Down-To-Earth Science Fiction
For fans of science fiction who prefer to keep their feet on the ground, here are ten great sci-fi reads that allow you to stay rooted. From dystopian societies to climate disasters to living cities, you’ll find plenty to fire up your imagination without ever having to leave the planet.
Visit our booklist in the catalog to find the books in the library:
Download a PDF copy of this booklist here.
A People’s Future of the United States edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
For many Americans, imagining a bright future has always been an act of resistance. A People’s Future of the United States presents twenty never-before-published stories by a diverse group of writers, featuring voices both new and well-established. These stories imagine their characters fighting everything from government surveillance, to corporate cities, to climate change disasters, to nuclear wars.
But fear not: A People’s Future also invites readers into visionary futures in which the country is shaped by justice, equity, and joy. Edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams, this collection features a glittering landscape of moving, visionary stories written from the perspective of people of color, indigenous writers, women, queer & trans people, Muslims and other people whose lives are often at risk.
Sea Change by Nancy Kress
Operative Renata Black has an unusual problem: an ordinary self-driving house. But this particular house, which is causing a traffic snarl, also has the Org’s teal paint on the windowsill.
In 2022, GMOs were banned. A biopharmaceutical drug caused the Catastrophe: worldwide economic and agricultural collapse, and personal tragedy for lawyer Caroline Denton and her son. Ten years later, as Renata Black, she is a member of the Org, an underground group of scientists hunted by the feds. But the Org’s illegal research might just hold the key to rebuilding the worlds’ food supply.
Now there’s a mole in the Org, and Renata is the only one who can find out who it is. Will there be time to reveal the solutions that the world has not been willing to face?
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
Five New Yorkers must come together in order to save their city from destruction in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six. When a young man crosses the bridge into New York City, something changes. He doesn’t remember who he is, where he’s from, or even his own name. But he can feel the pulse of the city, can see its history, can access its magic. And he’s not the only one. All across the boroughs, strange things are happening. Something is threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
The Perishing by Natashia Deon
Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from. Taken in by a caring foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She’ll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou’s extraordinary life is about to take an even more remarkable turn. When she befriends a firefighter at a downtown boxing gym, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of meeting him, she’s been drawing his face for years.
Increasingly certain that their paths previously crossed—and beset by unexplainable flashes from different eras haunting her dreams—Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent here for a very important reason, one that only others like her can explain. Setting out to investigate the mystery of her existence, Lou must make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her, just as new forces threaten the existence of those around her.
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
“Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Winter Consuls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens.
Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen by a highflying hero Winter Consul to accompany him to the Douzey, a remote sector in the middle of Wales, to investigate a dream which is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder. Worthing has been trained to deal with Tricksy Nightwalkers whose consciousness has been eroded by hibernation, leaving only one or two skills and an incredible hunger; he’s been trained to stay alive through the bleakest and loneliest of winters – but he is in no way prepared for what awaits him in Sector Twelve.
There are no heroes in Winter, Worthing has been told. And he’s about to find out why.
Appleseed by Matt Bell
In eighteenth-century Ohio, two brothers travel into the wooded frontier, planting apple orchards from which they plan to profit in the years to come. As they remake the wilderness in their own image, planning for a future of settlement and civilization, the long-held bonds and secrets between the two will be tested, fractured and broken—and possibly healed.
Fifty years from now, in the second half of the twenty-first century, climate change has ravaged the Earth. Having invested early in genetic engineering and food science, one company now owns all the world’s resources. But a growing resistance is working to redistribute both land and power—and in a pivotal moment for the future of humanity, one of the company’s original founders will return to headquarters, intending to destroy what he helped build.
A thousand years in the future, North America is covered by a massive sheet of ice. One lonely sentient being inhabits a tech station on top of the glacier—and in a daring and seemingly impossible quest, sets out to follow a homing beacon across the continent in the hopes of discovering the last remnant of civilization.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Nearly seventy years after its original publication, Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 stands as a classic of world literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Today its message has grown more relevant than ever before.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”
Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her—a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.
The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.
When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.
Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace
New Liberty City, 2134.
Two corporations have replaced the US, splitting the country’s remaining forty-five states (five have been submerged under the ocean) between them: Stellaxis Innovations and Greenleaf. There are nine supercities within the continental US, and New Liberty City is the only amalgamated city split between the two megacorps, and thus at a perpetual state of civil war as the feeds broadcast the atrocities committed by each side.
Here, Mallory streams Stellaxis’s wargame SecOps on BestLife, spending more time jacked in than in the world just to eke out a hardscrabble living from tips. When a chance encounter with one of the game’s rare super-soldiers leads to a side job for Mal—looking to link an actual missing girl to one of the SecOps characters. Mal’s sudden burst in online fame rivals her deepening fear of what she is uncovering about BestLife’s developer, and puts her in the kind of danger she’s only experienced through her avatar.
Summaries provided by the library’s catalog and the publishers.