So, this was a kind of a “meh” week of reading. Every voracious reader knows those stretches—in which everything you pick up is just okay, yet nothing really tickles your fancy or moves you in the way you yearn to be moved. Such is this past week. I recently finished reading Strangelets by Michelle Gagnon, which was generally speaking fine, but also deeply frustrating. Actually, infuriating—because the book had potential. I mean, miniature black holes! The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics! Teens that die at the exact same instant across the globe only to wake up in a broken, deserted future overrun by telepathic dinosaurs! How could you go wrong with that kind of set-up? Sadly, the book couldn’t quite deliver on the awesomeness of this Lost-meets-Twilight Zone premise.
If any of the elements in Strangelets sound interesting to you, or if you’ve also read Strangelets and kinda-sorta liked it but want something more, then these 10 SFF recommendations are for you.
Gone by Michael GrantThe Gone series is one of the very best in contemporary YA SFF, in this Book Smuggler’s humble opinion. One day, everyone over the age of 15 in the small seaside town of Perdido Beach disappears; the remaining kids and teens (who start to develop superpowers) are trapped in an impenetrable dome with a greater, ancient, alien evil. The series just finished up this month with Light—if you haven’t read these books yet, now is the perfect time.
The Breach by Patrick Lee
Lee’s trilogy walks the line between 24-style thriller and X-Files/Fringe-grade science fiction—and does it so very well. Involving a secret government agency and impossibly advanced technology emerging from a breach in space, The Breach and its subsequent novels are similar in desolate feel to Strangelets. (The difference being that the Travis Chase books are addictive fast-paced thrill rides with seriously awesome science fiction elements—especially by the time Deep Sky rolls around.)
Whisper of Death by Christopher Pike
This is probably my favorite Christopher Pike book of all time—a group of teens wake up one day, but all the other people have disappeared from their small town. And then, one by one, these teens start to die in increasingly brutal and horrific ways. If they want to live, they will need to figure out who has brought them together and why. Another similar premise to Strangelets (although really more along the lines of Stephen King’s Carrie), Whisper of Death is atmospheric, terrifying and oddly beautiful at the same time.
The Games by Ted Kosmatka
Part Jurassic Park, part Gladiator, The Games is a SFF-thriller-dystopia that has the intelligent monster thing down pat. Take that, telepathic dinosaurs.
Human.4 by Mike A. Lancaster
Unlike the other books on this list, Human.4 is, like Strangelets, very much a Twilight Zone episode kind of book. Great premise—hypnotized teens on stage at the annual small town talent show wake up to find the rest of the world horrifically changed—and decent execution make this a fun self-contained nightmare.
Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones
The first in a planned trilogy, Extinction Point takes a look at New York City following a devastating alien red rain that kills almost every form of animal life on the planet, including humans. All except for one woman, that is, who makes the decision to fight the alien colonists and survive.
Listen closely: This is Not a Test is one of the most poignant, painful books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Yes, it’s a zombie apocalypse book, but it’s one with an abundance of heart and soul—as broken and crushed as they may be.
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
Multiple Hugo and Nebula award winner Nancy Kress needs little introduction as she has become a science fiction standby. In After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, she takes a look at a future/past/present Earth on after/before/on the brink of collapse. Time-jumping and powerful, this is a 2012 Hugo and Nebula nominee that deserves all the love it gets.
Pod by Stephen Wallenfels
What happens when aliens invade in the form of floating orbs that fry any life form that dares leave shelter? You get a book like Pod. Narrated from the perspective of a little girl trapped in a parking garage and a teenage boy holed up with his father in their suburban home, Pod is a rare gem of an SFF apocalyptic/dystopia
I’m including these last two books in a sort of “This might be nuts, but I’m throwing it out there” grab bag: The Rising by Brian Keene is another zombie apocalypse book that is so ridiculously over the top and cheeseball that it almost works (included on this list because of the interesting—if ridiculous—use of micro–black holes, similar to Strangelets). Dinosaur Thunder by James F. David is a book I haven’t read (yet), but it involves time travel and dinosaurs on the moon. On the moon, people. I’m a sucker for the ridiculous, so I’ll be giving it a shot soon—and if you’re intrigued by dinosaur-descendent telepathic alien creatures, you’ll probably also be into Dinosaur Thunder.
Of course, there’s also the much-talked about, highly anticipated book The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (of Monstrumologist fame) out in early May: Aliens come to earth, but not in the way you think. I have a feeling The 5th Wave will break me out of my reading slump.
And that’s it! Any other books that I’ve forgotten?