BY Rose Cox

Whats with all this sci fi business?

Okay, I get it, aliens are not for everyone. But science fiction is an amazing place to escape. It’s kind of like that feeling you have when you are tired, walking home, its nighttime and you are dragging your feet but the moon is really big and you just let your mind wander. Got it? Hold onto that feeling, because these books are going to make you look up and imagine all sorts of weird and wonderful things.

Michel Faber- The Book of Strange New Things (2014)

I cannot stress how much of a journey this book is. I also cannot stress how much of a worthwhile journey this book is. Following a man as he travels to a distant planet, bible in hand and idealism at the ready, we read on as both his faith is tested and his wives as she remains back home on earth. Sounds like nothing much? Faber makes it worth the read. This book is his modus operandi, at almost 10 years in the making.

Strange New Things is guaranteed to melt your mind and also act as a meaningful metaphor about faith and global warming that we could all learn from today. It’s a little known gem, but it has a lot to give. If you like this one, also consider reading Under the Skin also written by Michel Faber. It was made into an awful film, but is haunting and thrilling as a book.

Last Children of Tokyo- Yoko Tawada (2018)

This is perhaps the most surprising book you’ll ever read. Described by Guardian reviewer John Self as an “eco-terror mini epic” (trust me that is a very good description), Tawada takes us into a dystopian land that is meditative and surreal, and yet does not feel so far away from our own. Within this world, the old are living strong and yet the youth are dying almost before adulthood. There are challenges of language and communication between the main grandfather and grandson and we are left contemplative on the fate of their world as it continues to worsen.

At only 144 pages, this book will keep you up for only a night, but the ethical questions it raises have kept me pondering for months since. Its definitely a book to read if you are not looking for the stereotypical ‘alien comes to earth and we all run in fear’ or ‘I am stuck on a spaceship I hope I don’t die’ kind of narrative that sci fi has began to churn out en masse. Instead this is a read for those of us who see a sci fi landscape in our future and want to explore what that may look like.

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu (2006)

This cult phenomenon is definitely one that lives up to the hype with a plot line that is complex, yet readable, and characters that are both human and intriguingly unique; this is the series for you. As a quick aside, it is only 3 books, so don’t worry, you are not about to be drawn into a 14 book long mega journey of the likes of Robert Jordan.

The general narrative follows a group of physicists and a computer program, which is also related to some tests, ran during the Cultural Revolution in China. That’s it. I am not revealing any more, because to do so would be both confusing and beside the point. The real draw card for this series is its intense narrative structure and Liu’s otherworldly ability to explain complex physics and technology phenomena in a way that is not only comprehensible, but gripping.

As a suggested reading order for the series, the first book is essential, but the precision of the writing allows it to be read alone, or in conjunction with the series. If you’d like some further reading Ken Liu (the incredible translator of the series) writes some sharply different science fiction in the form of magical realism. I would recommend The Paper Menagerie as the best place to start there.

Science fiction is an ever changing genre, but I hope these have given you a taste of the unique blend that has been emerging out of contemporary science fiction writing.

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