Dancing with Fantasy and Sci-Fi: more SF suggestions

Banner: Dancing with Fantasy and SciFi - 2019 Reading Challenge (text on a background image of books viewed end on)

Fancy a dance through one of my favourite genres? It’s past time I chimed in with the rest of my suggestions for Annemieke’s fantasy and sci-fi reading challenge to help you find some great SF reads…

The great genre dance challenge

Mid-year may seem late to pick up a new challenge, but as you can mark books you’ve already read off your dance card it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Annemieke has split her prompts into 3 categories: SF, Fantasy and General (a free choice of either SF or fantasy for any prompt), and you don’t have to take all three challenges! It’s one prompt per read, with no restrictions on moving books from one prompt to another if you get to the end of the year and find you’ve read lots of books about spaceships but only the one about aliens, actually…

It’s dawning on me I might need to be a bit more targeted as my regular reading diet is unlikely to hit some of the more obscure prompts by accident. So if you need a hand filling prompts – or if you’re just looking for a heap of scifi recommendations – I’m here to help.

What does that prompt mean?

Some prompts are open to interpretation. I’m pretty sure Marvel and Star Trek have taught us all what to expect from super powers and teleportation, but here’s my spin on the ones that might raise an eyebrow.

Science: as in ‘stand back, I’m going to try science!’. Hard SF doesn’t always feature scientists and engineers as protagonists, but the world-building and/or plot develops from modern scientific theory rather than excited hand-waving.

Replicate/Replica: I intend start with cloning and go from there – although if that doesn’t appeal, try reinterpreting this in terms of false identities or fake artefacts and have fun with novels about spies and hustlers instead

Mecha: giant robots ahoy! Specifically people in giant robot suits, technically speaking – think Pacific Rim or Ripley’s loader in Aliens.

Space Western: no, that’s not a contradiction in terms. We’re talking books set in space that still manage to have a low tech Wild West feel to them, where heroes may be smugglers and renegades or the lawmen who keep the peace.

Invasion: a generous prompt – aliens might invade Earth, we might invade an alien planet, or one (non)human colony may be invading another.

If it’s all feeling too hard, the crucial thing to remember is that the prompt doesn’t need to be the core focus of the plot, it just has to feature somewhere!


I’m deliberately avoiding making the same suggestions as Annemieke – and I’ve mostly managed to avoid repeating myself (but hey, it’s good news that some books match multiple prompts, right?). You can find the first half of my SF recommendations over here.

As for my sub-categories: well-loved books are classics, award winners and/or bestsellers; new in 2019 are the latest and greatest; and top tips are my personal favourites and/or books I’m really intrigued by. I’ve included books I might read for the challenge as well as books I’ve already read and recommend (marked with an asterisk*).

Prompt Well-loved New in 2019 Top tips
Super powers V E Schwab: Vicious*

Octavia Butler: Wild Seed*

Vylar Kaftan: Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water

Jackson Ford: The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind

Julian May: Intervention*

Derek Künsken: The Quantum Magician

Science Andy Weir: The Martian*

Liu Cixin: The Three-Body Problem*

Linda Nagata: Edges

Jim Al-Khalili: Sunfall

Peter Watts: Blindsight*

Mary Robinette Kowal: The Calculating Stars

Replica(te) Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go

C J Cherryh:

Tim Major:
Michael Marshall Smith: Spares*

Becky Chambers: A Closed and Common Orbit*

Space colonization Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars*

Adrian Tchaikovsky: Children of Time

Temi Oh: Do You Dream of Terra-Two?*

Becky Chambers: To Be Taught, If Fortunate

Joyce Chng: Water into Wine*

Emma Newman:

Mecha John Scalzi: Lock In* Tochi OnyebuchiWar Girls

Andrew Skinner: Steel Frame

Peter Tieryas: Mecha Samurai Empire
Space Creatures & Beasts Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars

Greg Bear: Hull Zero Three

Valerie Valdes: Chilling Effect

Gareth L Powell: Fleet of Knives

Iain M Banks: Look to Windward*

Julie Czerneda: In the Company of Others

Teleportation Madeline L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time

Charles Stross: Glasshouse

(if you know of any, yell!) Christopher Priest: The Prestige*

Tal M Klein: The Punch Escrow

Space Western Andre Norton: The Beast Master (if you know of any, yell!) Alex Wells: Hunger Makes the Wolf

Mike Brooks: Dark Run

The Moon Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon

Robert Heinlein: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Ian McDonald: Luna Rising

Myke Cole: Sixteenth Watch

Louise Lawrence:
MoonwindJames P Hogan: Inherit the Stars*
Invasion HG Wells: The War of the Worlds*

John Wyndham: The Kraken Wakes*

Eeleen Lee: Liquid Crystal Nightingale

Cadwell Turnbull: The Lesson

Jeff Noon: Pollen*

Jeff Vandermeer:
The Southern Reach trilogy

† UK vs US title

† The obvious classic for this one is The Stars My Destination. To be clear, I don’t recommend this. It’s one of the most hateful books I’ve ever read, so consider this an anti-recommendation.

Got some more suggestions? Add them in the comments!