One of my constant reading goals is to constantly rotate through genres: romance, fantasy, nonfiction, sci-fi, and everything in between. One of these “in-betweens” is the elusive genre of speculative fiction, which has quickly become one of my absolute favorite genres.
According to Goodreads, speculative fiction is “a fiction genre speculating about worlds that are unlike the real world in various important ways.” Other genres such as science fiction, horror, and fantasy can easily converge into speculative fiction. The central question for the genre is, “What if [insert thing here] happened on Earth?”
One of my personal favorite things about this genre is how utterly confusing and discombobulating these stories tend to be. There are rarely times when I finish a speculative fiction book and completely understand its events or world mechanics; something I truly enjoy, especially in between reading books that follow the traditional formula of a novel.
If you haven’t delved into the genre, it can be a bit intimidating, especially considering the odd styles of writing that many of these books adopt. It isn’t a genre for everyone and many of the books are ones that people either love or hate. In my opinion, the joy of reading these books is in slowly peeling back all their weird, possibly disturbing layers (even if sometimes they don’t end up being my favorite reads). Here are a few of the books I’ve recently read that fall under this genre and won’t leave my brain with all of their oddness…
This is a very short book that I think would be a good way to dip into the genre of science fiction and speculative fiction. In under 200 pages, the author weaves a story of a world that has been transformed into a utopia by a “soft invasion” of an alien species that has come to be referred to as The Seep. The main character is forced to confront the complexity of her grief and alienation in a world that no longer follows the traditional laws of life and death. It was a very interesting take on the alien invasion trope and was pretty easy to get through.
This Ukrainian novel walks a thin line between science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Never have I read a book that more accurately describes the complete and utter anxiety of higher education (or any education for that matter). Imagine being compelled under an unspoken threat of violence against your family by a mysterious entity, to complete odd repetitive tasks and attend a school at which you will be taught something completely unknown. That’s this book. There are passages that make barely an inkling of sense, pages of heavily philosophical and confusing language, and endless repetitive tasks forced upon characters with seemingly no purpose but to disturb, all within the confines of a gloomy Ukrainian town.
More than halfway through reading it physically, I had to switch to the audiobook since it was so dense and meandering. I couldn’t stop reading it, though! It was like falling into a trance and I loved every second of it. I know I’m not completely selling it, but if you are finished with higher education and don’t mind a book that doesn’t answer many questions about its “magic” system and world, then I’d recommend giving it a shot. This is also the first and only book in the series that has currently been translated to English. I feel like it wraps up enough to be satisfying, but I have my fingers crossed that we get the sequel eventually!
I really jumped into the sci-fi deep end with this book! Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, it tackles the question of how the planet would deal with first contact with aliens. The factions that arise vary between those who want to help the aliens destroy a humanity that has caused the destruction of the planet, those that want to introduce an assumed higher alien morality to the world, and those who want to merely survive.
It is a super science and physics dense book, which coming from someone that couldn’t wrap her head around high school physics, didn’t confuse me beyond recognition. I was able to understand the general purpose of the more scientific passages/chapters and I feel like even reading it as someone who is not versed in science added to the discombobulating nature of the massive existential questions that the author poses about life on Earth and life beyond our solar system.
I was completely absorbed by this book and found myself reading into the wee hours of the morning- it took a thriller-like turn a quarter of the way through. It may not be something that’s the best to read as an introduction to sci-fi, but it’s a book I think that anyone interested in the genre should eventually read. The scope of this book is incredible and I am so excited to check out the other two books. It’s definitely one of my top books of 2020.
Here are some other works that fall under speculative fiction that you may or may not have heard of before and that I plan on reading.
(Covers link to Goodreads)
Have you read any of these books or anything you think might fall under the genre of speculative fiction? Is it a genre that interests you or doesn’t interest you at all? It definitely is a bit of an acquired taste!