If you’re ready to embark on your next voyage into the surreal, there are a few books you should consider adding to your reading pile. In our fast-paced society – which can often feel like the setting of a dystopian sci-fi book – reading is our reprieve from the madness of the real world. We’re here to help you find an alternate reality to jump into by way of your next science fiction book!
From a time-traveling serial killer who stalks women across different decades to the political struggle for control of the moon, there are plenty of great science-fiction books to add to your reading list. Once you’ve read the books on this list, you’ll have their upcoming television adaptions to look forward to.
To sweeten the deal, all of the science fiction novels discussed in this article are currently being adapted for television. Once you’ve torn through the pages of these books, you’ll have their adaptions to look forward to (without the threat of spoilers). If you’re ready for your next journey through time and space, let’s dive right into the books that should be on your reading pile.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
While this isn’t a sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining centered on the creepy twins at the Overlook Hotel, this unique novel was praised by the famed horror author himself. Stephen King described Beuke’s novel as “the black-hole version of The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Lauren Beukes’ novel is a unique take on time travel tropes in science fiction.
The Shining Girls follows a time-traveling serial killer, Harper, who stalks and murders ‘the shining girls’; bright, young woman brimming with potential. One of the shining girls, Kirby, survives and turns the hunt around. This novel is a genre-bending tale of a cat and mouse chase between serial killer and victim that spans across time and space. It’s sure to keep you hooked until the very end!
Winner of the Strand Magazine Critic’s Best Novel Award, this time-bending crime thriller is sure to grip you for a wild ride through time. The Shining Girls is currently being developed for television by Apple TV+ in partnership with Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way. Elizabeth Moss, the star of Hulu’s adaption of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tragedy, The Handmaid’s Tale, is set to star in the television adaption of Beukes’ novel.
Lauren Beukes’ other novels are also fantastic, genre-bending novels! Her latest release, Afterland, is set in the fallout of a global pandemic that has killed almost all men. The novel follows a mother on the run with her son Miles, who is wanted by a whole host of nefarious people, including boy traffickers and a harrowing cult of neon nuns. Beukes’ other novels include Moxyland, Zoo City, and Broken Monsters.
The Luna Saga by Ian McDonald
There are currently three novels published in Ian McDonald’s Luna series: New Moon, Wolf Moon, and Moon Rising. These novels begin half a century after the colonization of the moon and follows the battle for control by The Five Dragons, who are the five ruling families.
In addition to the three main novels currently published, McDonald has released two short stories that are set in the Luna universe. The Falls: A Luna Story and The Menace from Farside tell the stories of the other characters that populate this complex political landscape on the surface of the moon.
McDonald’s Luna series has often drawn comparisons to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, which inspired HBO’s Game of Thrones series. This is largely due to McDonald’s portrayal of a political struggle for power that’s rife with betrayal and murder.
The Chicago Tribune described Luna: New Moon, the first book in McDonald’s series, as one of the best science-fiction novels published in 2015 for its portrayal “of a cutthroat society trying to survive in the deadliest of environments.”
Once you’ve devoured all the novels and short stories set in McDonald’s Luna universe, you’ll have the television adaption to look forward to. When the lunar surface of the moon and the political struggle for control of it is brought to life on your television, you’ll be able to re-immerse yourself in this brutal and beautiful saga.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
Set in post-apocalyptic Sudan, Who Fears Death is a science-fiction fantasy novel by Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor. The novel follows a young woman, Onyesonwu, as she embraces her magical abilities and her destiny to save her people from genocide. With a name that means ‘who fears death’ in an ancient African language, Onyesonwu is a gifted woman born as a result of the systemic rape of her mother’s tribe, the Okeke tribe, by the Nuru tribe.
As she grows up, Onyesonwu develops her magical abilities while she grapples with notions of tradition, culture, and nature. When she learns there is someone very powerful who is hellbent on killing her, Onyesonwu must embrace her destiny to save her people from a terrible fate.
Blending magical surrealism with a powerful political message, Okorafor’s novel was nominated for the 2011 Nebula Award for Best Novel and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. In addition to this, The Carl Brandon Society – a community that is dedicated to the representation of persons of color in science fiction and fantasy – awarded Who Fears Death with the Carl Brandon Kindred Award.
George RR Martin, the celebrated author of the Game of Thrones series, has praised Nnedi Okorafor’s unique storytelling abilities. In fact, Martin is attached to an HBO adaption of Okorafor’s novel as an executive producer. Tessa Thompson, who stars in HBO’s science fiction series, Westworld, has also signed on as an executive producer for the upcoming adaption. Once you’ve read Who Fears Death and you’re eagerly awaiting the television adaption, there are more of Okorafor’s novels you’ll want to check out!
You’ll likely want to read Okorafor’s The Book of the Phoenix first, which is a prequel to Who Fears Death and follows the journey of another powerful heroine. Okorafor’s Binty trilogy, which has been optioned for series by streaming service Hulu, follows the titular heroine Binty as she attends Oomza University, the best higher learning institute in the Galaxy and discovers her destiny.
Remembrance of Earth’s Past, Liu Cixin
Liu Cixin’s science fiction trilogy begins with the novel The Three-Body Problem, which sees earth faced with the threat of being invaded by another intelligent species. The threat of this invasion ignites political unease among the citizens of earth, who are divided on the best course of action in dealing with the extraterrestrials.
The first novel in the series, The Three-Body Problem, was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2014 and won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015. There are two more novels, The Dark Forest and Death’s End, that comprise Cixin’s riveting trilogy. The novels were originally written in Chinese, though they have been translated into numerous languages.
Netflix has announced their forthcoming adaption of Cixin’s series, which will be titled after the first book in the series: Three-Body Problem. The series is being helmed by the creators of HBO’s acclaimed Game of Thrones television adaption, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. Actors Brad Pitt and Rosamund Pike are currently attached to Netflix’s English-language adaption of these novels.
From time-traveling serial killers to alien invasions, from supernatural post-apocalyptic battles on earth to the surface of the moon, there are plenty of great science-fiction novels that should be on your reading pile. These books will pull you fully into their realities! You’ll be fully immersed in these beautifully complex worlds crafted by some of the best minds in science-fiction today.
Once you’ve devoured these novels, you’ll be longing to return to these realities. Luckily, all the novels discussed here are currently being adapted as television series by many of the best creatives in the business. You’ll want to get reading so that you don’t get any spoilers when the television series are released!