We’ve run through our favorite games, movies, and TV shows of the year to date, and now it’s time to talk about our favorite science fiction and fantasy books of the year. With new titles from beloved authors, impressive debuts, and short-story collections, we have a range of new fantasy and sci-fi for you to dive into this year.
We’ll continue to update this article as we catch up on our to-read lists and as new titles are released, so stay tuned! The list is in reverse chronological order of release, so the most recently released books will be at the top.
And while you’re here, be sure to check out our list of 14 great new romance books you should read.
The Architects, an alien species of moon-sized planet destroyers, are back, and the one thing that used to ward them off is no longer effective. So, how does humanity respond? With infighting, power grabs, and petty squabbles. At the center of all this is Idris Tellemier, the only person to ever communicate with an Architect, who spends the majority of Eyes of the Void being bargained over, used, and kidnapped for political gain and protection. But while Idris is the one burdened with saving the world, his friends on the Vulture God are tasked with saving Idris. Eyes of the Void finds Solace, Kris, Kit, and Ollie (who rightfully gets her own POV chapters this time around) navigating the tense political atmosphere and facing down enemies ranging from the Architects to cultists to their own people in order to protect their unusual family.
Adrian Tchaikovsky has built a dizzyingly complicated narrative, and his inventive world-building gets a chance to shine in Eyes of the Void, as the Vulture God crew becomes further entangled with new characters, species, and cultures — most of whom the crew finds various ways to piss off. And though the book raises more questions than answers, the compounding mysteries raise the stakes to heart-pounding heights as Idris’ quest to learn how to stop the Architects unravels startling truths about the very makeup of the universe. —Sadie Gennis
In its second outing, The Bloodsworn Saga remains a merciless and brutal series filled with graphic action, impeccable world-building, and an ever-growing ensemble of characters who straddle the lines of morality. Only now, it’s no longer just about mortals fighting for power, revenge, or family. Gods have returned to Vigrið, throwing the balance of society into chaos. As many scramble to find footholds of power in the shifting world order, our original protagonists — Okra, Elvar, and Varg — continue resolutely down their paths to rescue and avenge those taken from them, even if that means fighting (or enslaving) a god. While characters’ storylines were largely separate in the first novel, here they weave in and out of each other’s lives as fate and (mis)fortune reveal how intricately their paths intertwined. Tightly paced and with invigorating action throughout, The Hunger of the Gods is the epic payoff to the foundation Gwynne meticulously laid down in The Shadow of the Gods and a thrilling setup for the series conclusion. —SG
Emily St. John Mandel has demonstrated her talent for penning interlacing stories, with both Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel introducing their casts in piecemeal fashion, slowly revealing how each of these characters know each other. Sea of Tranquility is even more sprawling, stretching from the 1910s and into the further future, a time when people live in moon colonies. The book also creates an official Mandel multiverse, if that’s your thing, with characters from The Glass Hotel serving as some of the novel’s primary focuses.
My favorite part of Sea of Tranquility is its wholesale embrace of one of my favorite science fiction tropes. It’s a time travel story with a number of well-plotted turns, all in Mandel’s fluid, introspective writing style. It’s a great read for anyone who loves The Matrix movies or enjoyed Disney’s Loki (but maybe wished it stuck the landing a bit better). —Nicole Clark
Budapest is where Csilla’s family has lived for hundreds of years. It’s also where they died. In 1956, seven years after her parents were executed by the Soviet police, Jewish newspaper typist Csilla and her aunt are preparing to flee to Israel. But after chance encounters with a student revolutionary and an angel of death, Csilla begins questioning what means more to her: fighting to survive or fighting for a better life.
With its richly drawn characters and gutting depictions of post-Holocaust trauma and antisemitism, This Rebel Heart is a grounded, often heartbreaking account of Jewish life under Russian occupation. As Csilla finds herself on the forefront of the Hungarian revolution, she navigates the dueling realities that have shaped her — remembering and forgetting, survival and freedom, and loving a city that has never loved her back. Elegantly blending history with magical realism and Jewish folklore, Katherine Locke has created a profound tribute to those willing to risk everything for hope. —SG
Chinese science fiction has become increasingly popular in the United States, as Ken Liu (an accomplished author in his own right) translated Liu Cixin’s groundbreaking Three-Body Problem into English. Since then, Chinese speculative fiction has gained popularity, making way for other literary talent.
The Way Spring Arrives is a collection of 17 Chinese science fiction and fantasy stories — and all of them have been written, translated, and edited entirely by women and nonbinary writers. Curated by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang, the excellent collection spans topics and tropes. —NC
Goliath by Tochi Onyebuchi
In the near future, a mass white flight to space colonies has left the largely poor, BIPOC population to eke out an existence on Earth, which has become uninhabitable after ecological and human-made disasters. But though the powerful and privileged abandoned the planet, the system they profit off of remains intact. Now, years later, the space colonists have begun to return — some to gentrify the neighborhoods their ancestors deserted and others as trauma tourists seeking to gawk at those who’d been left behind. A non-linear series of vignettes, Goliath switches between several characters’ perspectives, but the main focus is on a group of stackers, a Black and brown crew of workers who scrape by salvaging bricks from demolished buildings to send to the colonies. With no hope of circumstances improving, they’ve long ago come to accept that grief will be the primary constant in their inevitably short lives — if the cancerous air doesn’t kill them, the automated drone police will. But while so much of their lives are defined by pain, the stackers keep moving forward, searching for meaning and fleeting moments of joy in a world designed to destroy them.
Impressive in its scale, ambition, and range of voice, Goliath is a shattering work that is so much more than the sum of its parts. In addition to the stackers, Tochi Onyebuchi weaves in tales of a gay white couple leaving the colonies to play pioneer on Earth, a journalist hoping to tell the stackers’ story (but really, hoping to assuage her white guilt), an incarcerated Yale grad who becomes a negotiator in a prison protest, and a Black marshal dragging a slaver across the West to retrieve the body of a murdered boy. Goliath is simultaneously sprawling and intimate, exploring racism, classism, gentrification, the prison system, and the climate crisis through brief moments in these largely disconnected lives. But taken together, these small moments add up to a powerful look at America’s broken system and the harrowing trajectory we find ourselves on. —SG
If the first two installments in The Nsibidi Scripts series were about Sunny discovering and exploring her identity, Akata Woman is about her defining it. The inventive, adventurous novel follows Sunny during a period of great growth as she and Chichi are forced to uphold their bargain with the giant spider Udide to return her stolen ghazal. With Orlu and Sasha tagging along, the coven’s treacherous journey to retrieve the ancient scroll leads them to discover breathtaking new worlds and the increasing limits of their juju abilities. But as Sunny strains to keep up with her rapidly evolving powers, she must also face the growing fracture in her relationship with her spirit face, Anyanwu.
Being doubled and being a free agent both carry heavy burdens in Leopard culture, but throughout Akata Woman, Sunny discovers a strength and comfort in who she is and what she can do. It’s yet another beautiful leg in Sunny’s coming-of-age journey, made all the more impactful by Nnedi Okorafor’s rhythmic prose. –SG
Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go in the Dark is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year so far — and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s my absolute favorite by the end of the year. Tender and dystopian, the pandemic novel is told in a series of vignettes, each exposing a different pocket of future society — and eventually connecting through characters and circumstances.
Nagamatsu sharply paints a picture of society inevitably building industry out of grief, as people fight for basic human dignity and struggle to hold onto memories of loved ones. It’s an ambitious critique of late-stage capitalism, wrapped up in a series of family dramas that sound wild out of context: a robo-dog toy that contains recordings of a deceased mother’s lullabies, a euthanasia state park for children whose parents want them to have happy final memories, and tech-bro-created funereal currencies are just a few of the scenarios. —NC
This heartfelt, lyrical fantasy follows Xingyin, a young immortal raised in secret by her mother Chang’e, the moon goddess exiled to a life of solitude by the cruel Celestial Emperor. But when Xingyin’s existence is discovered, she must flee the only home she’s ever known and carve a new path for herself while hiding the truth of who she is.
Daughter of the Moon Goddess sweeps through the years of Xinglin’s journey with efficient, effortless speed, chronicling her evolution from a sheltered child to the Celestial prince’s unlikely but dearest companion and a decorated archer serving the very emperor she despises. All the while, Xingyin must juggle the desires and duties she develops in her new life with her long-held determination to free her mother from under the emperor’s thumb. A story about how far we go for love and the painful choices we must make along the way, Daughter of the Moon Goddess weaves together Chinese mythology, court intrigue, romance, action, and betrayal into one of the year’s most exciting debuts. –SG