Shapeshifters, ghosts, androids, gods, MMORPGs, goblins, and more. This collection of short stories has it all. Each story is based on a traditional tale from the author's East or South Asian culture. Some stories stick closer to their traditional roots while some are set far in the future. But every one has a fantastical element that will transport you to another time and place. My favorite was Olivia's Table by Alyssa Wong but they're all great. After each story is a brief note from the author explaining their inspiration and giving you a peek behind the scenes. A must-read for fans of speculative fiction looking for a global perspective.
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh Erica's Picks 7th & 8th tags: fantasy, fairy tales, global perspectives, People of Color, retellings, science fiction, supernatural
Amani knows what it means to live in fear. Ever since the Vathek empire came, her people have known fear as a constant companion: fear of hunger, fear of brutal Vathek droids, and the twin fears of losing their culture and being discovered if they dare to keep it alive. But nothing prepared her for the night of her majority celebration when she's kidnapped by imperial droids. When she learns she's to be a body-double for the princess, she doesn't want to cooperate--until the price of dissent becomes clear. Now despite her luxurious clothes and accomodations she's a prisoner and the life of her and her family depends on her fooling the court and playing the part of the cruel princess convincingly. The only bright spot is when she gets to spend time with the princess's fiance. But as the resistance grows, her loyalty is split and the danger increases. If she isn't killed for not playing her part well enough, she just might die for playing it too well and falling victim to an assassin.
I loved getting lost in the world of this novel. Even though it uses many familiar tropes, the unique context made me see them in a new light. I liked the way the princess's character is rounded out as the novel progresses and her struggles with identity are explored. An engrossing science fiction story of resistance to a corrupt government and staying true to yourself.
Mirage by Somaiya Daud Erica's Picks 7th & 8th Tags: character driven, dystopian, global perspectives, people of color, science fiction, romance
The Himba are close-knit and don't stray far from home. They certainly don't fly across the universe to attend university on other planets. Which is why Binti had to sneak out before her family woke. She always felt like she didn't belong, so when her skill with math earned her a full scholarship, she accepted it. She knew her decision would make her a pariah, but she didn't know that it would put her life in danger. What should have been a simple trip ended in tragedy and Binti is forever transformed by her contact with an alien species. As Binti continues to change she wonders if she'll ever be able to return home, or if she'll survive long enough to find out.
This is one of the most unique and immersive stories I have ever read. When I was reading, I left behind every scrap of the familiar world that I know. It was easy to love and root for the tenacious, empathic Binti but I did not anticipate growing to care so much for Okwu, a militaristic jellyfish-like creature. The book has so many twists that I completely gave up on trying to predict what would happen and just sat back and enjoyed the ride. It was easy to do with so many varied characters, landscapes, and thought-provoking situations. Strongly recommended for all sci-fi fans.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor Erica's Picks 8th grade Tags: character driven, global perspectives, people of color, science fiction.
Solara and Dylan have always hated each other. Rivals at their elite school, Dylan comes from one of the richest families in the Galaxy while Solara is a scholarship student from the orphanage. But when Dylan’s family is caught up in an inter-galactic scandal, they end up on the run together, booking passage on a pirate ship. In deep space, no one will be able to find them as long as they don’t blow their cover with the crew. But they also have nowhere to escape when things go wrong.
This is a classic sci-fi story with a bunch of quirky misfits hurtling through space trying to avoid a corrupt government. It's a fun adventure for fans of the genre.
Izzy and Jules were inseparable as children, running all over the small farming village on Batuu where they lived. Then one day, Izzy's family left without warning. Thirteen years have passed and Jules is living in the same small town while Izzy is traveling the galaxy in her own ship, getting by on smuggling work. When she's betrayed by her old crew, a job takes her back to Batuu. When her path literally collides with Jules's she is surprised by the undeniable spark between them. By the end of the day both of their lives will be completely different, if they manage to survive.
This was a romance with Star Wars serving as the background. It's a solid story; the tension between the characters is palpable and the plot full of dangerous situations that keep you turning the pages.
A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Cordova Erica's Picks Grades 6th - 8th Tags: adventure, crime caper, people of color, romance, science fiction
“The heavy blade hung high above the prisoners, glinting against the stars, and then the Razor came down, a wedge of falling darkness cutting through the torchlight. One solid thump, and four more heads had been shaved from their bodies.” In a post-technological age where the past is all but forgotten, a rebellion is stirring. The nobility are being captured and executed. Their only hope is the mysterious red rook who keeps sneaking into prisons and freeing people, leaving a red-tipped feather behind.
I adored this re-imagining of The Scarlet Pimpernel! The dystopian setting provides a perfect background and gender-swapping the main character creates a more modern feeling. There's the perfect mix of action, world-building, and romance.
When the UN gave responsibility for world peace over to an artificial intelligence, it came up with a solution that no one anticipated. Instead of using atomic bombs for deterrence it works on a smaller, more personal scale. Every world leader is required to give a child over to be raised and taught in the prefecture. All of their needs are seen to, they get a wonderful education among the elite, and if their parents declare war on another country, they are executed. Those in power have always been willing to send other people's children off to die in wars, but they are far more hesitant to sacrifice their own. The system worked. Until the sacrificed children decide to fight back.
This book has a lot of meaty moral questions to dig your teeth into, but the pace is never slowed by them. The diverse cast was created with care and they each shine in their own way. The AI running the place is perhaps the most interesting character of all. I absolutely adored this.
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Erica's Picks 8th & up Tags: dystopian, fast-paced, science fiction
The Oyster has been sailing for 300 years without any contact from the outside world. If they had a purpose once, no one can remember it. The ship has broken down into three warring factions with parents passing their prejudices onto their children for generations. Petrel is the only one without a faction or a family. Her parents committed a great crime and were thrown overboard. She survives by knowing the ship and all its hiding places better than anyone else. She sneaks down secret passageways and steals to survive. Everything changes when they find a half-frozen boy abandoned on an iceberg. How he got out there is a mystery, but he will surely die if they don't take him aboard. Many want to leave this outsider to freeze. But not Petrel. If anyone knows how to survive and evade capture on the ship, it's her. This mysterious boy will put all her talents and her courage to the test.
I liked the hints at the dystopian world and how it came to be instead of a lengthy exposition that explains everything. The world of the ship is fascinating and has a gritty sense of something that's carried on long past its time and is hanging on by sheer force of will. The boy's inner conflict is well-portrayed and Petrel is an endearing character reminiscent of a scrappy, Dickensian street urchin. I love sailing stories and the ship is a great background for the twisting plot. There's a lot of meaty themes explored from identity to friendship to faith. The story takes a bit of time to really get going, but I'm looking forward to how it will unfold in the sequel.
This book stands out from the rest for its unique structure and creative vision of the future. The first part of the book takes place just one year from now and revolves around a boy with the ability to cross into a parallel universe, a talent that others dismiss as him hanging on to childish fantasies. The consequences of this one boy's actions play out over the years at different intervals. Each story takes place farther into the future and revolves around different characters, although their stories are clearly related and have rippling effects on the others. The futures are both absurd and scarily prescient as society's obsession with social media and refusal to take responsibility reach their logical extremes. A science-fiction dystopia you won't soon forget!
Avani doesn't fit in with the flower scouts as they talk about boys and make -up tips. But an accidental alien abduction leads to her true scout calling: star scouts. This inter-galactic troupe of kids may not be the most skilled or organized, but they love being together and embrace their quirkiness. Where can I sign up?
Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Erica's Picks 3rd - 5th Tags: adventure, comics, humor, people of color, science fiction