Sci-fi can be near-future imaginings or far-flung space-faring adventures brimming with outlandish technology. Regardless, both make for challenging page-turning reads. Building off of the world as we know it, there’s an unnerving, unshakeable sense of familiarity with dystopian reads—which explains why people can’t stop watching shows like Squid Game. These are a few of our favorites.
Propelled by its heroine’s wisecracking voice, set in a city that’s at once stunningly imagined and intimately familiar, and brimming over with clever problem-solving and heist-y fun, Artemis is another irresistible brew of science, suspense, and humor from #1 bestselling author Andy Weir.
A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son’s fight to survive. The Road boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone. Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.
Kirsten Raymonde is a part of the Traveling Symphony, a nomadic troupe of actors and musicians making their way through the plague-ravaged remnants of the U.S. to bring music and art to a desperate people. When a cult led by a man simply called Prophet threatens the troupe’s very existence, Kirsten and her compatriots are pushed apart and struggle for survival and a safe haven. Through it all, a narrative thread from the past links the fates of these disparate people firmly together.
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. From very different worlds—one born into an elite family, the other born in the slums—June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths the country will go to keep its secrets.
A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Mark Spitz is a member of the civilian sweeper unit tasked with clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining feral zombies. Zone One unfolds over three surreal days in which Spitz is occupied with the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder (PASD), and the impossible task of coming to terms with a fallen world. And then things start to go terribly wrong…
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky. In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together. And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.
Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. He works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed and now he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies…even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.
Bellona is a city at the dead center of the United States. Something has happened there … The population has fled. Madmen and criminals wander the streets. Strange portents appear in the cloud-covered sky. Into this disaster zone comes a young man—poet, lover, and adventurer—known only as the Kid. Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and groundbreaking work of American magical realism.
As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges how special they were. Now, years later, Kathy is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special. Suspenseful, moving, beautifully atmospheric, Never Let Me Go is a modern classic.
In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.
Cassia has always trusted the Society’s choices. And when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, she’s certain he’s the one—until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now she is forced to choose between the only life she’s ever known and a path no one has dared to follow…between perfection and the truth.
This book imagines a world where America is half underwater and under the constant surveillance of an artificially intelligent internet. The upper caste, known as “Netted,” occupy the literal high-ground. The lower caste, “Surplus,” make their way in the swamps and on the water. When the government resurrects the game of baseball, a pitching prodigy—and the daughter of a Surplus couple—sees a way out and up the insurmountable social ladder, but at what cost? The wry undertones and sheer plausibility make this well-hewn dystopian novel all the more unsettling.
American War is a must-read. Set against the backdrop of the Second American Civil War, Sarat Chestnut has grown up in a world where drones fill the sky, oil is outlawed, and her climate change-ravaged home is partially underwater. When her father is killed and her family is displaced to a refugee camp, Sarat becomes a dangerous cog in the resistance movement, trading her humanity for vengeance in hopes of a better world.
Margaret Atwood’s haunting vision of a dystopian near-future is a masterwork of speculative fiction. The fact that it continues to remain so prescient is a comment not only on Atwood’s skill, but on how little actual progress we have made as a society. Atwood’s tale of a totalitarian, fundamentalist regime set in a time of declining birthrates and social inequality is as chilling today as it was thirty-five years ago—perhaps more so.
Rebecca cannot shake the feeling that the world around her is slightly off. Her husband, a renowned physicist, is busy at work on what most would call a time machine—although he and his team avoid that label. When a car crash, resulting from the failure of a self-driving car, ends in tragedy, timelines seem to converge and Rebecca begins to realize nothing is quite as it seems.
In 2049, society is on the brink of collapse. In order to ensure the survival of the human race, a bold plan is enacted: genetically engineered children are to be incubated in cocoons inside of large robots and eventually birthed to be raised by their robot mothers. The robots themselves are unique, each programmed with the Mother Code to ensure they care for their charges. However, when the government decides the robots must be destroyed, a boy named Kai must decide if he is willing to lose his robot companion and caretaker, or if he will fight for the only mother he has ever known.
In an internment camp in Indonesia, a dangerous hemorrhagic fever leaves forty-seven dead. Henry Parsons, a microbiologist investigating the incident for the World Health Organization, discovers a deadly virus set to sweep across the globe. Henry soon sets off with the hopes of quarantining an infected man making a pilgrimage to Mecca with millions of other worshippers, but this pandemic may have already been unleashed on a world unprepared for the looming catastrophe.
Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, often presenting characters who must confront sudden change—the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens—with some sense of normalcy. With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by beauty and wonder.
In the near future imagined by Joanna Kavenna, the Beetle Corporation has engineered a perfect world based on their visionary predictive algorithm—an omniscient presence known as “lifechain.” When Lionel Bigman is murdered by a robot, Beetle’s CEO insists the death was caused by human error. But was it? And if either eventuality is true, what does that mean for this so-called utopia?
In the world that Rosemary Laws and Luce Cannon know, there is only the Before and the After. In the Before, Luce was a rising music star—until the government banned concerts and large events amidst a spate of terrorist attacks and deadly virus outbreaks. In the After, Rosemary finds a new job facilitating virtual reality concerts. When Rosemary gets a taste of what the Before was like after a chance encounter with Luce, her life—and possibly the world as she knows it—may never be the same.
In this near-future thriller, Cloud is a monolithic tech company accounting for the bulk of the American economy—it’s Big Business meets Big Brother in sanitized box stores and sprawling live-work compounds. Working for Cloud is not the life Paxton imagined for himself, but it’s better than the squalor of the outside world. When he meets Zinnia, a woman who has infiltrated Cloud with the hope of exposing the company’s darkest secrets, Paxton is unknowingly swept into a plot that will shatter the carefully cultivated world around him and prove just how far-reaching Cloud really is.
In 2059, the world is on the verge of destruction. A solar event that occurred forty years ago brought the earth’s rotation to a halt, leaving half of the world in darkness. Humanity survives in a handful of habitable zones just outside the scorching sunlight and the frozen darkness. Ellen Hopper, a scientist working a derelict rig in the Atlantic, is called back to London and soon discovers a secret that could threaten whatever waning time humanity has left.
On his thirty-sixth birthday, Travis Cornell hikes into the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. But his path is soon blocked by a bedraggled Golden Retriever who will let him go no further into the dark woods. That morning, Travis had been desperate to find some happiness in his lonely, seemingly cursed life. What he finds is a dog of alarming intelligence that soon leads him into a relentless storm of mankind’s darkest creation…
The Dreamers follows an ordinary town that is transformed by a mysterious illness that triggers perpetual sleep. Written in luminous prose, this novel is a breathtaking and beautiful story, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life—if only we are awakened to them.
Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything.