Vogue). The Candy House delivers an absolutely extraordinary combination of fierce, exhilarating intelligence and heart.
You may have joked a time or two that soon robots would be taking over, but Ariel S. Winter’s BARREN COVE is set in a world where that idea is a reality. Humans are nearly extinct, and robots are the dominant life-form on Earth. Following one robot in particular, Sapien, as he repairs himself after experiencing a debilitating accident, Winter explores what humanity means when you’re not human.
In Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee Ariel S. Winter’s Barren Cove, humans are nearly extinct and robots are now the dominant life-form on Earth.
The aged robot Sapien is the recent victim of a debilitating accident. The socially acceptable thing to do in robot culture is deactivate, but Sapien is not ready to end his life. Instead he orders spare parts for himself and rents a remote beach house in order to repair and ponder why he wants to go on. While there, he becomes obsessed with his landlords, the peculiar robot family living on the rambling estate perched at the top of the cliff. He is convinced that the elusive and enigmatic Beachstone, the head of the family, holds the answers to his existential quandary. Invoking the works of the great supernatural and science fiction writers Mary Shelley, Isaac Asimov, and Philip K. Dick, Barren Cove is a gothic tale in an unusual future.
In HOLD BACK THE STARS by Katie Khan, Carys and Max are left adrift in space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left to live. Carys and Max left everything they once knew behind, but they have one another. But home—even a home where they never felt like they really belonged—holds a lot of appeal when the other option is death. As their air supply ticks down, the couple have the chance to survive, but only one of them can take it. HOLD BACK THE STARS is a bittersweet story of first love.
Resurrected by an ancient power, former-thief-turned-police-officer Yat Jyn-Hok finds herself with the new ability to manipulate life force in DAWNHOUNDS by Sascha Stronach. Yat has recently been demoted at work due to her “lifestyle choices” after she was caught at a gay club. That would have been bad enough, but one night while out on patrol, she stumbles upon a dead body and two fellow officers brutally murder her. Unfortunately for them, Yat wakes up again. In this queer, Māori-inspired debut fantasy coming out this June, Yat races against time to save her city from a plague and an evil that’s taken hold.
Gideon the Ninth meets Black Sun in this queer, Māori-inspired debut fantasy about a police officer who is murdered, brought back to life with a mysterious new power, and tasked with protecting her city from an insidious evil threatening to destroy it.
The port city of Hainak is alive: its buildings, its fashion, even its weapons. But, after a devastating war and a sweeping biotech revolution, all its inhabitants want is peace, no one more so than Yat Jyn-Hok a reformed-thief-turned-cop who patrols the streets at night.
Yat has recently been demoted on the force due to “lifestyle choices” after being caught at a gay club. She’s barely holding it together, haunted by memories of a lover who vanished and voices that float in and out of her head like radio signals. When she stumbles across a dead body on her patrol, two fellow officers gruesomely murder her and dump her into the harbor. Unfortunately for them, she wakes up.
Resurrected by an ancient power, she finds herself with the new ability to manipulate life force. Quickly falling in with the pirate crew who has found her, she must race against time to stop a plague from being unleashed by the evil that has taken root in Hainak.
It’s the middle of the 22nd century, and the moon has been colonized. With three million people living in underground cities below the moon’s surface, THE MOON AND THE OTHER by John Kessel follows one city in particular: the matriarchal city-state the Society of Cousins. Tensions are rising and rebellions are brewing in this lunar city. Both men and women buck against the restrictions of the Society of Cousins, and when Society secrets are revealed, every citizen must decide what elements of their society are worth fighting for.
A Washington Post Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Selection of 2017
“Charming, sexy.” —The Washington Post
John Kessel, one of the most visionary writers in the field, has created a rich matriarchal utopia, set in the near future on the moon, a society that is flawed by love and sex, and on the brink of a destructive civil war.
In the middle of the twenty-second century, over three million people live in underground cities below the moon’s surface. One city-state, the Society of Cousins, is a matriarchy, where men are supported in any career choice, but no right to vote—and tensions are beginning to flare as outside political intrigues increase.
After participating in a rebellion that caused his mother’s death, Erno has been exiled from the Society of Cousins. Now, he is living in the Society’s rival colony, Persepolis, when he meets Amestris, the defiant daughter of the richest man on the moon.
Mira, a rebellious loner in the Society, creates graffiti videos that challenge the Society’s political domination. She is hopelessly in love with Carey, the exemplar of male privilege. An Olympic champion in low-gravity martial arts and known as the most popular bedmate in the Society, Carey’s more suited to being a boyfriend than a parent, even as he tries to gain custody of his teenage son.
When the Organization of Lunar States sends a team to investigate the condition of men in the Society, Erno sees an opportunity to get rich, Amestris senses an opportunity to escape from her family, Mira has a chance for social change, and Carey can finally become independent of the matriarchy that considers him a perpetual adolescent. But when Society secrets are revealed, the first moon war erupts, and everyone must decide what is truly worth fighting for.
Sarah Pinsker’s WE ARE SATELLITES is a futuristic twist on “keeping up with the Joneses.” When you’re a parent, you want to provide your child with everything—even if that means a new brain implant to help with school called a Pilot. But if everyone’s getting one, Val and Julie shouldn’t have a problem getting one for their son, David, when he asks. Soon, Julie is getting pressure to get one at work, leaving Val and their daughter, Sophie, to be part of the minority of people who don’t have a Pilot. Sophie believes there’s a dark side to Pilot, and soon her beliefs are pitting her against those she loves. In this thought-provoking novel, the “digital divide” has a whole new meaning.
Ever since the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s, humankind has been obsessed with finding the next frontier. While we’ve discovered many amazing wonders of the universe since then, DO YOU DREAM OF TERRA TWO? by Temi Oh ponders what would happen if we found a second Earth, a planet that human life could thrive on. The ten astronauts of DO YOU DREAM OF TERRA TWO?—four veterans and six teenagers—embark on a twenty-three year mission to Terra-Two. With no hope of rescue if something goes wrong—and something always goes wrong—these space explorers have only one another to rely on for the next twenty-three years.
An NPR favorite book of 2019
Winner of the ALA/YALSA Alex Award
When an Earth-like planet is discovered, a team of six teens, along with three veteran astronauts, embark on a twenty-year trip to set up a planet for human colonization—but find that space is more deadly than they ever could have imagined.
Have you ever hoped you could leave everything behind?
Have you ever dreamt of a better world?
Can a dream sustain a lifetime?
A century ago, an astronomer discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting a nearby star. She predicted that one day humans would travel there to build a utopia. Today, ten astronauts are leaving everything behind to find it. Four are veterans of the twentieth century’s space-race.
And six are teenagers who’ve trained for this mission most of their lives.
It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years locked in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong.
And something always goes wrong.
Readers often love when cities and other settings become characters in their own right. In THE CITY WE BECAME by N.K. Jemisin, not only is New York City a character, it has a soul—six of them. From a Lenape gallery director who feels literally called to by the city’s graffiti to a politician and mother who finds she can hear the songs of her city, meet the six souls of New York City in THE CITY WE BECAME. It’ll have your book club exploring questions of culture, identity, and magic.
Nedda Papas has one dream: to become an astronaut. And this dream is coming true as she begins her travels upon the spaceship Chawla. When a crisis happens aboard the Chawla, her past is the key to her future. Part space odyssey, part family saga, LIGHT FROM OTHER STARS by Erika Swyler examines family dynamics, gender roles, and the meaning of progress.
Photo credit: iStock / Grandfailure