Dystopian writing at its best—it is the distant future, and humanity has overcome poverty, hunger, and even death, while a seemingly benevolent artificial intelligence known as the Thunderhead watches over everything...almost everything. The one thing left to humanity is to control the overpopulation of the planet, and that is left to the scythes: men and women chosen to kill the populace at random based on a quota system. Some scythes are weighed down by the burden of responsibility while others take great satisfaction in their duties. When two teen scythes are pitted against one another to compete for one opening, it sends shockwaves through the entire scythedom. After reading Neal Schusterman’s Scythe, check out the sequel Thunderhead.
Imagine if our lives right now weren’t our only lives, that if after we die, there’s another life. But there’s one caveat, we have to choose a side: Myriad or Troika. One, a world of eternal darkness but luxury beyond your deepest desires. The other, a world of eternal light and joy. If you die before choosing, you’re stuck in the Land of Many Ways: a place where you're rumored to be terrorized for all eternity before eventually experiencing your second and final death. Troika and Myriad are rivals trapped in a bitter, never-ending war, looking to recruit the most souls. Both afterlives are in a race to recruit Tenley Lockwood, but how does she know which is the right choice? This is the afterlife, after all. Once you decide, there’s no going back. Check out Firstlife by Gena Showalter.
Jazz Bashara, a 26 year-old Saudi-Arabian woman, has spent the last two decades living in Artemis, the only city on the moon. Even off-Earth, life is still a struggle, and Jazz survives by smuggling contraband to anyone who will pay. When one of her wealthiest clients offers her a chance to escape her poverty, she can’t say no, even to a little covert sabotage. Things do not go well, leading to a series of events that put Jazz—and the whole city of Artemis—in mortal danger. Andy Weir brings to Artemis everything that made his previous book, The Martian, a breakaway hit. He’s given us yet another suspenseful adventure tale with excellent pacing, quick-thinking MacGyver-like escapes, and scientific know-how. Unlike The Martian’s Mark Watney, however, Jazz is not alone on her world and by the end, she’s assembled a ragtag crew to pull off a heist that could save—or end—their lives.
Joelle Charbonneau’s dystopian novel takes place in the far future and depicts the aftereffects of a nuclear fallout. It asks the question of what makes a good leader. How does a people choose leaders that will act in the best interest of everyone? Leaders who won’t abuse the power they’ve been given and instead help the country flourish under their guidance? The Test that the title refers to hopes to be a solution to this question. There hasn’t been a candidate chosen for the Testing in Cia Vale’s small town in a very long, long time. It’s why it comes as such a surprise that after graduating, she was chosen. Why was it her and not her brothers who were just as qualified (if not more so)? The Testing is action-packed with decent pacing that keeps you wondering what will happen next. There is also some romance without it overwhelming the main plot (and no love triangle!). Journey with Cia Vale as she proceeds through a Test of her own. Part of a trilogy, The Testing is followed by Independent Study and Graduation Day.
In the not-so-distant year of 2054, virtual reality games have become the biggest sensation in televised sports. The players on each team must not only be excellent video game players, but in top physical condition, as the RAGE tournament games mimic real-life abilities. In her early career as a RAGE competitor, Kali Ling fights to become the first female team leader in a male-dominated world. But while Kali can prove herself in a fight, this world demands more than she can handle. Her every move is dictated by sponsors and team management; a teammate recently died of a drug overdose; his replacement is difficult to work with; and her own grasp on reality is getting weaker with each trip into the virtual world. Packed with intense and cinematic action scenes, a love story, and diversity in multiple forms, Arena by Holly Jennings is a must-read for adult and older teen fans of Ready Player One and The Hunger Games.
This book hit all the right notes: likable, interesting characters; gripping story told from multiple perspectives; and historical fiction blended with believable time travel. In 2048 England, students and professors at Oxford have mastered the art of time travel as a means to fill in the gaps in the historical record. Budding historian Kivrin plans to visit 1320 Oxford to learn more about everyday life in the Middle Ages; instead, she ends up in 1348 at the height of the Black Death. A mysterious epidemic in 2048 also creates chaos, preventing Dunworthy (Kivrin’s mentor) from bringing her home. A compelling narrative, Doomsday Book will propel you forward, frantically turning to pages to discover the fate of those in past and future. My first foray into Connie Willis’ novels—but it won’t be my last!
Charley Quibler works part-time as a Senate environmental aid, which gives him plenty of time to bond with toddler son Joe, and wife Anne continues her career as a department head at the NSF. When Anne meets the newly arrived envoy from the island nation of Khembalung (in the Bay of Bengal), she invites them to dinner to talk to Charley about flooding problems on their island. Charley arranges a meeting with a senator to discuss their concerns about the rising sea levels but to no avail. Soon the rains do come, underscoring all the Khembalung’s concerns with problems close to the Quiblers and all the Washingtonians. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Forty Signs of Rain treats us to an enjoyable visit with the engaging Quibler family and raises questions of how our nation may deal with some of the very wet problems of climate change. Check out other books in the series.
Imagine if Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Apple were all bought out by the same mega-company. All of your data, from your food preferences to your medical history, would be linked and readily available. All of your work and your social life would be online. Then imagine there are cameras everywhere that you can check feeds of at any moment to keep an eye on revolts in the Middle East or the surf conditions at your favorite beach. All of this and more are possible with the Circle—and this future is not too far off from our own. The main character, Mae, is a newbie at the Circle, working in Customer Experience, answering tech questions, but her role at the media giant quickly grows as the Circle becomes the center of her life. Readers will follow in awestruck terror as Mae becomes tied up in this world, even at the risk of her parents and former friend, even at the risk of her own privacy. This book is not a thriller, but at times, it might feel like one, as you shout helplessly at the page for Mae and others at the Circle to change their ways. Dave Eggers’ The Circle – a sci-fi dystopia – will feel all too familiar to anyone concerned with technology, social media, and privacy, and serves as a warning as well as being a page turner you won’t be able to put down.
Love the newest Star Wars movie, but wish it had more detail? Or want to experience it all over in a new way? Check out the novelization of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster. This book follows the same plot as the movie, but with a few extra scenes, and a little more insight to what the characters are thinking and feeling. The true magic, however, is in the audiobook. Brilliantly narrated by Marc Thompson, who has recorded dozens of Star Wars audiobooks, this adaptation does something most audiobooks don’t: it includes sound effects and music. While sound effects can often be distracting and unwanted in audiobooks, this one blends them in seamlessly and the soundtrack by John Williams really grounds the story—and even adds to the drama when you hear a character’s familiar theme starting to play in the background. Overall, this is a great way to experience what, by now, is likely to be a familiar story. If you’re going on a road trip, this is an excellent audiobook to listen to with your whole family.
Required: a willingness to suspend disbelief and go along for the gripping ride. In this near futuristic thriller, newly minted FBI Agent Chris Shane gets thrust into a complicated case on his first day. NPR summarizes the premise best: in this world, Haden's Syndrome is “a global, meningitis-like pandemic that, in addition to killing lots of people, also left a certain percentage of them completely paralyzed. This paralysis is called ‘lock in.’” Shane is a Haden and uses a personal transport device to navigate the world (hence the futuristic technology part). Science fiction isn’t my go-to genre, and it may not be yours, but if you enjoy fast-paced adventures with a mystery to solve, give this one a shot. In John Scalzi’s Lock In, the world is grounded in enough reality that theoretically it could happen. And Will Wheaton does a fantastic job narrating the novel. Highly recommended.