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25 Flabbergastingly Good Sci-Fi Books I Swear You Have Not Heard Of

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

Science fiction has an uncanny ability to transport us to unexplored realms, ignite our imagination, and challenge our perceptions of reality. While well-known sci-fi classics dominate the literary landscape, there are hidden gems that have evaded the spotlight but possess the power to enthrall readers.

In this curated list, we present 25 flabbergastingly good sci-fi books that may have slipped under your radar. Prepare to be whisked away to worlds of wonder, intrigue, and futuristic marvels as you discover these lesser-known but exceptional works.

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1. Semiosis by Sue Burke:

In a distant future, human settlers on an alien planet must forge a delicate relationship with a sentient plant species. Semiosis is a spellbinding exploration of symbiosis, communication, and the intricate interplay between different life forms. This ecological and thought-provoking tale is a feast for the imagination.

2. The Animals in That Country by Laura Jean McKay:

In a world where a pandemic grants people the ability to understand animal speech, a woman forms an unexpected bond with a deadly predator. This haunting eco-dystopian novel delves into communication, empathy, and ecological collapse. Laura Jean McKay's exploration of human-animal relationships and the consequences of human interference is both thought-provoking and deeply moving.

3. Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright:

Set in war-torn Baghdad, this haunting tale revolves around a junk dealer who creates a monstrous being from the body parts of bombing victims. An evocative meditation on the consequences of war and the search for meaning in chaos, Frankenstein in Baghdad offers a profound exploration of humanity's darkest corners.

4. The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag:

Combining stunning visuals with a captivating narrative, The Electric State takes readers on a surreal road trip through a retro-futuristic America, where robots and strange phenomena abound. Simon Stålenhag's unique blend of art and storytelling creates an immersive and atmospheric sci-fi experience.

5. Rosewater by Tade Thompson:

Nigeria, 2066: a mysterious alien biodome emerges in the city of Rosewater, granting extraordinary powers to some and reshaping reality. This Afrofuturistic masterpiece delves into identity, power, and the blurred boundaries of human existence. Tade Thompson's evocative prose and vivid world-building make Rosewater a standout in the genre.

6. The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley:

In a post-apocalyptic world where people shed their skin like snakes, a woman sets out on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The Loosening Skin is a mesmerizing exploration of change, love, and human resilience. Aliya Whiteley's lyrical writing and evocative imagery create a haunting and unforgettable tale.

7. The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders:

Amidst the darkness of an alien world, two young women forge an unlikely bond and challenge the rigid societal norms of their city. A thought-provoking examination of human nature and the pursuit of freedom, The City in the Middle of the Night showcases Charlie Jane Anders' skill in crafting intricate character dynamics.

8. The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley:

This mind-bending military sci-fi novel follows a soldier who finds herself traveling through time and space during interplanetary warfare. The Light Brigade offers a gripping and unsettling commentary on the brutalities of war and corporate greed. Kameron Hurley's narrative prowess shines through the immersive and gritty storytelling.

9. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine:

In a vast empire, an ambassador from a small space station must navigate a web of politics and intrigue to uncover the truth about her predecessor's death. A richly detailed space opera that explores themes of identity and cultural assimilation, A Memory Called Empire presents Arkady Martine as a master of political intrigue and world-building.

10. The Old Drift: A Novel by Namwali Serpell:

Spanning generations, The Old Drift interweaves three families in Zambia, touching on science fiction, romance, and political history. This epic tale reflects on the impact of colonialism and the choices that shape the future. Namwali Serpell's intricate storytelling and interwoven narratives make The Old Drift a literary tour de force.

11. Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky:

Imprisoned on a dying island city, a convicted criminal uncovers the city's dark secrets and the potential for salvation. Cage of Souls is a captivating exploration of isolation, ecological collapse, and the essence of humanity. Adrian Tchaikovsky's imaginative world-building and character-driven storytelling elevate this novel to new heights.

12. The Last Astronaut by David Wellington:

A thrilling blend of science fiction and horror, The Last Astronaut follows an astronaut crew's perilous mission to investigate an alien object hurtling towards Earth. Claustrophobic and pulse-pounding, it probes the depths of cosmic terror. David Wellington's skill in building tension and suspense keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

13. Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang:

"Zero Sum Game" by S.L. Huang follows Cas Russell, a gifted mathematical genius with telekinetic abilities. As a retrieval specialist, she can solve intricate problems and manipulate the world around her. But when a job goes awry, she finds herself entangled in a dangerous conspiracy. With a perfect blend of action, puzzles, and wit, this thrilling speculative fiction novel keeps readers hooked until the final page.

14. The Vanished Birds: A Novel by Simon Jimenez:

"The Vanished Birds" by Simon Jimenez takes readers on an interstellar journey through space and time. Nia Imani, a ship captain, encounters a mysterious mute boy with inexplicable powers. As they traverse distant planets and centuries, the novel weaves a captivating narrative that explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition. With its lyrical prose and thought-provoking concepts, this speculative fiction masterpiece delivers an unforgettable reading experience.

15. Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes:

Captain Eva Innocente, a spacefaring mercenary, must embark on a perilous mission to save her sister from an intergalactic criminal organization. A rollicking space adventure filled with humor, action, and endearing characters, Chilling Effect showcases Valerie Valdes' ability to balance high-stakes action with heartwarming moments of camaraderie.

16. Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee:

In "Ninefox Gambit," the first book of the Machineries of Empire series, author Yoon Ha Lee introduces readers to an enigmatic world where the empire's power relies on a complex and mysterious calendar system. Captain Kel Cheris must team up with an undead general, Shuos Jedao, to quell a heretical uprising. As they embark on a treacherous mission, they must navigate political intrigues and confront their own inner demons to preserve the empire's dominance.

17. The Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang:

"The Genesis of Misery" by Neon Yang is a thrilling space opera that unfolds in a distant future. The story follows a skilled hacker named Elfrida Goto, who finds herself entangled in a dangerous conspiracy that could change the fate of the galaxy. With its intricate world-building, compelling characters, and high-stakes action, this book offers an immersive and enthralling space opera experience. Neon Yang's masterful storytelling and imaginative vision make "The Genesis of Misery" a standout in the realm of space opera literature.

18. Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu:

In this epic space opera, a group of young scientists embark on a journey to a distant star system, encountering diverse cultures and confronting complex ethical dilemmas. Vagabonds is a sweeping meditation on ambition, progress, and the human spirit. Hao Jingfang's intricate world-building and Ken Liu's skillful translation make this novel a must-read for sci-fi enthusiasts.

19. Deep Wheel Orcadia: A Novel by Harry Josephine Giles:

This enchanting novel transports readers to a post-apocalyptic Scotland, where magic and technology intertwine, and a young hero seeks her destiny in a world of myth and imagination. Deep Wheel Orcadia is a captivating and lyrical exploration of identity, destiny, and the power of storytelling.

20. Klara and the Sun: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro:

Klara, an artificial friend with extraordinary observational abilities, sets out to understand human emotions and the meaning of love in a society dominated by AI technology. Ishiguro's lyrical prose contemplates the essence of humanity, the nature of consciousness, and the quest for belonging.

21. A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine:

The sequel to A Memory Called Empire, this masterful space opera follows an ambassador caught in the midst of an interstellar conflict. A Desolation Called Peace explores identity, diplomacy, and the complexities of empire. Arkady Martine's richly layered storytelling and vivid characters continue to captivate readers in this thrilling sequel.

22. A River Called Time by Courttia Newland:

In a parallel London, where colonialism never occurred, a man must navigate a surreal and divided cityscape to uncover the truth about his existence. A River Called Time delves into the constructs of reality, power, and choice. Courttia Newland's thought-provoking exploration of parallel worlds and cultural identity challenges readers' perceptions of history and the fabric of society.

23. Wergen: The Alien Love War by Mercurio D Rivera:

The Wergens: a highly sophisticated alien race biochemically infatuated with humans. They crave us, they need us, while we need their technology. Humanity does what it always does. We exploit them. Until, that is, the Wergens find a way to circumvent their addiction… From the towering skyscrapers of Earth to the methane lakes of Titan, from the ice-plains of Pluto to distant alien gas giants with steel-crushing gravity, Wergen: The Alien Love War explores personal stories of unrequited love set against the cosmic backdrop of the conflict between the two species. Mercurio D. Rivera's Wergen stories have wowed readers and critics alike. Now, for the first time, the full arc of the human/ Wergen relationship is revealed: the conflict, cooperation, love, betrayal, and more. "Mindblowing hard science fiction" — N.K. Jemisin, Multiple Hugo Award Winning Author.

24. Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley:

At a remote inn on an alien planet, a diverse group of guests unravels the mysteries of the universe and confronts their inner demons. Skyward Inn is a lyrical and thought-provoking exploration of connection, memory, and the search for meaning. Aliya Whiteley's evocative prose and philosophical musings create a captivating reading experience.

25. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey:

"Leviathan Wakes" by James S. A. Corey is an enthralling space opera that takes readers on a thrilling journey across the solar system. Set in a future where humanity has colonized the planets, the story follows a detective named Miller and a ship's captain named Holden as they become entangled in a dangerous conspiracy that could lead to interplanetary war. With its intricate plot, well-developed characters, and vivid world-building, this book delivers a gripping and immersive space opera experience. James S. A. Corey's masterful storytelling and blend of mystery, action, and political intrigue make "Leviathan Wakes" a standout in the space opera genre.

With this remarkable collection of sci-fi books, we hope to have opened a portal to uncharted territories, where the wonder of discovery awaits.

These flabbergastingly good works will challenge your perspectives, ignite your imagination, and inspire you to explore the vast expanse of human creativity. Embrace the unknown and embark on a journey through these captivating narratives that have yet to receive the acclaim they deserve. Happy reading!

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