Last week, game developer BioWare released Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fourth game in their beloved sci-fi series Mass Effect. Since the first game was released in 2007, the role-playing third-person shooter franchise has spawned a multimedia empire and has been acclaimed for its character development, fleshed-out alien races, and varied romance options.
Want to kiss aliens and explore far-flung planets with a crew from across the galaxy? Mass Effect is the franchise for you. And if you love the games, you'll probably also enjoy these eight books—which contain many of the same themes that make Mass Effect such an enduringly popular sci-fi saga.
Note: This list doesn't have any of the official Mass Effect books. That would be too easy! These stories have the imaginative aliens, intricate galactic politics, and action (in all senses of the word) that fans have come to expect from Mass Effect, but are set in an entirely different universe.
The Tampy aliens eschew much of humanity's technology; they're repulsed by terraforming, and uninterested in the mechanical tools used by humans. But Tampies have one resource that, until recently, humanity could only covet. The Tampies have tamed warhorses: massive, telekinetic, living ships. Now, a fragile peace treaty in place, Tampies and humans will attempt to join forces on a warhorse for the first time ever. But will the representatives from either race on this historic mission be able to prevent their mutual distrust from escalating into war?
In many ways, this fantastic anthology from editor Ellen Datlow is exactly what it sounds like: A series of stories about sex with aliens. But the book is about more than just very close encounters with the third kind. The anthology's contributors, authors like James Tiptree Jr. and Connie Willis, also explore the ways that men and women appear alien to each other. Although sex with aliens has become more of a staple in sci-fi like Mass Effect in the years since this collection was released, the questions of sexuality and gender raised in the book are just as compelling now as they were then.
Born lives on the Humanx Commonwealth planet Midworld, a verdant planet covered in so much vegetation that its harmonious inhabitants rarely see the sun. But change is coming to Midworld. Human employees of an exploitative corporation arrive, endangering the planet's delicate, gorgeous ecosystem. Born and his fellow villagers must decide where their allegiances lie—do they stand and fight? Or should they help the humans, and risk destroying their way of life and ruining the lush world they call home?
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It's the year 2194. Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Seafort is assigned to the Hibernia as a midshipman, on a mission to the colony of Hope Nation. But when the Hibernia's senior officer is killed in a freak accident, Seafort is catapulted to a position of power he wasn't prepared for, and forced to lead the ship's terrified colonists and crew. Giving off a Horatio-Hornblower-meets-The Expanse feel, this John W. Campbell Award-winning first title of the Seafort Saga is a delightful look at the lives of the everyday, working people who populate the ships and colonies of space operas.
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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Rosemary needs to escape her life on Mars, and fast. She pays her way into a role as clerk on The Wayfarer, a tunneling ship tasked with punching holes through space. Rosemary quickly realizes that she won't be able to hide her dark past from her shipmates—a multi-species crew, some of whom have secrets and private tragedies of their own—for long. Mass Effect fans will appreciate the well-developed biology and cultures of aliens such as the Grums, a constantly-vocalizing, caterpillar-like species that change biological sex throughout their lifetime. Players who appreciate the games' romance options may also enjoy The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet's depiction of diverse sexualities amongst the crew.
Leviathan Wakes is the first novel in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey (the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), and takes place in a future where humans have colonized the galaxy as far out as the moons of Uranus. After a long history of tension, the United Nations-governed Earth and the congressional republic of Mars have formed a tenuous alliance to control residents of the asteroid belt. When Earth-born Captain James Holden and the crew of the Canterbury receive a distress signal from the transportation ship Scopuli, they have no idea their unexpected rescue mission is about to set an intergalactic incident threatening the peace between Mars and Earth into motion. The Scopuli is found abandoned, the Canterbury is suddenly destroyed, and soon Holden is caught up in a far-reaching mystery with unimaginable consequences.
A Fire Upon the Deep
Thousands of years in the future, the Milky Way is divided into zones of thought, so-called for their impact on biological and physical intelligence. From the Unthinking Depths—a deadly zone that strands ships and renders all automation useless—to the Transcend, a plane full of hyper-intelligent humans and machines that have passed the point of singularity, physical location in the universe impacts intelligence, capabilities, and chance of survival.
When a mysterious artifact created by a power from the Transcend unleashes a catastrophic force, siblings Johanna and Jeffri and their parents quickly flee the destruction. But they're soon taken and held as political ransom by Tines, a brutal alien race. A multi-species rescue crew is all that stands between the captured family and death.
The Hugo Award-winning first book in the Zones of Thought series, Fire Upon the Deep is a classic that will appeal to fans of hard sci-fi and those who like their space operas populated with intergalactic politics and varied alien races.
The Engines of God
Humans exploring Saturn's moon Iapetus are shocked to discover a giant statue of an alien, left behind by mysterious beings people come to call 'Monument-Makers'. Hundreds of years later, with the advent of faster-than-light drives, humans find more intriguing Monument-Maker artifacts scattered across the stars. As Earth spins inexorably toward ecological devastation, a team of researchers on the dead planet Quraqua make an ominous discovery about the Monument Makers' significance to Quraqua's past—and Earth's future.
First in the seven-book Starhawk series, The Engines of God introduces readers to Priscilla Hutchins, aka Hutch, a hotshot starship pilot tasked with the dangerous mission of accompanying archaeologists to Quraqua.
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Featured photo via BioWare