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Looking for Some Hopeful Science Fiction?

Lately, I’ve been in the mood for hopeful science fiction.

Maybe it’s the new year, maybe it’s being in the throes of winter, or maybe it’s just that I’m a bit over SF/F shows and books where everyone stabs everyone else in the back, and the moral is that life’s tough and then you die.

I’m craving hope. Trust. The prevalence of justice. Friendship against all odds.

If you’re craving that as well, this blog post is for you.

These books aren’t necessarily light reads,  but they are the sorts of books where you can expect things to turn out all right at the end. Times may be tough. Hardships may need to be endured. It may be the apocalypse.

But the good guys will probably win, and justice will probably be served.

I’ve included some of my favorite hopeful science fiction books/series here, and I also asked a few friends who are book bloggers/podcasters to help.

If you have any favorites you don’t see on this list, please please let me know in the comments! I love recommendations, so don’t hold ’em back.

Paradox Trilogy by Rachel Aaron

(3-book series)

Paradox Trilogy by Rachel AaronThese books are a ton of fun. Fascinating worlds, a badass main character, and a great will-they-won’t-they love story that races alongside the fast-paced plot.

I devoured this trilogy when I first came across them years ago!

From the description:

If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you’d get Deviana Morris — a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey

(8+ book series)

Expanse by James SA CoreyThe Expanse is another series I fell hard for when I first came across it. If I recall, my husband brought home the first three books as an impulse buy from Powell’s, and we both devoured them, then binged the TV series when it came out.

From the description:

Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship’s captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

Fallen Empire by Lindsay Buroker

(8-book series)

Fallen empire trilogyI’ve always loved Lindsay Buroker’s writing, and the Fallen Empire series was no disappointment. But what really drew me in was the chemistry of the two main characters, enemies who are forced to work together and eventually develop trust and camaraderie.

From the description:

The Alliance has toppled the tyrannical empire. It should be a time for celebration, but not for fighter pilot Captain Alisa Marchenko. After barely surviving a crash in the final battle for freedom, she’s stranded on a dustball of a planet, billions of miles from her young daughter. She has no money or resources, and there are no transports heading to Perun, her former home and the last imperial stronghold.

But she has a plan.

Steal a dilapidated and malfunctioning freighter from a junkyard full of lawless savages. Slightly suicidal, but she believes she can do it. Her plan, however, does not account for the elite cyborg soldier squatting in the freighter, intending to use it for his own purposes. As an imperial soldier, he has no love for Alliance pilots. In fact, he’s quite fond of killing them.

Alisa has more problems than she can count, but she can’t let cyborgs, savages, or ancient malfunctioning ships stand in her way. If she does, she’ll never see her daughter again.

FYI — the first book is free as an ebook!

Amazon | IndieBound | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

The Indranan War series by K.B. Wagers

(3-book series)

Indranan war trilogyThe instant I saw the cover of Behind the Throne, I desperately wanted to read it. And then I saw this description:

Behind the Throne begins an action-packed new series with a heroine as rebellious as Han Solo, as savvy as Leia, and as skilled as Rey.

Yes, please!

Behind the Throne is dark and violent at times, but what made me love it was the intense bonds of loyalty and trust between the characters. The world may be bleak, but the characters don’t have to face it alone.

Add in a splash of space gangsters, plenty of twisty politics, and detailed descriptions of fashion and meals, and it pretty much hits all my “instant-buy” buttons. So much so that my mom noted Behind the Throne reminded her a lot of my own Durga System books.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers

(3-book series)

Angry planetThe Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers has been making waves for the past few years — and I love this description:

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

I have yet to read them, but Cylia Amendolara of BookBarkerSFF highly recommended this series.

Here’s what she had to say:

This is about chosen family (I am a target market for these) and the choices we make when things are hard. It gets to the root of why I love speculative fiction, a fantastic setting to showcase the deep morality of people choosing to do the right thing.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

(Standalone novel)

Station ElevenStation Eleven was recommended to me a few years ago by my friend Andrea Rangel, a knitting pattern designer with whom I share a love of good science fiction.

For a novel about the end of the world, it takes a suprisingly optimistic approach about the human capacity to do good in the world, and the importance of art.

I highly recommend it.

From the description:

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

(Standalone novel)

Space OperaThe first time I saw the cover of Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, I screamed “Yes!” at my computer. Because I love Valente, and I love Eurovision, and I love a good book title pun.

Space Opera came highly recommended by Cylia Amendolara of BookBarkerSFF. She says:

“Aside from the fact that I did an entire twitter rant on my personal account on why this book is amazing (thread starts here), this book gently feeds you heartbreaking truth and hope in the midst of glitter and pageantry and song (and the possible annihilation of the human race). Cat is a friend and this book is the truest true version of her and I want everyone to love it as much as I love it and her.”

From the description:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets the joy and glamour of Eurovision in bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente’s science fiction spectacle, where sentient races compete for glory in a galactic musical contest…and the stakes are as high as the fate of planet Earth.

(Um, what’s not to love about that?)

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook

Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis Chen

(2-book series)

Waypoint kangaroo

If you’re looking for an incredibly funny romp, may I point you toward Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis Chen? You’ll find Kangaroo, a quirky, vaguely incompetent super-hero spy, alongside a charming cast of characters committed to saving the world.

Plus, it’ll make you laugh out loud.

(Oh! And Curtis has cleverly designed a puzzle into the cover — can you solve it?)

From the description:

Kangaroo isn’t your typical spy. Sure, he has extensive agency training, access to bleeding-edge technology, and a ready supply of clever (to him) quips and retorts. But what sets him apart is “the pocket.” It’s a portal that opens into an empty, seemingly infinite, parallel universe, and Kangaroo is the only person in the world who can use it. But he’s pretty sure the agency only keeps him around to exploit his superpower.

After he bungles yet another mission, Kangaroo gets sent away on a mandatory “vacation:” an interplanetary cruise to Mars. While he tries to make the most of his exile, two passengers are found dead, and Kangaroo has to risk blowing his cover. It turns out he isn’t the only spy on the ship–and he’s just starting to unravel a massive conspiracy which threatens the entire Solar System.

Now, Kangaroo has to stop a disaster which would shatter the delicate peace that’s existed between Earth and Mars ever since the brutal Martian Independence War. A new interplanetary conflict would be devastating for both sides. Millions of lives are at stake.

Weren’t vacations supposed to be relaxing?

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

The Murderbot Diaries by Marsha Wells

(4-book series)

MurderbotFor as grim as the title sounds, the Murderbot novellas are truly delightful. The story is told from the point of view of a bored SecUnit who’s hacked its governor module after a traumatic last mission, and who’s determined to keep its humans safe this time around.

Though, it’d much prefer if its humans would just stop doing stupid things so it could watch its soaps instead.

If you haven’t met the Murderbot yet, please allow it to charm you to bits.

From the description:

“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid – a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

(5-book series)

hitchhikersLevi Ergott of book review site Epic Grit recommended one of my favorite science fiction series from when I was a college student — if you haven’t already read The Hitchhiker’s Guide, I really recommend you put it on your list.

As Levi says:

“So Adams is pretty cynical, and Earth is blown up in the beginning of the book; but there is a hopeful message despite all of that. With determination, a positive mindset, and a whole lot of highly improbable luck you can fix anything.”

Plus, you’ll learn where all the dolphins went, what to take with you at the end of the world, and what might go through the mind of a bowl of petunias during its final moments.

Oh — and the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything.

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

The Martian by Andy Weir

(Standalone novel)

MartianThis last recommendation comes from Luke Elliott, co-host of the Ink to Film Podcast, a fantastic podcast where writer Luke Elliott and filmmaker James Bailey discuss science fiction and fantasy books along with their film adaptations.

(They have an excellent few episodes where they dissect The Godfather with Fonda Lee, author of Jade City.)

Though Luke admitted to me that he loves grimdark, he says of The Martian, “It’ll leave you feeling optimistic about the future of space-travel and the human spirit!”

Levi Ergott of Epic Grit also recommended The Martian as “one of the latest and greatest takes on the modernist vision — science, human ingenuity, and force of will overcoming all obstacles.”

Amazon | IndieBound | Powell’s | Kobo | Nook | iBooks

Still looking for hopeful science fiction?

Durga Novella CoversMight I humbly suggest you take a look at my Durga System books? They’re full of plucky protagonists, found family, conflicted people making tough choices, rollicking adventures, delicious food, and — of course — plenty of gunfights and explosions.

And you can trust that everyone’s got each others’ backs.

For even more good book recommendations, please also follow the bloggers/podcasters who helped me out with this list!

Cylia Amendolara — BookBarkerSFF (Twitter | Instagram)

Levi Ergott — Epic Grit

Luke Elliott — Ink to Film Podcast

Got hopeful sci-fi recommendations of your own? Leave them in the comments!