It’s December, which means it’s time for the best of everything 2021 had to offer. Most of the books on these lists will surprise no one. These are my favorite books of 2021: the books I couldn’t stop thinking about, the books I hand-sold to everyone I met. This post features five of my favorite sci-fi books of 2021, full of clones, space adventures and more.
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey – February 16
When Evelyn finds out her ex-husband Nathan is having an affair, she’s justifiably angry.
Martine is everything Evelyn isn’t; warm and quiet, kind, agreeable and even docile. She’s also Evelyn’s clone, created using research Evelyn’s ex stole from her. Soon after the couple separates, Martine calls Evelyn in a panic. Nathan is dead, and Martine killed him.
When Evelyn arrives at the crime scene, another ball drops; Martine is pregnant with Nathan’s child, something Evelyn thought impossible. Despite everything, the two women must work together to keep the world from finding out about Martine and what she’s done.
The Echo Wife was one of the first books I read in 2021, starting the year off strong. Sarah Gailey manages to effortless write across genres, from alternate US history to queer pulp Westerns to this: their foray into a sort of domestic sci-fi thriller. This book is creepy, trippy and unconventional, with Gailey putting a fresh twist on a typical premise. Their story will stay with you long after you’ve reached the final page.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon – May 4
When Vern — a 15-year-old pregnant and abused albino Black girl — escapes the cultish Cainland community, she plans never to return. She gives birth to twins in the woods, doing everything she can to evade capture and the influence of the outside world.
While in the woods, Vern begins to change, growing stronger and forming a painful exoskeleton along her spine. Scared to leave her children alone but unsure what’s happening to her, Vern takes her family out of the woods for the first time. They begin a long journey toward the only haven she knows. But Cainland is far-reaching, and soon Vern must confront their evil.
Sorrowland is incredibly dark but also powerful. Rivers Solomon engages with gender, disability, race, queerness and more while pushing the boundaries of speculative fiction to their limits. Sorrowland is heartbreaking and hopeful, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw – September 7
Long after their disastrous final mission, the Dirty Dozen reunites to rescue a comrade they thought was dead. But this band of broken, diminished outlaws isn’t the only crew in pursuit; the AI controlling the galaxy will do anything to keep humanity from coming out on top. The reunited but still fragmented Dirty Dozen must battle their demons with the rest of the universe to settle the score and bring their own home.
I feel like I waited forever for The All-Consuming World to come out; it was one of my most anticipated sci-fi books of the year. Circumstances delayed its release (more than once!), but it was well worth the wait. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read; Cassandra Khaw’s writing style mixes poetic description with gleeful profanity in a seemingly effortless way. This book is perfect for anyone looking for a wild, far-flung space adventure.
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki – September 28
Shizuka Satomi has a deal with the devil. To save her soul, she must provide the souls of seven brilliant violinists. When she meets trans runaway Katrina Nguyen, she knows Katrina’s her final victim. Katrina is naturally talented but has no formal training and is happy to learn the craft from a true master.
While training Katrina, Shizuka meets and falls for Lan Tran, a former starship captain and current refugee/donut shop owner. As the three women’s lives intersect, they learn what it means to care for someone unexpectedly and reevaluate what they’re willing to sacrifice.
This book took me entirely by surprise. Light From Uncommon Stars combines so many elements that shouldn’t work together, but Ryka Aoki’s writing makes everything intertwine so well. This book will easily remain one of my favorite sci-fi books for a long time.
Trashlands by Alison Stine – October 26
In a near-future dystopia where plastic is currency, Coral and the other residents of Trashlands are just doing what they can to survive. But when a reporter arrives, he brings the possibility of another life, one Coral and her friends scarcely dare imagine.
Trashlands should be on everyone’s list! Alison Stine’s second novel came out at the end of a very long year, and it’s a scarily realistic view of where the world could be in just a short time. While Trashlands explores some dark themes, there’s still a strong undercurrent of hope.
There you have it! These are just some of my favorite sci-fi books of 2021. Go out and get them now! All of these fantastic books are available at your local independent bookstore or on Bookshop.org.
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