Sci-Fi & Fantasy Picks from Sam

Also known as “speculative fiction,” the fantasy/science fiction genre is broad enough to have something that will appeal to just about any reader. Here are some of Sam’s favorite reads from the past few years. Click a title to visit the book’s entry in our online catalog, where you can check availability or place a hold.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The world of The Stillness is continually wracked by earthquakes. Essun is an orogene, with the power to control the earth’s volcanic energy. This is the first volume in a powerful, moving trilogy. Unprecedentedly, all three books won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in successive years.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The two title characters rediscover the long-dormant secrets of wizardry and proceed to intervene in the Napoleonic Wars. Clarke writes in an enjoyable faux-19th-century style, with many footnotes fleshing out the history of magic in this alternative England.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

In the 29th century, civilization spans the galaxy. But the planet Hyperion is isolated: Time moves more slowly there. Ancient artifacts called the Time Tombs move backward through history, guarded by a frightening creature called the Shrike. The story is told in the form of linked short stories inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

This novel was published in 2007, but it’s a throwback to the military SF of the 1950s and ‘60s. Earth is engaged in endless war with multiple alien civilizations and recruits 75-year-olds to fight on the front lines. This is a fun, light read.

Nemesis by Isaac Asimov

One of the few Asimov novels that features a female protagonist. A young girl on an interstellar voyage of colonization discovers that the star to which they are traveling is putting Earth in danger.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Straddling the line between science fiction and historical fiction, Stephenson crafts an involving treasure-hunting adventure that encompasses World War II cryptography and modern Silicon Valley startup culture.

The Dispossesed by Ursula K. LeGuin

A thought-provoking and well-written novel of ideas. An anarchist sect has been exiled from the planet Urras to its barely-habitable moon, Anarres. More than a century later, both societies are destabilized when the scientist Shevek returns from exile to accept a professorship.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The half-goblin Maia is of royal birth, but that does him little good during a childhood spent locked in a remote castle. When the emperor of the Elflands and his sons are all murdered, Maia is called upon to take the throne. Lots of court intrigue, and a very sympathetic protagonist.

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

A clever twist on the time-travel trope, plus realistic, fleshed-out characters and sharply-observed social commentary, made this one of my favorite reads of 2019.