Red Rising

by Pierce Brown

What if people were super racist about hair and eye color instead of skin color, with blondes (“Gold” superhumans) at the top, and redheads (“Red” laborers) at the bottom? Also Golds are really into cosplaying Ancient Rome. Plus a healthy bit of Ender’s Game. Set on a terraformed Mars. Worked for me.


by Neal Stephenson

What would be the implications if the Moon were destroyed? Well, first the fragments would create more fragments, which would eventually start falling to Earth, boiling the oceans and destroying all life on the surface. So it’s time to get underground or get into space.

Stephenson was clearly more interested in the near term effects, mostly in terms of physics and politics. The “escape from Earth” part of the book is dense and detailed, and takes up two thirds of the book. Then, it fast forwards five thousand years and races to a conclusion through what feels like a grab bag of Stephenson’s ideas for other novels.

Still, this was a thought-provoking, great read. If the last third was less satisfying, the first two-thirds made up for it.

Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen

by Douglas Adams & James Goss

It turns out Douglas Adams wrote some Doctor Who scripts before he got famous for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. James Goss turned several of those scripts into novels.

In this one, the universe is threatened by war robots every bit as terrifying as the Daleks or the Cybermen, but in the form of robot cricketers. They were created by the people of Krikkit, who learned they weren’t alone in the universe, had a planetwide freak-out, and decided to kill everything else in the universe so they could be alone again. Fortunately, the Doctor and Romana come to the universe’s rescue.

I expected silliness, and there is plenty of Douglas Adams–style silliness. But it’s not just a gimmick; it’s a fun novel with characters I know and love, and we all had a good time together.

The Book of Joan

by Lidia Yuknavitch

Humans living on a space station run by a twisted demagogue cover themselves in grafted-on skin flaps to make up for the loss of their reproductive organs. While they die out from an inability to reproduce, a few humans survive on the Earth below in isolated underground pockets, and one of them may have the ability to restore the planet. One skin-grafting storyteller begins branding herself with the story of Joan, fomenting a rebellion on the station that spreads to the surface.

This book is just weird. Not good-weird. Just weird.

The Consuming Fire

by John Scalzi

You know how climate change is a thing and we could probably do something about it but we can’t even agree it’s really happening, much less what to do. Or how COVID-19 is a thing that we can prevent with masks and vaccines but lots of people think it’s a hoax, or that vaccines are a hoax, or that anyone who gets sick is lying. That’s basically the Interdependency once the imminent collapse of the Flow becomes public knowledge.

It’s not like humans are going to stop being human just because of an imminent threat to humanity.

Good sequel.

The Actual Star

by Monica Byrne

Three parallel timelines: (1) the collapse of the ancient Mayan empire, (2) a native American girl trying to find herself and the underworld in Belize, (3) the far-future hermaphrodite vagabonds who structured their society around her life and death(?). That sounds weird—and it is weird—but it also makes for a compelling novel. I’ve thought about this book quite a lot since I finished it—so much that I’ve thought about re-reading it already.

I’m sure it will be a polarizing book for many readers. Byrne explores what our future could look like if humans embraced things like sex and body positivity, gender neutrality (or irrelevance), environmentalism, mysticism, and more. Her present-day characters talk about whiteness, colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. I found it thought-provoking, not heavy-handed, but I’m sure some readers will have the opposite reaction.

If you are at all curious, give it a try. I think it’s one of the best books I have read this year and I’m looking forward to reading it again.

The Collapsing Empire

by John Scalzi

Humanity has spread out with the help of the Flow—sort of like faster-than-light rivers through space. Each human world specializes in one thing the others need, so that no world can survive without the other. Hence, the Interdependency. When the Flow starts changing, a scientist, a starship captain, and the reluctant new ruler of the Interdependency rush to salvage what they can.

Well written page-turner with likable characters. My one complaint: interdependency is a really clunky word.


by Carrie Vaughn

A post-apocalyptic murder mystery. Decades after economic and environmental collapse, a string of modest communities on the West Coast are committed to sustainability and avoiding the mistakes of the past. Only those households that have demonstrated their value to the community earn a banner—the right to have a child. This book considers what crime and punishment would look like in such a setting.

Vaughn’s optimistic take on post-apocalyptic storytelling sucked me right in. I loved Enid the Investigator and thinking about what justice would have to look like in such a setting. One of the better books I read this year.