So without ado, my favorite 2017 speculative fiction reads! Fight!
1. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (2015)
It’s probably cheating to include this because I’m still about 80 pages away from the end, but it’s already so mindblowingly good that it would be a shame to not toss this in here. Though this is my first David Mitchell read, he seems to be the grandpappy of speculative fiction, and after reading The Bone Clocks, it’s not surprising why. (He also wrote Cloud Atlas, for those of you that enjoyed watching Hugo Weaving play an Asian man and a terrifying female nurse in the same two hours.)
The Bone Clocks (loosely) follows the life of Holly Sykes, a young woman who seems to attract supernatural attention, and is unwittingly a part of a much larger, older war between ancient forces. Does it sound cheesy? It isn’t. It’s freaking brilliant. Told from several different viewpoints and across multiple centuries, The Bone Clocks is a masterpiece that weaves tiny details and emotional significance into a centuries-old battle. The best way to read it is just to relax and let it wash over you; Mitchell is in complete control of the story, and he won’t let you down.
2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (2016)
Ok, so I already wrote a post about this one last month, but it’s just so great that it deserves another shout out. Dark Matter is a perfectly paced, gripping read that pulls you through the creepy consequences of the butterfly effect without totally overwhelming you in metaphysical jell-o. It follows Jason Dessen, a semi-successful scientist who is kidnapped on his way to the grocery store in Chicago, and wakes up in a not-quite-familiar version of Chicago with people he’s never met addressing him like he’s a scientific genius. His hunt to return to his wife, child, and previous life will keep you glued to the pages. For people who want a fast-paced, smart, and engaging read, I can’t recommend this one enough.
3. All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai (2017)
This book employs the premise that the Jetsons-like utopia imagined in the 1950’s (jetpacks, no disease, tiny cubes of nutritionally optimized food product) was actually a thing– that was, until heartbroken, underachieving Tom Barron accidentally went back in time and triggered a time-travel mishap that doomed the world to become today’s disease-ridden, punk-rock loving, fossil fuel-reliant reality. This is a funny, quirky, and intriguing story about what might have been, and how to approach our past mistakes. While I didn’t think the time-travel elements were quite as elegantly executed as in Dark Matter, All Our Wrong Todays had a fresh, humorous voice that made up for any of the iffy metaphysics. (Also, big props for Mastai for being a male author whose female characters I loved! No small feat.)
4. Crosstalk by Connie Willis (2016)
Crosstalk hit my bookshelf just as I was feeling a bit worn out with time travel, and swept me into a delightful not-so-distant future when couples can get a trendy elective brain surgery to connect their emotions. Despite the protests of her family and C.B., the weird engineer in Commspan’s basement, Briddey, a young Commspan executive, is thrilled to be connecting with her soon-to-be fiance Trent. But as soon as she wakes up from anesthesia, she realizes that something has gone terribly wrong; instead of being able to sense the emotions of her boyfriend, she’s been telepathically connected with C.B.! What ensues is a hilarious, sweet, and thought-provoking story about love, technology, and the possibility of communicating just a little bit too much. (Also, big heart eyes for that lovely cover.)
5. Scythe by Neal Shusterman (2016)
Scythe takes place in a future world where humans have learned to evade death by old age entirely. To prevent unbridled population increase, citizens are randomly selected for death by Scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected against their wishes to apprentice as Scythes, but the politics of the Scythedom are unstable and the power quickly corrupts even well-meaning Scythes. Soons become clear that only one of the teens will survive the apprenticeship.
While I was intrigued by the concept (and the cover!), Scythe was a bit underwhelming to me: I felt that the characters were inconsistent and the concept was by far the most interesting element. That being said, it’s a perfect read for readers who enjoyed The Fifth Wave or Divergent.