I’ve been trying to read more science fiction, and everything I have read has only convinced me I want more. In 2020, I had a few standout sci fi reads.
Lou Diamond Phillips’ debut novel, The Tinderbox: Soldier of Indira, featured an original concept and a profound message. Once one planet, the worlds of Indira and Mano split apart. People used spacecraft to survive that catastrophic event and eventually populated the two planets. One planet became the home of the fair-skinned people, while the other planet became home to people with darker skin tones. They are at war, and in order to learn some discipline, the King of Indira forces his son, Everson, to join the invading military crew being sent to Mano.
While most of his colleagues are killed and few escape to return to Indira, Everson is left behind and forced to figure out how to survive. Meanwhile, Mano’s princess, Allegra, is frustrated by her father’s obsession with a prophecy that foretells his doom. When Everson and Allegra’s destinies collide will they be able to stop an invasion and save lives?
The worldbuilding in this work is strong, and Phillips uses an engrossing story with richly developed characters and circumstances to tackle tough topics like racism and prejudice. Everson is one of my favorite characters from the past year from any work because of his growth arc. There were also points where I really wondered how the author would work some plot logistics out, and how it was done was clever and unpredictable. It’s definitely worth checking out. I definitely hope to see more works from Phillips in the future.
Alechia Dow’s debut, The Sound of Stars, was one of the sci fi YA stories I read this year that stood out. Ellie is surviving in post-invasion New York. The Ilori invaders have taken over earth, and mankind seems doomed. The humans that are still alive are closely monitored, and those caught breaking rules are executed. Somehow, Ellie becomes friends with M0Rr1S, and their unlikely friendship leads to a series of events that could jeopardize the Ilori’s plans for Earth and save mankind.
One of the things that sets The Sound of Stars apart from many other works is that it’s infused with optimism, even in the bleakest moments. Ellie and M0Rr1S relate to each other because they both have problems with their family, as well as shared interests, and through their interactions and choices one starts to realize that humans and the Ilori aren’t so different in some ways. There’s plenty of action and drama as Ellie and M0Rr1S are forced to flee across the country in their quest to stop the Ilori, but it’s also a fun read filled with heart.
In Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World, an NCIS investigation collides with events from the investigator’s past, a missing ship, and an alien threat that could destroy mankind. Shannon scrambles to put the pieces together and find a way to solve the mystery before time runs out.
I found The Gone World riveting. It was filled with unexpected developments and never felt predictable, but it also felt like every development was earned in the text. It’s a bit like meshing Inception with Aliens and a few other sci fi stories together. The story is both gripping and complex, and well worth your time.