June 20, 2024


Science It Works

11 great sci-fi books from 2020 to check out on your new Kindle

It’s not easy to make it to a library right now, and with a long winter stuck at home looming ahead for many of us, there’s never been a better time to hunker down with a good book. If you’ve been lucky enough to receive a new Kindle (or a non-Amazon-branded e-reader or just a device with an e-book app on it), you might be looking for some new books to read.

To help, here are some of the best new science fiction books released in 2020 (along with some additional recommendations for other books in a series, where applicable), which should be the perfect pairing with your new e-reader.

We’ve rounded up our favorite and most-used games, apps, and entertainment. Check out our app picks for iPhones, Android phones, Windows PCs, and M1-equipped Macs; our favorite mobile games from Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass; and our top choices for gaming PCs, the PS5, Xbox One and Series X / S, Nintendo Switch, and VR. We’ve also listed our favorite streaming shows on Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Netflix; some great sci-fi books; and exciting new podcasts. (Note: pricing was accurate at the time of publishing but may change.)

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin is best known for her astounding Broken Earth trilogy (which is well worth adding to your reading list, too). The City We Became — a novel-sized spinoff of an earlier short story by Jemisin — reimagines New York City as a living, breathing entity, personified by a diverse collection of people from across the five boroughs as they fight to save the city from an otherworldly foe.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

If you haven’t read Gideon the Ninth, the first book in Muir’s Locked Tomb trilogy, read that first. You probably won’t need any encouragement at that point to dive into the second book, Harrow the Ninth, which picks up right where the first book left off, while managing to outdo its predecessor in baffling puzzles, inventive sci-fi horror, and Muir’s personal brand of crackling style and wit.

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

This debut novel from video essayist Lindsay Ellis images an alien first contact event in an alternative version of 2007, capturing both the political and cultural flavor of the time period while examining what it really means to be human — or alien.

From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back

A love letter to The Empire Strikes Back (much as the original From a Certain Point of View is to A New Hope), From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back features 40 short stories from 40 authors, diving into new facets of the film, from the Wampa ice creature to Boba Fett to Willrow Hood.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green

Another sequel here, so you’ll likely want to seek out Green’s first book, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, before you dive in. (Think of this as two recommendations for the price of one!) Both books examine the fallout that happens when April May encounters a strange, alien statue (named Carl) — while also exploring how social media and fame can change how we interact with and view the world.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Paolini’s first novel since his popular Inheritance Cycle moves on from dragons to deep space and from YA novels to a more adult audience. Xenobiologist Kira Navárez encounters a strange alien relic, and things quickly spiral into a war that could decide the fate of humanity’s interstellar civilization. At nearly 900 pages, it’s a perfect book to hide away in over the holidays.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Liu has already become one of the biggest names in sci-fi and fantasy short stories, dating from his first collection, The Paper Menagerie. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, his latest collection, features 17 new tales that look at artificial intelligence, classical mythology, and more in a new light.

Subcutanean by Aaron A. Reed

Subcutanean may be the most unique book of 2020 — or perhaps ever — literally. Reed describes it as a “permutational novel,” with each copy of the novel containing its own unique text. Some differences from copy to copy will be big, others small, even as the overall story stays largely the same.

Network Effect by Martha Wells

Murderbot — a self-aware artificially intelligent killing machine — is one of the best sci-fi heroes in recent memory. Murderbot has already been the star of Wells’ Murderbot Diaries novellas, but Network Effect gives a proper full-length novel to the cynical TV-marathoning robot who just wants a break. Best of all, it’s a standalone, so you won’t have read the first few novellas — but you probably should, seeing as they’re just as excellent.

The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds by Suzanne Collins

The return to The Hunger Games’ world of Panem comes almost a full decade after the release of Mockingjay. But instead of another action-packed dive into the arena, The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds is a prequel that focuses on the future President Snow’s rise to power — and the political and social forces that forged the Hunger Games.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall is technically a fantasy novel, but I’m including it anyway because it’s set in a magical world that’s based far more on computer coding and AI than it is on swords and elves. It’s an almost cyberpunk take on the genre in a city filled with sorcerous computers and augmentations. Practically everything in the city of Tevanne is a programmed AI of some sort, and massive, looming megacorporations spar with each other as they rule the city. Start with Foundryside, the first book in the series, before you head to Shorefall, which ratchets everything up another notch.