Five Books For Readers Who Are New To Sci-Fi – The Nerd Daily

Science fiction is defined as “fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.” Essentially these portrayals exist in the realm of possibility making it more realistic than fantasy as a genre but straying off the path of contemporary into an imagined world.
Science fiction emerged over two hundred years ago resulting in a diverse range of books, however, the genre we know and love today developed mainly during the 20th century. This boom was largely due to the increase of scientific innovation and the integration of science into everyday life leading to an interest in books exploring the link between technology and society itself.
Delving into sci-fi can sometimes seem a bit intimidating, which may prevent you picking up books like Frankenstein or The War of the Worlds, so with this in mind, we have composed a list of five books you should read if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the genre. These books are definite page turners so they should put you well on your way to finding a new genre to love!
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Calculating Stars was Kowal’s sci-fi debut and won her the Nebula, Locus and Hugo Awards for Best Novel. It is is fairly realistic in that it draws on events that actually happened, like NASA employing women as calculators, and only features humans, not any other species. This book is part of the Lady Astronaut Series, which currently consists of three books—so if you love this one, there’s two more for you!
The plot follows Elma York, a WWII pilot and mathematician, after a meteorite destroys Washington DC and triggers global warming on an alarming scale. With her husband, Elma figures out that this means the oceans will heat up to such a degree that Earth itself will be inhabitable. The result is the formation of the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC) in order to explore Space and potentially find humanity a new home on the Moon or Mars. The problem is, it’s 1952, and much like in the early days of NASA (or rather the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics as it started out as) women were not employed as astronauts and Elma can only get a position as a calculator. She is brilliant at maths but she wants to explore the stars from a rocket and not from the ground. 

The Calculating Stars
explores what it’s like for Elma to fight for herself and other female pilots to have the right to become respected astronauts but it also explores how the system is rigged to discourage Black and POC women from making it too. Elma is a white woman who throughout the book has various realisations and learning experiences with the black community, opening up her eyes to systemic racism. This is definitely not the focus of the book but it is good that it was included. This book also features anxiety rep as Elma has severe anxiety (to the point of vomiting) about speaking in a public space, to the press or on TV. The root cause of this is explained and her anxiety was explored in a way that would have made sense both in the 50’s and as an astronaut in the public eye. The side characters are developed well and the plot moves at a steady pace.
Overall, if you are looking for a strong female main character against a backdrop of the early days of space exploration, this is the one to read.
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
This one is an absolute page turner and seriously underrated! It is part of a duology but this first book is the better read.
April May is leaving work in NYC at 3am when she stumbles across what looks at first glance, to be a ten foot tall statue in samurai gear. Instead of walking past it as she, and probably most of the city, would usually do, she stops and calls her best friend Andy. Together, they film a video and post it online. When April wakes up, she finds out that the video they had filmed has gone viral—the statue they called Carl, isn’t the only one.
These ‘Carls’ have appeared overnight all over the world and April and Andy were the first to document it, thus establishing themselves as somewhat unconventional experts. Thrust into the spotlight, April has to deal with the instant pressure that comes with fame whilst trying to find out everything she can on the sudden emergence of the Carls. 
This book is better the less you know. It is a compulsive and hugely relevant novel about the demands of fame and the influence it can have on an individual, about what happens when a group of people learn to work together and about vilification and mob mentality. 
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This book is easily a popular one and for good reason. If you like your books on the heartwarming side with a big dollop of found family, then add this to your TBR. It was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 and is part of a series that are set in the same world but can be read as standalone novels.
Ninety percent of all problems are caused by people being assholes.”
“What causes the other ten percent?” asked Kizzy.
Natural disasters,” said Nib.”
This book follows the crew of the Wayfarer and their newest recruit, Rosemary Harper as they travel through space punching holes and building tunnels. The Wayfarer crew are a mix of species, each with their own distinct personalities that really shine through. They are given the opportunity of a lifetime—their chance to build a tunnel to a distant planet the galaxy has just formed an alliance with, thus earning them a large payout. But as everyone knows, the jobs that pay the most are never the easy ones.
A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet tackles so many issues that are relevant today including gun control, colonialism, xenophobia, and racism. It serves as a stark reminder that whether we stay on Earth or manage to expand to other planets in the Universe, these things will still be something we need to address, we can’t just leave them behind. The characters don’t conform to the gender binary (one character is Non-Binary and another starts life as female, then changes to male and end their life as Non-Binary) and there is LGBTQ+ rep. Not only that but the characters are loveable and perfectly flawed. This book is a warm comforting hug and the epitome of found family. Perfect for cuddling up to on a rainy day with your favourite hot drink.
The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James
This is a novella so it comes in at a little over a hundred pages. It is a YA aimed at struggling or dyslexic readers so the writing is easy to follow and possible to read through in one sitting. This novella is the perfect thing to read if you aren’t sure if you prefer your sci-fi more on the realistic, mostly human side or are happy with the addition of other species.
Hugo is a watchmaker at a prestigious academy. He is one of the lucky ones—many androids like him are jobless and homeless as their owners get newer and better models, abandoning the old ones without a moment’s notice. But when Dorian nearly breaks down Hugo door demanding his time-travel watch be fixed before his exam, Hugo is thrust into an adventure where he and Dorian have to reconcile their differences and get to the bottom of a mysterious scheme within the academy.
Hugo is a loveable character to follow as a narrator. He knows how androids are viewed so he stays tucked away in his attic, fixing watches and convinces himself he prefers to be by himself, that is until Dorian crashes into his life and pulls him out of his attic to help him find the part to fix his watch.
He slowly realises he actually enjoys being around people and making conversation and it turns into one of the best days he has ever had. The mystery running throughout is just enough to grip you too. It is also great to see interaction between an android, a human and well, a planet who is currently a wall. They are all curious about each other but not to the point of rudeness and it is a great lesson on appreciating everyone’s differences. This is another relevant book, specifically whilst we are still living in COVID times. It is a reminder that no matter who you are or how introverted you are, everyone needs that connection with other people to enrich their lives.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

You can’t really have a sci-fi list without adding The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a pop-culture classic and has been a radio show, TV series, novel, stage play, comic book and a film. 
The original novel came out in 1979 and it’s part of a series so if you love it, there are more books set in this world. It is full of British satire, irony and biting wit so if that’s not your thing, feel free to skip this one.
This book follows Arthur Dent, who after getting his house bulldozed then finds the Earth getting demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. Mere seconds before this obliteration, Arthur is saved and taken off planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Thus follows one crazy, strange road trip in space.
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