In March of 2017, 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 fifteen books—which contain many of the same intergalactic 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 the Mass Effect universe, but are set in an entirely different world.
Like the inhospitable planets and repopulation efforts seen in Mass Effect: Andromeda, the first book in the Deep Sky saga constructs a world in which humanity is branching out across the galaxy.
In the year 2221, Earth’s Mayflower 2 sets out to bring new colonists to the planet of Thetis. Unfortunately, the ship never reaches its intended destination, crash-landing on the unwelcoming and unpopulated moon Achilles.
But the mysterious moon buzzes with more danger than the survivors know, bringing with it vicious aliens and the inexplicable disappearance of all of the adult colonists, leaving teenagers like Jonah Lincoln to fend for themselves and figure out a way to make the long journey home to Thetis.
A Passage of Stars
Like Commander Shepard, the beloved protagonist of the Mass Effect trilogy, A Passage of Stars’ main character Lily Ransome is brave, confident, and capable.
However, Lily’s future is very limited on her home planet of Unruli, where she can either become a mother or take part in her family’s mining business.
When alien bounty hunters take her father figure/martial arts instructor captive, Lily sheds her obligations and sets out to rescue him. Full of persecuted races, space rebellions, and unexpected romance, this book has everything a Mass Effect fan could want.
Beneath the Gated Sky
A sequel to the 1994 novel Beyond the Veil of Stars, this science fiction romp deals with government agencies and plots to eradicate humanity. When Earth’s sky changes to obscure stars and instead reflects another world, humanity is sent reeling. However, using a system called “quantum intrusions,” people are capable of projecting their consciousness across to the other side.
Cornell Novak and Porsche Neal began a romance while defending humanity on the strange alien lands on the flip-side of the sky, but nothing is simple in this age of changes. Their blossoming and precarious love must take a backseat as they discover a conspiracy which shakes the trust of everyone they hold dear.
Clarke County, Space
The orbiting space colony Clarke County is anticipating a sharp spike in tourism when the Church of Elvis chooses it as the location for their major revival meeting, and Skycorp executives are waiting to rake in the cash.
However, the Clarke County locals would prefer to be left to their own devices, and scandalous whispers of a rebellion against Earth have been spreading. When a criminal on the run passes through with a cold-blooded assassin hot on her heels, Sheriff John Bigthorn has his work cut out for him if he wants to prevent Clarke County from descending into chaos.
The Tampy aliens reject 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?
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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?
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.
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 Real Story: The Gap into Conflict
Notoriously dangerous space pirate Angus Thermopyle walks into a bar with a beautiful ex-police officer, Morn Hyland, at his side. It sounds like the set up to a joke, but what follows is far from humorous.
Nick Succorso—a criminal in his own right—was in Mallory’s Bar & Sleep when Thermopyle strode in, and everyone knows their contentious rivalry must come to an inevitable head. But perhaps the story behind their devastating conflict wasn’t quite what people thought.
The first book in the exciting and adventurous Gap Cycle, The Gap into Conflict delivers a vivid futuristic spacescape, political intrigue, and the age-old internal struggles between good and evil. For that extra bit of Mass Effect flair, this book even has sentient ships!
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The Amarintin civilization was attacked 900,000 years ago, eradicating the entire race before they could achieve space flight. In 2551, scientist Dan Sylveste dedicates himself to uncovering the mystery of the ancient Amarintin genocide.
In a fit of desperation, Sylveste enters into a precarious alliance with the cyborg crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity starcraft, and the closer Sylveste comes to finding answers to the past, the closer he comes to death as an assassin follows hot on his trail. Sylveste may soon discover that the story behind the Amarintin slaughter brings with it a terrifying reality.
Star Wars: Annihilation
It may seem odd to have a multi-generational blockbuster franchise on the list, but besides the fact that Star Wars has a vast and nuanced space mythology full of action, aliens, and romance, the author of Star Wars: Annihilation is Drew Karphyshn.
Karpyshyn wrote for the first two video games of the Mass Effect original trilogy, and also wrote the game-related novels Mass Effect: Revelation, Mass Effect: Ascension, and Mass: Effect: Retribution. Due to his large part in the beloved video game universe, this novel is tonally similar to Mass Effect.
Though Theron Shan is the son of a Jedi master, he’s not even remotely Force sensitive. He is, however, a highly trained and deadly special agent for the Republic, out on a mission to take on Darth Karrid and her imperial battle cruiser Ascendant Spear.
With a temperamental smuggler and Darth Karrid’s former Jedi master on Theron’s side, he must do everything he can to combat the reign of Sith terror. But they only have one brief, fleeting chance at success.
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 game's 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