Seeking a way to escape the madness and peculiarity that have characterized the last few years? Wanting to travel to new and exotic locations without having to worry about obtaining a COVID passport? Then look no further than the five epic science fiction novels featured in this roundup article. Without having to leave your sofa, they’ll allow you to voyage from the far reaches of the universe to alternative realities via the Earth of the past, near future, and more distant times to come.
You Sexy Thing
by Cat Rambo
Tor Books, 304 pages, $25.99
Located at the very edge of the known universe, TwiceFar station is a good place to lose yourself and cast off the baggage that you might otherwise be forced to carry in more populous locations. At least, that’s certainly what drew Nicolette “Niko” Larson to the place. Previously an officer with the Holy Hive Mind—a cognitively linked military force with an all-encompassing political agenda—Niko was freed from her commitment to the cause after claiming to be a “thwarted culinary artist.” After being allowed to leave, she made her way to TwiceFar and opened the Last Chance restaurant, which is staffed by a diverse group of alien beings. In You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo, what should have been a great day for the restaurant is disrupted first by the arrival of a world-hopping playboy and then by an explosion that forces Niko and her staff to flee aboard the playboy’s bioship. A double-cross sets them on a collision course with a dastardly group of space pirates and so kickstarts the first adventure in an epic space opera series.
The Actual Star
by Monica Byrne
Harper Voyager, 624 pages, $27.99
Spanning six continents and around two thousand years of history, The Actual Star by Monica Byrne takes readers on an epic journey guided by three contrasting storylines that are eventually destined to converge in a cave in Belize. At the center of the interlinking storylines are, respectively, a pair of teenage twins descended from Mayan royalty, a young woman heading to South America in search of spiritual self-discovery, and two devout maniacs seeking to dominate through their new religion. Although they have no idea of their destiny, these disparate characters are fated to determine the outcome for what remains of humanity following cataclysmic climate change. As their souls reincarnate over the centuries, the central characters unite and fight, learn and change, while they unwittingly make their way toward the final encounter in Belize. Taken together, the three storylines are packed with interesting ideas about the history and destiny of humanity as well as the surprising impacts that individuals can have on the fate of a species as a whole.
Light From Uncommon Stars
by Ryka Aoki
Tor Book, 384 pages, $25.99
In a moment of desperation, violin prodigy Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil and now, in order to avoid damnation, she has to persuade seven other budding violin virtuosos to trade their souls for success. While she fairly easily manages to convince six gullible youngsters to strike Faustian bargains, she has difficulty finding a seventh until she happens upon runaway transgender teen Katrina Nguyen playing music that is truly out of this world. Convinced that she has found the final soul she needs to exchange for her own, Shizuka sets out to cultivate Katrina’s trust. However, she’s distracted from that goal by a chance encounter in a donut shop with Lan Tran, a retired starship captain. While she really should be concentrating on the business of saving her soul by sacrificing Katrina’s, Shizuka finds herself drawn to Lan Tran, and the lives of the three women soon become entangled in myriad ways. Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars is a captivating tale of magic, mistrust, identity, deadly bargains, and donuts. It’s also a highly satisfying story about the joy of choosing your own family.
The Body Scout
by Lincoln Michel
Tor Books, 368 pages, $27.00
In a New York City that has been devastated by climate change and recurrent pandemics, Kobo is scraping a living as a baseball scout. However, rather than working for regular baseball teams, he is employed by Big Pharma to scout for the best gene-edited talent to play for the teams they sponsor. It’s a tricky way to earn a living at the best of times, but things are further complicated for Kobo by the fact that his own cybernetics are around a decade out of date, leaving him highly vulnerable to replacement by more advanced rivals. Coupled with the fact that twin loan sharks are currently in hot pursuit of him, Kobo is left with the feeling that things can’t get much worse … and that’s before his brother, Monsanto Mets slugger J.J. Zunz, is murdered while standing at home plate. In Lincoln Michel’s The Body Scout, determined to track down his brother’s killer, Kobo has to venture further into the weird world of genetic modifications than he has ever been before, risking everything to secure justice in a world where even body and soul are for sale.
by Tochi Onyebuchi
Tor Books, 336 pages, $26.99
In Goliath, Tochi Onyebuchi transports readers to the Earth of the 2050s, a time when those with sufficient resources and capabilities have abandoned the failing planet in favor of new lives far away in the much more comfortable space colonies. Those who have been left behind are forced to scavenge what materials and supplies they can from Earth’s rapidly collapsing infrastructure. At the same time, whole cities are being dismantled and shipped to the far reaches of space so that the colonists can recreate the homes and environments they once inhabited on the planet they helped to destroy. Against this background, a lovelorn space-dweller hoping to reconnect with his lover, a group of laborers tasked with recreating the wonder of Earth’s cities, a journalist seeking to expose the violence that plagues what remains of Earth’s streets, and a marshal attempting to track down a kidnapper all come together to witness the final decline of the planet and offer hope for the future of humanity. It’s a disturbing and all too plausible tale of the potential future of Earth and what might occur if humans don’t rapidly change their ways.