Recommendations from our Science Fiction Book Club

  • Posted on: 12 June 2019
  • By: Scuppernong

The Science Fiction Book Club has been meeting monthly at Scuppernong Books for over two years on the third Tuesday of the month at 7 pm. This group is open to the public and all are welcome to attend. Group member Peter Delaney assembled this list of the Club's favorite books, listed here in chronological order. You still have time to read Undergroundd Airlines in time for the meeting on June 18.


June 2019 - Underground Airlines, by Ben K. Winters
Literary / Controversial  / Alternate History

P. K. Dick Award-winning author Winters recounts a dystopian alternate history of the United States set in contemporary times, except minus one tiny little detail: the Civil War never happened.  He imagines America as a pariah among nations that refuses to give up its “peculiar southern institution” thanks to the strength of the Southern Regional Lobbying Association.  The anti-hero protagonist is a spy and slave catcher who stays free by ending the freedom of others. The Washington Times called it “chilling” and The Independent called it “harrowing.” 

May 2019 - Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson
Exciting / Muslim Author / Contemporary Fantasy

Author G. Willow Wilson's real-life conversion to Islam is chronicled in her memoir, but this is a contemporary fantasy story about a hacker known only by his handle -- Alif -- in a fictitious Arab totalitarian state working to help groups subtly evade the state's power. Things get strange when he is gifted a book that brings him under the protection of a powerful magical being known as a jinn. NPR named it a best SF book of 2012.

March 2019 - Tell the Machine Goodnight, by Katie Williams
Literary / Intellectual / Dystopian

Is it possible for technology to tell us what we really want, deep down inside?  That’s the central question in Tell the Machine Goodnight, a new novel that has been favorably reviewed by the NY Times and NPR.  NPR named it a best book of the year and their reviewer (Jason Sheehan) wrote, "It is a book about happiness in the way the sky is a movie about blueness."  The book tells the story of a mother who works for the company that makes the titular machine, who breaks the rules to figure out how to help her son.

January 2019 - The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu
Award-Winner / Chinese Author / First Contact

Cixin Liu’s book become wildly popular in the USA in translation.  It’s a classic hard science fiction tale about physicists, virtual gaming worlds, an alien invasion, and the Earth people who need to choose sides for or against the invaders.  Translated by Chinese-American author Ken Liu (they aren’t related), it won the Hugo Award in 2015 and was nominated for the Nebula the same year.  The NY Times reported that Barack Obama enjoyed it.  Critics, too:  Kirkus Reviews called it “remarkable” and NPR used terms like “gripping” and “awe-inspiring” to describe the writing and plot twists. First in a trilogy.

October 2018 - The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
Funny / Interesting Characters / Space Opera

A fast-paced space opera featuring a galactic empire, Scalzi’s novel calls to mind the old-school sci fi novels that you grew up on.  Featuring a reluctant empress, money-grubbing corporate entities that will sell you out for a buck, and power players who really need good physicists to plan their moves, it’s an easy, snarky read and was a Hugo nominee for 2018. First in a series.

August 2018 - Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older
Young Adult / Latino Author / Contemporary Fantasy

Sierra Santiago is a Brooklyn teenager whose powers as a shadowshaper, a kind of magician who can imbue art with ancestral powers.  But her abilities have drawn the wrong kind of attention from someone who is hunting the shadowshapers.  This urban contemporary fantasy is our first “young adult” novel, but it was hailed by critics as well worth reading as an adult.  A best book of the year pick by NPR and the NY Times. First in a series.

June 2018 - The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisen
Multiple Award Winner / African-American Author / Science Fantasy

This is Book #1 of the first trilogy in history to win both the Hugo and Nebula for each book in the series.  In the far future, civilizations have risen and fallen, leaving only one certainty:  it will happen again.  The story focuses on Sanze, an empire that controls the power of the orogenes, people who can manipulate the earth itself and bring about terrible cataclysms.  Hated and feared by ordinary people, the orogenes are nonetheless necessary for survival.  The New York Times called it “intricate and extraordinary.” 

May 2018 - The Sudden Appearance of Hope, by Claire North
Literary / Award Winner / Contemporary Weird

Have you ever had someone completely forget that they met you?  That is the fate of the protagonist, Hope.  No one can recall meeting her after she walks away.  She can’t have a relationship, hold down a job, or even make friends.  Naturally, it means a life of crime is a necessity.  The New York Times called it “brilliant” and it won the World Fantasy Award (2017).

February 2018 - Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
Exciting / Award Winner / Space Opera

A vast stellar empire has kept most of human space together for as long as anyone can remember, using AI-controlled starships to keep the peace. Now things are changing: the empire is facing a revolt and humanity has encountered aliens. Readers interested in artificial intelligence, mind control, or socially-conscious views of gender will find Ann Leckie’s book a fascinating read. Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards, the trilogy captured many fans’ attention.

October 2017 - The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Jones
Exciting / Greensboro Author / Dystopian

What if America were taken over by a type of tick that literally burrowed into your skin to lay eggs, which burst from your body? Local GSO author Holly Goddard Jones weaves a terrifying tale of killer ticks kept at bay by the titular "salt line" and rich tourists who long to explore beyond it. What will they find out there? What lengths will we go to in order to visit pristine nature? A fast-paced summer thriller.

September 2017 - Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Literary / Diseases / Dystopian

In the near future, disease wipes out most of humanity, leaving America a desolate and primitive land. The book tells the story of a traveling Shakespeare company that puts on plays to keep literature and hope alive in a bleak land. A beautiful book told both in flashbacks to the pre-disease era and an adventure narrative in the dystopian future, it was one of the most-liked books in the SF Book Club series.

July 2017 - Amatka, by Karin Tidbeck
Mind-bending  / Swedish Author / Dystopian-Weird

In Amatka, words matter. They’re the only thing keeping the world from falling apart, literally dissolving back into goo. In a dangerous world, it’s natural to want to keep people working together and not rebelling against the system. When a young woman decides the oppressive society is too much to bear, what will happen? A beautiful and strange vision of what might be if you slipped out of our world and into a shadow realm.