Sure, you can read a world of books on Android or iPhone. But not everyone wants to risk accidentally dropping all their 2-factor authentication prompts into a tub of water, and sometimes it’s just nice to pick up something that won’t get bombarded with notifications for email and social media.
Kindles are great for that. So if you’re picking one up – or gifting one to a friend or family member – you’ll need something to read. Here’s 12 sci-fi and fantasy books to start with.
This article has been updated since its original publication. If you’re currently stuck in isolation, consider checking out some of these fantastic titles to pass the time.
One of the finest novels from the legendary Discworld author, Nation focuses on Mau as they struggle to survive following the destruction of their entire nation. Nation isn’t set in the Discworld universe, but still has Pratchett’s characteristic blend of tackling complicated issues with biting satire.
Last Tango in Cyberspace (Steven Kotler)
A mix of thriller and sci-fi, Last Tango centres on empath tracker Lion working for a pharmaceutical company. The job quickly uncovers a gruesome murder, however, leaving Lion to thread the needle between soul hackers, terrorists that attack the consciousness and eco-assassins.
Last Tango focuses heavily on existing tech or creations that are currently in development, while touching elements of neuroscience, animal rights, ecological preservation, and psychology.
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best sci-fi novel in 2016, and already optioned for a film by Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment, Children of Time focuses on two civilisations set to clash as they chart their course for a habitable planet.
A mix of magic and folklore from Inuit and Norse tribes, The Wolf in the Whale features Omat as they trek across the icy wasteland to search for food and hope to protect their people.
Written by the author behind The Immortals series, TWITW is set in 1000 AD in Newfoundland and the collision of cultures after the Vikings sail over and clash with the native Inuit tribes.
Machines Like Me takes place in an alternate 1982: Britain has lost the Falklands War, JFK survived the grassy knoll, and Alan Turing lived a substantially longer life, hyperaccelerating the development of neural networks and AI.
McEwan’s novel, which references Blade Runner at points, focuses on the moral consequences and dilemmas once algorithms become flesh.
A study of the human condition, Emma Newman’s Planetfall series focuses on Renata Ghali, the chief 3D printer engineer for an advanced colony far away from an overpopulated Earth.
Planetfall is recommended for fans of unreliable narrators, chronicling the unravelling of Ren’s mental state as her long-held secret threatens to tear the foundation of the colony apart.
Maggie Hoskie is a Navajo monster hunter imbued with supernatural powers as she journeys through a post-apocalyptic world destroyed five times over. When a small girl goes missing, Maggie is the family’s final hope – so she journeys beyond the old Navajo reservation and through a land beset with monsters, gods, and heroes of Navajo legend.
If you wanted to categorise Trail of Lightning, an indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road crossed with Supernatural wouldn’t be a bad fit. It’s a gritty magical fantasy where the repeated destruction of the world has opened portals allowing access to other planes and magical monsters. There’s also lots of grimy, gruesome scenes, so if you like a bit of brutality in your post-apocalyptic fantasy, The Sixth World series will be up your alley.
A standalone book featuring the cybernetically-enhanced Nick Hall from Mind’s Eye, Brainweb begins with terrorists taking control of the Academy Awards, pledging to butcher every high-profile attendee one at a time in front of an international audience.
Hall, who went into hiding to mask his psychic and cybernetic abilities, is forced into the open to resolve the situation. That kicks off a race for survival, featuring a lot of contemplation on current technology and technoterrorism in a light, easy-to-read, novel.
A sci-fi fantasy akin to Star Wars with magic and monsters of its own, Saga is one of the most accomplished and critically acclaimed series of the last decade.
It’s more mature and adult than the modern Star Wars universe though, as heroes deal with the wreckage of a war that has ravaged planets, factions, families.
There’s also a spaceship that flies wherever it wants; a race of seahorses; swords that cut through time and space; parents struggling to bring up a child in a horrific world; and phenomenal art, even on a Kindle’s black-and-white display.
And there’s a cat that just screams “LYING” whenever it hears someone spouting bullshit. Truly, Saga is great.
An inspiration for The Matrix and Shadowrun, Neuromancer is still one of the seminal novels in the cyberpunk genre. Not the easiest read, but still an important grounding for anyone interested in cyberpunk literature.
Fair warning: Middlegame is not for the faint-hearted. A novel focusing the relationship between two supernatural twins and their alchemist creator Reed, the novel also touches on murder, emotional abuse, parental gaslighting, and suicide features as a heavy narrative arc.
The debut novel that went on to win a Philip K. Dick award, Unnamed Midwife focuses on a midwife that wakes up to a civilisation ravaged. It’s about one of the few women left in world after a pandemic obliterates the world as we know it, with the plague particularly horrific amongst women.
To survive, the protagonist moves from one settlement to the next, trying to save the lives of others without the benefits of modern medicine, medical infrastructure or electricity. It’s a deep, frank discussion of society and interpersonal relationships, and a look at the complex nature of what happens to a world when the standing social matrix is rendered asunder.
“There are battles and accidents; there are collapses and plagues. There is silence only when one side wins or everyone has died.”
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