15 Sci-Fi Books To Read After Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Craving more sci-fi after seeing Star Wars?  Are Rey & Leia your favorite Star Wars characters? Bummed we still haven’t had a woman direct one of the Star Wars movies? Inspired by Shondaland’s list, we created our own list of 15 sci-fi books written by women!  (Some overlap does occur.  What can we say?  They made a great list!)

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (2015):Binti embarks on an interplanetary voyage to Oomza Uni, the galaxy’s supreme institution of higher learning. As the first of her people offered such an opportunity, she leaves home without even warning her family of her departure. When the vessel is attacked by the alien Meduse, Binti’s only hope of survival is a pot of native clay-and her exceptional intelligence. Equal parts thriller, adventure, and quest, this work also serves as a timely parable about the power of educating girls. In spite of every possible obstacle, Binti is a girl determined to succeed, whose acute intellect will save her world.” – School Library Journal

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (2013):An ill-fated encounter has forced Breq, the AI commanding the Radchaai troop carrier Justice of Toren, to take up residence in a single commandeered human body, impressive but mortal and no more powerful than any other person. Now this sorry wanderer searches the galaxy for a legendary weapon that may be able to do the impossible: grant Breq revenge on Anaander Mianaai, the many-bodied, immortal ruler of the brutal Radch. A double-threaded narrative proves seductive, drawing the reader into the naive but determined protagonist’s efforts to transform an unjust universe. Leckie uses familiar set pieces-an expansionist galaxy-spanning empire, a protagonist on a single-minded quest for justice-to transcend space-opera conventions in innovative ways.” – Publishers Weekly

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (2017):Yuknavitch’s latest book (after The Small Backs of Children) opens as the quintessential postapocalyptic dystopian nightmare. Life on Earth has been extinguished, and the survivors eke out an existence in the orbital habitat known as CIEL. These survivors, as the price of their entrance, get to live only 50 years. Forty-nine-year-old Christine tells the story of how the martyred hero Joan opposed the world domination of maniacal leader Jean de Men, which brought about the geo-catastrophe. The surviving humans have lost their hair, skin color, and sexual organs and have also developed a literary tradition of electrosurgical branding on skin grafts, of which Christine is a virtuoso. After news arrives that Joan, publicly executed years ago, is still alive on the wasted earth, the novel shifts to Joan’s point of view: she has supernatural powers and can even raise the dead, but only for a day. We learn her life story and watch as she joins with other rogue humans, regains power and influence, and unites with Christine in CIEL to combat evil. This ambitious novel encompasses a wide canvas to spin a captivating commentary on the hubris of humanity. An interesting blend of posthuman literary body politics and paranormal ecological transmutation.” – Library Journal

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (1993): “Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Butler’s first novel since 1989’s Imago offers an uncommonly sensitive rendering of a very common SF scenario: by 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as “paints” who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from `hyperempathy,” a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own–a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.” – Publishers Weekly

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012): “First in the Lunar Chronicles series, this futuristic twist on Cinderella retains just enough of the original that readers will enjoy spotting the subtle similarities. But debut author Meyer’s brilliance is in sending the story into an entirely new, utterly thrilling dimension. Cinder is a talented teenage mechanic and cyborg-part human, part robot-who has been living in New Beijing with a demanding adoptive mother and two stepsisters, ever since her late stepfather took Cinder in after a hovercraft accident. Several events abruptly turn Cinder’s world upside down: a chance meeting with the handsome Prince Kai has her heart racing; a plague pandemic threatens her beloved sister Peony; Cinder learns she is immune to the plague; and the evil Lunar Queen Levana arrives on Earth, scheming to marry Kai. Though foreshadowing early on makes it fairly clear where the story is headed, it unfolds with the magic of a fairy tale and the breakneck excitement of dystopian fiction. Meyer’s far-future Earth is richly imagined, full of prejudice and intrigue, characters easy to get invested in, and hints of what might await in future books.” – Publishers Weekly

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (2016): “The crew of the Wayfarer make a small living building wormholes to lessen the distances in interstellar travel. They are a diverse bunch, with one new addition: records clerk -Rosemary, who signs on just as the ship prepares to go into deep space to construct a wormhole for an alien race long hostile to the rest of the Galactic Commons. What could go wrong? Like so many great space opera novels, this is really the story of the ship’s crew as they band together in the face of danger. From Ashby, the affable human captain, to the marvelous extraterrestrial known as Dr. Chef (his two roles on the ship), there are many personalities here to love, and they all get a chance to shine. Rosemary, our newbie team player, predictably has a dangerous secret of her own… …this delightful debut space opera is less brisk in terms of action than is typical of the genre, but it is no less engaging.” – Library Journal

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells (2014):Dr. Jane Holloway, an internationally respected linguist, has been asked to act as Earth’s ambassador on a journey to an apparently abandoned spaceship that’s on a collision path with an asteroid. The ship is far from abandoned, however, as Jane begins to communicate telepathically with a creature that insists that the fate of humanity (and beyond) is in her hands. But can she trust this creature that can only speak to her? And what will she do with a crew that’s becoming violent and mutinous? When writing science fiction, it’s easy to get so caught up in a plot that everything else falls by the wayside. Aliens are great, but things like good dialog and character development are necessary for a novel to transcend its genre. Author Jennifer Foehner Wells focuses as much on these details as she does on the stranded Ei’Brai and the space slugs, making Fluency a novel as interested in the complicated history of its characters as it is in fighting bloodthirsty aliens… …What might be the most impressive part of Fluency is the attention paid to each character, making them not one-note stock characters (there are no Red Shirts here!) but interesting, complicated individuals. We spend the entire novel questioning where our loyalties should lie, and this unreliability on the part of Ei’Brai and Jane makes for some wonderful tension in the novel. Her supporting characters are equally as compelling, and there are few (if any) that seem like an afterthought or, worse, nothing more than a sacrifice for an angry alien…..A smart concept, natural dialog and great character development make this a page-turner.” – IndieReader

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Illus. Valentine De Landro (2015):In one of the most stunning works of satire this medium has seen in recent memory, DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and De Landro (X-Factor) craft a modern riff on pulp sci-fi exploitation novels that’s equal parts brutality and thoughtfulness. In a nightmarish future, “noncompliant” women are rounded up for minor infractions (or none at all) and sent to a prison planet. One inmate, Kamau Kogo, catches the attention of the Fathers and is put in charge of a doomed sports team designed to be annihilated in the name of compliance. Using her wits and raw strength, Kamau must turn adversity into an asset if she is to bring change to her world. DeConnick pulls no punches, crafting a relentless narrative that is hauntingly reminiscent of the misogyny facing women around the globe today; De Landro expertly supplies gritty inks, in-your-face colors, and a host of diverse character designs that underscore the book’s intersectional feminist message. The result is a must-read unlike anything else being published in comics.” – Publishers Weekly

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray (2017):The planet Genesis is at war again. With no warning, Earth has revived a conflict after a 30-year hiatus because it has destroyed its own resources and land. Its people are desperate to escape to a healthier planet, and they have chosen Genesis. But the residents of Genesis fear the effects that Earth’s policies will have on their planet. Noemi and her foster sister, Esther, are space pilots in the Genesis army, and they are caught in a surprise attack. Noemi boards a derelict ship in a desperate effort to save wounded Esther, but she finds the ship inhabited. Abel, a unique mech prototype, was left behind by his creator during the former war. Abel’s intelligence seems to have evolved during his long isolation, and Noemi reluctantly decides to team up with him in a dangerous attempt to help Genesis. Replete with rebels, bots, and battles, this top-notch space adventure features a well-developed plot and an unexpected, satisfying ending. The story also gives serious treatment to the ethical dilemmas around highly advanced robotics and artificial intelligence as well as the consequences of policies for unlimited development and the resulting wanton destruction of limited natural resources. This is a complex and well-told tale about loyalty, love, and the meaning of life.” – School Library Journal

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008): “Sixteen-year-old Katniss poaches food for her widowed mother and little sister from the forest outside the legal perimeter of District 12, the poorest of the dozen districts constituting Panem, the North American dystopic state that has replaced the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. Her hunting and tracking skills serve her well when she is then cast into the nation’s annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death where contestants must battle harsh terrain, artificially concocted weather conditions, and two teenaged contestants from each of Panem’s districts. District 12’s second tribute is Peeta, the baker’s son, who has been in love with Katniss since he was five. Each new plot twist ratchets up the tension, moving the story forward and keeping the reader on edge. Although Katniss may be skilled with a bow and arrow and adept at analyzing her opponents’ next moves, she has much to learn about personal sentiments, especially her own. Populated by three-dimensional characters, this is a superb tale of physical adventure, political suspense, and romance.” – Booklist

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (1996): When readers meet Father Emilio Sandoz, he’s a wreck, inside and out. His hands are maimed, his body bruised; he suffers from scurvy, anemia, and spiritual devastation. The year is 2059. Although Jesuit missionaries thrive on suffering, something particularly dire has happened to this skilled linguist. Four decades earlier, he proposed an expedition to discover the sentient beings whose strange yet beautiful music had been detected by radio telescope. As the only survivor of this spiritual odyssey to Alpha Centauri (the star system four light years from Earth), Sandoz was found dazed and filled with terror by rescuers who inferred that he had resorted to prostitution to stay alive. Returned to the Jesuit Order, Sandoz is forced to face truths about the godless alien societies on the planet Rakhat that he and his colleagues grew to know, love, and perish at the claws of. Miscommunications, misplaced trust, and tiny mistakes led to their downfall. The dense prose in this complex tale may at first seem off-putting, but hang on for the ride; it’s riveting!” – Booklist

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015):Humans struggle to survive on a ruined world in this elegiac, complex, and intriguing story, the first in the Broken Earth series from acclaimed author Jemisin (the Inheritance Trilogy). The Stillness is a quiet and bitter land, sparsely populated by subsistence communities called comms. Essun lived quietly in a comm with her husband and children until her secret got out: she-and her children-are orogenes, those who have the ability to control Earth forces. They can quell or start earthquakes, open veins of magma, and generally cause or rein in geological chaos. Authorities keep a brutal hold on orogenes, controlling everything about their lives, including whom they breed with. Those who escape servitude and seek safety in the comms face expulsion and execution at the hands of the fearful. Soon after Essun’s secret is revealed, her husband kills their son, and her daughter goes missing. Essun sets off to find the girl, undertaking a journey that will force her to face unfinished business from her own secret past. Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.” – Publishers Weekly

The Power by Naomi Alderman  (2017): “Alderman’s sublime new novel posits a game-changing question: What if women suddenly manifested an electrical charge that they could control and use as a weapon? This new female power, the origins of which are attributed to a WWII chemical experiment, first becomes evident in teenage girls around the world in the present time. Roxy, the daughter of an English mobster, attacks the men who have come to kill her mother, while in America, foster-child Allie finds she has the ability to fight off her lecherous foster father. Teenage girls can somehow awaken the power in older women, as Margot, an American politician, learns when her daughter injures a boy in a fight. And in Nigeria, Tunde’s journalism career is launched when he observes a girl using her power on another boy. Alderman wrestles with some heady questions: What happens when the balance of power shifts? Would women be kinder, gentler rulers, or would they be just as ruthless as their male counterparts? That Alderman is able to explore these provocative themes in a novel that is both wildly entertaining and utterly absorbing makes for an instant classic, bound to elicit discussion and admiration in equal measure.” – Booklist

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (2015): “High-school students Kady and Ezra have just broken up with each other when Kerenza IV, their mining outpost planetary home, is suddenly attacked by a rival company using both traditional and biological weapons. In the scramble to get off the planet, they are separated, ending up with a waning number of Kerenza survivors on two different space vessels that are trying to outrun one remaining BeiTech dreadnought; however, Kady and Ezra remain united in their desire to escape destruction, exact revenge, and maybe give each other a second chance. Tightly woven and suspenseful, this is one long briefing report about the mining colony attack and its aftermath that makes innovative use of mission reports, e-mails, texts, ship schematics, dialogue, and other forms of communication with profanity cunningly redacted. Kaufman and Kristoff have created a fast-paced, quasi-political sci-fi thriller that is completely unique. Hints of romance and references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey interweave with the text, itself an arresting visual experience that weds form with expression and content: for example, a thin pinwheel of print reflects the chaos of a newbie pilot’s first deadly space battle.” – Booklist

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (1986): When Cordelia Naismith and her survey crew are attacked by a renegade group from Barrayar, she is taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, commander of the Barrayan ship that has been taken over by an ambitious and ruthless crew member. Aral and Cordelia survive countless mishaps while their mutual admiration and even stronger feelings emerge.

“All in all, Shards is a worthy effort, and worth reading for any fan of SF romance.”–Analog

“Bujold mixes quirky humor with action [and] superb character development…[E]normously satisfying.”–Publishers Weekly.

“One of sf’s outstanding talents . . . an outstanding series.”–Booklist

“. . . an intelligent, well-crafted and thoroughly satisfying blend of adventure, sociopolitical commentary, scientific experiments, and occasional perils . . . with that extra spicing of romance. . . .”–Locus

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