Top 2021 Science Fiction / Fantasy Reads

Top 9 SFF book covers from Goodreads

Hello, all! Here is the second of my two top 2021 genre lists. Last post focused on crime and thriller books, and this one will cover my favorite science fiction and fantasy reads! Again, the below are in no particular order. Enjoy! 😊

1. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, from Goodreads

Also available in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection.

A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.

From Goodreads

2. The First Law Series by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself (The First Law, #1) by Joe Abercrombie, from Goodreads

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

From Goodreads, The Blade Itself (The First Law #1)

3. Secret History by Brandon Sanderson

Secret History (Mistborn, #3.5) by Brandon Sanderson, from Goodreads

Mistborn: Secret History is a companion story to the original Mistborn trilogy. As such, it contains HUGE SPOILERS for the books Mistborn (The Final Empire), The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages. It also contains very minor spoilers for the book The Bands of MourningMistborn: Secret History builds upon the characterization, events, and worldbuilding of the original trilogy. Reading it without that background will be a confusing process at best. In short, this isn’t the place to start your journey into Mistborn. (Though if you have read the trilogy—but it has been a while—you should be just fine, so long as you remember the characters and the general plot of the books.) Saying anything more here risks revealing too much. Even knowledge of this story’s existence is, in a way, a spoiler. There’s always another secret. 

From Goodreads

4. The Mistborn series, Era 1 (books 1-3) by Brandon Sanderson

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson, from Goodreads

What if the whole world were a dead, blasted wasteland?

Mistborn
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Then Kelsier reveals his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets. She will have to learn trust if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

Brandon Sanderson, fantasy’s newest master tale-spinner and author of the acclaimed debut Elantris, dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the prophesied hero failed to defeat the Dark Lord? The answer will be found in the Misborn Trilogy, a saga of surprises that begins with the book in your hands. Fantasy will never be the same again.

From Goodreads, The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)

5. This Virtual Night by C.S. Friedman

This Virtual Night by C.S. Friedman, from Goodreads

Returning to the universe of New York Times Notable book This Alien Shore comes a new space opera from an acknowledged master of science fiction.

Millenia ago, an overcrowded Earth developed the Hausman Drive, which allowed humans to travel faster than light and colonize the galaxy. Too late, it was discovered that the technology damaged the DNA of those who used it, causing the children of colonists to be born with mutations. Fearful of contagion, Earth cut off all contact with the colonists, leaving them stranded and alone as they struggled to come to terms with what they had become.

Now, in the Second Age of Human Expansion, a new galactic civilization has been established. This time it is based on space stations clustered around natural transit points: the outworlds. One Variant race, the Guerans, has made it a personal mission to locate any surviving colonies and bring them back into the human fold. But ancient bitternesses die hard, and there is no love lost between Terrans and their Variant cousins.

It is technology that unites humanity now. The brainware that each person receives at birth allows direct mental communication with a computer network spanning the outworlds: the outernet. But with that technology comes great risk.

From Goodreads

6. All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) by Martha Wells, from Goodreads

“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.

From Goodreads

7. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, from Goodreads

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

From Goodreads

8. The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir, from Goodreads

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

From Goodreads

9. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, from Goodreads

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

From Goodreads

6 thoughts on “Top 2021 Science Fiction / Fantasy Reads

  1. I keep seeing the Murderbot books (there is more than one, right?) everywhere! I think I’ll have to give them a go before long.

    I have a conflicted relationship with Piranesi – I loved how inventive and intimate it was, but at the same time
    I felt there were several big chunks of exposition that not only disrupted the flow of the story, but also drained it of a lot of its mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I was in the same boat and pleasantly surprised by the first Murderbot. I need to read the rest of them still but I enjoyed the start!

      Totally get what you mean about Piranesi. It was sometimes a bit like a fever dream in composition, and a little loose and not straightforward to follow. I think for me that was part of the charm, but of course I can see what you mean

      Like

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