Trying to decide my favorite book? Not going to happen. Trying to whittle down my favorites in one genre? Possibly. Here's my attempt at sharing some of my favorite science-fiction novels. This still ain't easy, but here we go.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Okay so I lied. Red Rising is easily my favorite sci-fi novel (series). I've tried to write about this book many, many times, but I always struggle because it's such a high-concept series.
Humans are spread throughout space, colonizing planets across the galaxy. No matter the planet, however, the human race is split into a color caste system, where there is a distinct hierarchy that defines not only social position, but roles and rights in society
Enforced by the Grays and ruled by the Golds, the Reds mine into the bowels of Mars in search of Hydrogen-3 in order to terraform the surface and bring the other colors to the planet.
Their lives are brutal and difficult. They never go above ground, they never see the stars, and food rations are competitive, given by ruthless Golds and Grays as rewards. Darrow of Lykos is the youngest Helldiver under the surface of Mars. Their life is rough and often unfair, but he's content with what he has. His job. His wife.
But when his people are cheated, it sparks a flicker of revolt that leaves Darrow bereft and questioning.
Ripped from the reality he tried desperately to keep, Darrow learns that Mars has been inhabitable for hundreds of years. The surface is filled and lush. And even though other colors cast them as the saviors of the human race, the Reds are nothing more than workhorse slaves toiling underground to ensure the decadent lifestyle of the Golds.
My review of the in-continuity prequel: Sons of Ares (comic books).
Genres: Adult, science fiction > outer space/space opera, dystopian, political/military.
Warcross and Wildcard by Marie Lu
This series is a lighter take on science fiction. It's sci-fi focused on technology, rather than space.
Warcoss is an alternative reality technology that superimposes the virtual over real life. The video game, Warccross, has seeped into reality via a pair of glasses that lets the wearer see more than what's really in front of them. People have become identifiable by the gammer tags that float over their heads, trade game notes for real money, and view AR sales people and animated ads when they're walking down the street.
Emika Chen is an 18-year-old ex-foster kid who's trying to get by after going to juvie for hacking and exposing personal information on the internet. Unable to get work due to her record, she's working as a Warcross bounty hunter, tracking down players who gamble illegally on the game.
When the Warcross championship begins, Emika is days away from being evicted from her apartment, eating one-dollar Ramen, and using out-of-date, refurbished technology to watch the international games. When the opening ceremony game begins, Emika quickly discovers a way she might be able to make some money: hack into the game and transfer one of the game rewards into her account. Worth thousands on the black market, she can't stop herself from taking the chance.
She succeeds, but somehow she changes the code to make herself visible to the competitors... and the rest of the millions of people watching. She's instantly ejected as the game is called, and as she sink back into reality, the world is eager to find out who she is.
The game's illusive creator and programmer, Hideo Tanaka, wants to know how she did it.
Genres: Young adult, science fiction > technology/alternate reality, some romance.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
This is a rare one where I actually saw the Netflix series before I realized it was a book. Both are fantastic, but I wish I'd read the series beforehand. I will say though, picturing Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs wasn't a hardship.
Altered Carbon is a cyberpunk sci-fi novel that takes place in a distant future where the rich can afford to live forever. If they can afford it, they can transfer their consciousness between bodies. Most people can afford to "resleeve" into new bodies once, but they live out their lives fully. While the richest of the rich grow new bodies and achieve virtual immortality - resleeving whenever they want and traveling to new planets by downloading their "stack" into a new body on another planet.
Takeshi is a formed rebel who was put "on ice." His stack was stored for a hundred years as punishment for leading a rebellion against the government. He wakes up on a new planet, in a new body, in a future that is everything he worked against.
Life and death are now dependent on wealth. Roman Catholics are murder and crime targets because they believe the soul goes to heaven and not into a new body (thus they don't resleeve). And one of the wealthiest men on Earth, Laurens Bancroft, practically owns Takeshi after paying to get his stack off ice... and now Takeshi is being coerced into investigating a murder - Bancroft's.
Genres: Adult, science fiction > cyberpunk/steampunk, dystopian, some romance, mystery, politics.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game is likely the first sci-fi novel that I ever read. Ender is a child when routine testing finds him to be above average - genius almost. He's taken from his home with his parents and siblings to be raised on a military station in space. From the age of eight, he's trained to join the war and fight aliens.
Ender is a sensitive child in the book. He's withdrawn after being separated from his family, and when he does see him, his older brother resents him for how much everyone loves Ender. At the academy, Ender is at the top, rising higher and higher. But as time passes and Ender grows older, he starts to question what he's being groomed to do.
I really loved this novel. I remember being shocked and very upset at the end. Not because the book wasn't good, but I didn't see the ending coming and I felt what Ender felt. The reason this isn't at the top of the list is because it's something I haven't been interested in reading again. The story sits with me, but it's one I wish I could experience again for the first time. I'm not sure it'd be as good knowing what I know.
Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Winter's Orbit is a relatively new book for me. Maybe new for everyone? It's a "soft" sci-fi novel, which means it doesn't really delve into the logistics of the technology or the science. It just gives us the general sense of what the world is like, but not how it actually works. This is the only soft sci-fi novel I've really enjoyed (... I haven't delved into many).
Kiem is the throw-away prince to the Iskat Empire. A former-playboy who wants nothing more than to fade to obscurity and out of the public eye. But when his grandmother says that he will marry to secure and alliance and keep the Thean protests from turning into outright rebellion, Kiem is stunned.
Married to the Thean Ambassador -- Kiem's cousin's former husband -- the two of them must convince the Iskat and the Thean people that the treatise is strong, even as Iskat continue to lord over and colonize the other societies. Check out my review.