While I consider myself a voracious reader of speculative fiction, I’ll be the first to admit that I currently have more fantasy than sci-fi titles in my arsenal. But don’t get me wrong! There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration that a good sci-fi novel can bring. Imaginative, logical, and thematically relevant? Sign me up!
With that said, here is a list of 11 underrated science fiction books that deserve to be on every reader’s radar.
A Spark of White Fire
Have you ever wondered how cool it’d be if an ancient epic was retold in a futuristic, space setting?
Drawing inspiration from the iconic Mahabharata and other ancient Indian stories, A Spark of White Fire delivers a compelling plot with complicated families, meddlesome gods and goddesses, and themes of betrayal and loyalty. Plus, at the heart of this space opera lies a flawed heroine whom you can’t help but love and root for! One of my all-time favorites.
A Conspiracy of Stars
For inquisitive sci-fi fans who enjoy moral dilemmas, A Conspiracy of Stars just might be your cup of tea. This story follows Octavia, an ambitious teenager who wants nothing more than to follow her parents’ footsteps and investigate the planet of Faloiv as a scientist.
However, her internship leads her to the unexpected: her community’s hidden history and the inescapable moral questions that come with scientific discovery and the desire for societal progress.
Cute Mutants Vol. 1
X-Men but with delightfully chaotic and unapologetically queer teenagers? Say no more. S.J. Whitby’s Cute Mutants series is sure to be a literary treat!
This hilarious series follows the adventures and hijinks of a team of superpowered teen misfits, led by Dylan Taylor, who has a strange ability to talk to inanimate objects. Definitely a good read if you need some cheering up!
For readers who enjoy alien invasion stories, Exo is set a century after Earth was colonized by an alien race called the Zhree. This high-stakes, high-tension story is told through the eyes of Donovan, a genetically-enhanced human soldier and the Prime Liaison’s son.
Aside from Fonda Lee’s phenomenal writing and worldbuilding, what sets Exo apart is its nuanced approach towards alien colonization, revolution, and power dynamics within society.
Here and Now and Then
Time-traveling stories are a huge staple in the sci-fi genre, but what’s life like as a time-traveler? This is a fascinating question that Mike Chen explores in his debut novel, Here and Now and Then, which follows a time-traveling secret agent who’s stranded in 1990s suburban San Francisco.
Anchored to family dynamics and internal conflict, this book offers an emotional tale that makes for an excellent springboard for readers who are new to or intimidated by science fiction.
Ignite the Stars
If you’re looking for a fun adventure with interstellar space pilots and criminal masterminds, then look no further than Maura Milan’s YA sci-fi duology!
With a rebellious Asian heroine at its helm, Ignite the Stars promises a highly addictive story that’s full of great action scenes, astronomical stakes, and heartwarming female friendships. I effortlessly breezed through this fantastic book, and I’m sure you will fall under its spell, too.
Set in a fictional star system ruled by the notoriously vicious Vathek Empire, Mirage offers a multidimensional narrative that tackles colonization, cultural erasure, and resistance.
This Moroccan-inspired science fantasy is told from the dual perspectives of two teen girls who share a face and a mutual hatred for each other’s existence. If that doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.
Secondhand Origin Stories
Heavily driven by characters and their relationships, Secondhand Origin Stories is a far cry from your usual superhero fiction; instead, it is a tender story about a dysfunctional family of superheroes. Honestly, I found it both interesting and refreshing to witness how ordinary family drama could play out so realistically in a family of superpowered people, albeit with much higher stakes involved.
If you grew up watching The Incredibles and longed for more stories about second-generation superheroes, then this is the perfect read for you.
For readers who enjoy sci-fi with a generous helping of horror and mystery, Toxic follows a crew of mercenaries sent on a suicide mission to a toxic, dying bioship. Once onboard, they discover Hana, a girl who shouldn’t exist and is coincidentally the ship’s lone surviving member.
As unlikely allies, the mercenaries and Hana seek the truth about the ship’s sickness and the crew’s mysterious disappearance.
Set in a futuristic Taipei where the wealthy pay to extend their lives, Want presents an eco-focused dystopia where pollution and global warming are exacerbated by the greed of corporations.
Aside from introducing readers to a band of lovable rebels, this book also cleverly explores the nuances of class, capitalism, and accountability. A timely and relevant read!
When Alyssa Farshot’s mortally-ill uncle calls for a galaxy-wide crownchase, she suddenly finds herself an unwilling participant in a deadly competition for the throne, going against vicious representatives from the empire’s prime families.
If you’re looking for an adventure-filled race through the dangers of space, Crownchasers is a book that needs to be in your TBR.