As an advocate for inclusive literature, I’ve been making conscious strides to expand my own reading. However, upon revisiting my own shelves a few months ago, it dawned on me that almost all my books were written by authors who are either American or are native English speakers. And the more I reflected on this, the more outlandish it seemed to me, a reader whose mother tongue is Tagalog.
There’s a wealth of fascinating stories in translated fiction. I’m genuinely perplexed with myself for not diving deep into translated books a lot sooner—what a missed opportunity. But thankfully, no more!
I’ve added so many titles to my TBR ever since I decided to explore the intriguing world of translated science fiction and fantasy—and I am beyond excited to share my SFF finds with you. Let’s diversify our reading together!
A Luminous Republic
Described as "Lord of the Flies "from the other side" by author Juan Gabriel Vásquez, this Spanish novel introduces the unremarkable city of San Cristóbal. The town is suddenly plunged into chaos upon the bizarre arrival of 32 kids—who seem to be jungle-born and unquestionably violent.
First published in Japanese, this is a unique steampunk fantasy steeped in political scheming.
Tensions between the shogunate and the empress increase astronomically with the introduction of Eve, a superhuman automaton whose creation is tangled with a groundbreaking secret that may threaten the line to the throne.
Originally written in Spanish, and steeped in magical realism, this book follows a young Argentinian woman whose puzzling fixation with eating dirt results in her learning terrifying truths.
The Goddess Chronicle
In this fantastical reimagining of an ancient Japanese creation myth, two sisters from a family of oracles are led towards opposite destinies: Kamikuu is chosen as the Oracle of light, while Namima is forced to spend eternity in the dark underworld.
Translated from Bengali, this South Asian novel offers a character study on Harbart Sarkar. His supernatural abilities helped him deliver messages between the living and the dead—up until his unfortunate suicide that no one can seem to explain.
For readers intrigued by artificial intelligence, this Japanese science fiction novel takes place in the very far future.
Humans are at war with the Adiaptron Empire of Machines, and a rogue cyborg escapes a facility and assumes the appearance of a dead child murdered by her own mother.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror
In this Japanese portal fantasy, seven students seek escape from their stressful lives and explore a magnificent castle where they hope to find a hidden key that can grant the wish of its finder. This novel offers a heartwarming tale that delves into human vulnerability and empathy.
The Route of Ice and Salt
This Mexican Gothic fantasy novella delivers a reimagining of Dracula's voyage to England that's steeped in horror, bloodlust, and queer longing.
Strange Beasts of China
First published in Chinese, this sci-fi novel is told through the eyes of a budding cryptozoologist who is commissioned to study the rumored beasts of Yong'an city.
This is a good read for fans of detective stories and metaphysical inquiries into existentialism.
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They Will Drown in Their Mothers' Tears
Through a journalist's interview with an enigmatic woman living in a hospital for the criminally insane, this Swedish book portrays a warning about a dystopian future wherein unpatriotic people are relegated to a ghetto.
The Three-Body Problem
For readers with an interest in extraterrestrial life, this science fiction masterpiece delves into alien assimilation during China's Cultural Revolution.
When the military successfully establishes contact with an alien species on the brink of extermination, humanity must determine if these creatures are friend, foe, or an untapped opportunity.
The Tower of Fools
Penned by the author known for the legendary Witcher series, his latest epic fantasy saga is brimming with rich European history and magic.
Originally written in Polish, The Tower of Fools follows a doctor-magician-nobleman who lands himself in the Narrenturm, a notorious asylum in which he must fight to keep his own sanity.
Ulirát: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines
As hinted by the title, this is a unique anthology of short stories set in modern-day Philippines. It beautifully interweaves current realities with rich folklore and supernatural elements.
With contributions from Filipino authors living in different parts of the archipelago, this humble collection boasts fiction from Filipino, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, Waray, Kinaray-a, and Akeanon translated into English for the first time.
Originally published in Russian, this highly-acclaimed novel follows young Sasha Samokhina's journey into the Institute of Special Technologies, wherein cruel personal punishments are doled out for the transgressions and failures of students.
It's perfect for fans of dark academia in speculative fiction.