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There’s a Galaxy of Sci Fi Gems Beyond ‘Star Wars, ‘Star Trek’ Sagas

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Sci-fi is a genre that encompasses the past, present and future. This is a genre that blends features from different genres, ideologies, and our environment. Many of you know sci-fi novels and movies like “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Ender’s Game,” but there are so many more worlds you have yet to discover!

So, without further ado, I present to you:

MY TOP FIVE SCI-FI GEMS!

1) “The Storm Thief” by Chris Wooding

This little 2006 dystopian jewel is about two thieves named Rail and Moa who rob rich yet horrifying creatures named Mozgas. Why? This is an effort to survive by paying off their crooked employer Anya-Jacana in a world that literally changes landscape and steals what people need most. The Storm stole Moa’s health and Rail’s breath. It dislocates family and friends. There is no warning when the Storm Thief comes. It only leaves havoc in its wake. But when Moa and Rail escape Anya-Jacana, they finally start to see their world for how dangerous it actually is and how they could escape Orokos, their home city.

I loved this novel so much! It presents a refreshing, original dystopia without having the world as we know it end. Despite what the Storm Thief takes from Rail and Moa, they insist on surviving to make a better life. Rail is tough, bitter, stubborn and very driven. Moa is soft, slightly naive and a quick learner, but together they make a very resourceful pair. They provide for each other however they can, which is what makes this particular novel so fascinating!

51oxqv10kl-_sx332_bo1204203200_2). “Wyrms” by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card has always been one of my favorite sci-fi writers because he puts kids in situations that adults would normally deal with, and he does so in such a plausible, yet relatable way. This book really drives the point home for me. “Wyrm” is about a teenage assassin and diplomat named Patience who serves under an usurper and Heptarch of the land, King Oruc. Patience learns from a visiting diplomat that the thrice-seventh daughter of the Starship Captain will fulfill an ancient prophecy by giving birth to Kristos through a malicious creature named the Unwyrm. Patience soon hears the Cranning Call (a subconscious call sent by the Unwyrm) and decides to challenge it. She then goes to Cranning Mountain with her friends to stop the Unwyrm before he gets the chance to mate with her.

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This novel should be read at least twice to fully understand the scientific concepts, but it is worth the read! The novel is steeped in concepts like desire, free will and rebellion. Patience is not only a hero but a messiah for her entire world. She is essentially dragged through a mental hell throughout the novel, but I admire her persistence and willingness to protect her friends. Read it! It will open your eyes to things you’ve probably never thought of before!

3) “Fledgeling” by Octavia E. Butler 513km8gc4jl-_sx327_bo1204203200_

This is the story of Shori Matthews, a 53-year-old half Inca-child who appears as a 10-year-old African-American girl. She is found on the side of the road with a serious case of amnesia by Wright, a 24-year-old construction worker. Wright takes her home, gives her food and water, and bathes her. Entranced by Wright’s smell, Shori bites him and takes his blood. Soon after, she begins research to find out more about who she is. The results are astounding: She is an Inca, part of a race of people who depend on human blood to survive. She is also an experiment used to see if her darker skin could survive the sun’s radiation better than Shori’s Inca  ancestors.

The Inca are stronger, faster and more intelligent than human beings. In exchange for blood, bitten humans are bound to them and are given venom which will extend their life force by 200 years. Shori forms her own pack of humans called Symbionts as she tries to find out who she is and why she was abandoned in the first place.

This novel stood out to me because it was one of the first sci-fi novels that challenged me to think outside the box. Butler presents what appears to be the idea of a half-Inca child and a grown construction worker in a close relationship, but is so much more complex than that. This novel deals with community, identity, sociality and sexuality. It also deals with racism and how it is perpetuated constantly through strangers, friends and family. Shori constantly has to prove herself to people she doesn’t fully remember that she is of Inca blood.

This novel also has a completely fresh take on vampires. Instead of turning them into brooding, blood-hungry members of the undead, Butler leaves them as human as possible and has both species in an interdependent, familial relationship.

41p1guehbl-_sx324_bo1204203200_4). “Who Fears Death?” By Nnedi Okorafor

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The Igbo (Nigerian) term for the phrase “Who Fears Death?” is Onyesonwu, and that is the name of our heroine. Onyesonwu was born Ewu, which is a child produced by the rape of an Okeke (dark-skinned) woman and a Nuru (light-skinned) man. The Nuru sought to end the Okeke people through complete genocide, and with the help of a powerful shaman (who usually does not teach girls), Onyesonwu resolves take revenge on her rapist father to end the slaughter of her people.

What I appreciated most about the this novel is its use of Afrofuturism and the interesting combination of science and magic. It takes elements of Nigerian culture and mixes them with prevalent themes of racism. There is also a touch on traditional female genital mutilation, which not only opens a gateway to feminism, but to conversations on whether this is merely a ritual into womanhood or a crime against women.

5) “Unwind” by Neal Shusterman416akxaxxkl-_sx331_bo1204203200_

This is, by far, one of the most thought-provoking, creepy stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Shusterman presents a very interesting idea: Instead of a war between pro-abortion and anti-abortion parties, what if a law was passed where you could, once your child was between the ages of 13 to 18, give them back?

Apparently this doesn’t count as murder because “unwound” children literally live on in and on other people. After the unwind order is signed, the teens are taken to harvest camps where their body parts are harvested for further use. This is what it means to be Unwound.

The story follows three different points of view: Connor, a boy whose parents signed the unwind order because of his delinquency and fighting in schools; Risa, a ward of the state whose foster home ran out of money; and Lev, a “tithe” who was born to be unwound because of his family’s religious inclination to give one-tenth of everything, including their family.

This book made me think about what counts as a life and what doesn’t, how far you can take religious faith, and the right to abortion. Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, this novel will speak volumes!

These sci fi novels are my top five for a reason. They push my imagination to the brink. They make me want to make sense of the world and provide very interesting parallels to the world that we all live in. Try them out. You won’t regret it!

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Catherine, 19, likes to write stories and is currently enrolled in college.

Interested in books? Check out VOX’s coverage from the 2016 Decatur Book Festival. 

Email your favorite YA authors or books to media@voxatl.org.

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