The best character driven science fiction books you can't put down

Paul L. Arvidson Author Of Dark
By Paul L. Arvidson

Who am I?

I’ve always read Sci-Fi and Fantasy. It’s my comfort place and haven’t we all needed that in the roaring '20s? It took a long while to clock that the books that stuck with me longest were all in that odd space where fantasy and sci-fi collide, (like Helliconia or Fire Upon the Deep or Dune) When I started writing, the ideas just poured out of me but after I realised I’d written a book like those I loved to read.

I wrote...


By Paul L. Arvidson,

Book cover of Dark

What is my book about?

He never wanted to be a hero. But the deep tunnels are a deathtrap for the unwary…

Dun is haunted by savage dreams. Suffocating under the weight of caring for his family, he fears his visions mean he’s a shaman like his missing father. But when the rivers mysteriously empty of fish, he embarks on a dangerous quest to uncover the truth. Dun sets off into unknown territory with two friends, an unfinished map, and a dubious guide. But his search for answers could send him and his companions straight into the jaws of death…This is the intense first tale in the Dark series. If you like unexpected heroes, spectacular settings, and intriguing mysteries, you'll love this.

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The books I picked & why

The Fairy's Tale

By F. D. Lee,

Book cover of The Fairy's Tale

Why did I love this book?

I love, love, love this book, for so many reasons. My top two are: 1) It sits squarely in that odd ‘fantasy in a technological world’ niche (Imagine 1984’s world filled with fairies!) 2) It has an odd, dark humour feel to a book that I like (think Gaiman or Pratchett) And oh! The characters? Funny, clever, nuanced. Bum that was three wasn’t it? I’ll come in again.

By F. D. Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fairy's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"What would happen if Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Emma Newman and K.E. Mills (in her Accidental Sorcerer mode) got together and had a fairy tale themed writathon? This, my friend, is probably what would happen."

Bea is a lowly cabbage fairy, but she dreams of being an official fairy godmother. Of course, no one thinks a cabbage fairy could run a story, least of all the other fairy godmothers. Until, one day, someone offers Bea a chance to prove herself. One heroine, one week, one marriage at the end of it. Easy, right?

Apparently not. Bea's heroine doesn't want to…


By Kristene Perron, Joshua Simpson,

Book cover of Warpworld

Why did I love this book?

This book is so squarely in my wheelhouse, it could have been written for me. It’s a world-jumping, rip-roaring adventure that is literally breathtaking in its scope and its tempo. The protagonists have a real feel to them (very human failings) but it never feels forced, you’re just scooped up and flown along at a breakneck pace. The action scenes are heart-stopping (Kristine used to be a stunt woman!) but that’s never at the expense of the characters. Stunning, action-packed, sci-fi book.

By Kristene Perron, Joshua Simpson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Warpworld as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An ambitious explorer. A rebellious captain. Together, they’ll change the course of history…

Seg Eraranat is desperate to prove his worth. The cultural theorist’s interdimensional expedition to restore his dying world could be just the chance he's looking for. While the rest of his group scours the beaten path, Seg sneaks off to explore the alien terrain. But the path to the biggest payload in history could be more treacherous than he ever thought possible…

Ama Kalder faces an impossible choice: hand over her beloved boat to her cruel overlords or betray her people. When a mysterious foreigner offers a…

Book cover of Struggling With the Current

Why did I love this book?

This book is straight-up Fantasy, so it’s notable in my list because I read so little trad fantasy these days. But don’t be fooled, this book is not what you expect. Every trope of fantasy gets turned on its head, kicked over, rearranged, and then the characters just straight up do something other than what you expected. There are no hunky but boring heroes. There are no damsels in distress. Even the Gods in this world are… well that would be spoilers. Super well told gripping fantasy trilogy that you won’t regret picking up. Except you won’t be able to put it down.

By A.R.K. Horton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Struggling With the Current as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ancient Relics. Vengeful Gods. Shipwrecks. Strange Creatures. Secret Libraries and Kingdoms At Odds.

Sheltered and groomed for a future as a noble’s wife, Princess Eya envies the limitless opportunities men have—until they leave to defend their country and never return.

This damsel won’t sit around waiting for a knight in shining armor. Instead, she rescues herself by sailing away from the only life she’s ever known. When her escape plan shipwrecks on enemy shores, she must hide her identity and temper her impulses. This proves difficult as she discovers new powers she cannot control and winds up hopping from one…


By Tade Thompson,

Book cover of Rosewater

Why did I love this book?

This is an amazing Sci-Fi cyberpunk feeling book. Is it African futurism? I suppose so, but you get swept up in this book so quickly that really its category becomes irrelevant. On one level you could say it’s an alien invasion novel, except the alien arrived before the story started and you’re piecing together clues of this alien mind, what it wants, is it a goody or a baddy, or either. Unpicking it all with us is our last great hope for humanity, Kaaro, the least likely hero and the least willing to be a hero if he can help it. He is a brilliant pair of mirror shades for us to view the scintillating world through. Fantastic book. One of my favourite Sci-Fi reads ever.

By Tade Thompson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rosewater as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rosewater is the start of an award-winning trilogy set in Nigeria, by one of science fiction's most engaging voices.

*Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, winner
*Nommo Award for Best Speculative Fiction Novel, winner

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry, and the helpless -- people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn't care…


By Nnedi Okorafor,

Book cover of Lagoon

Why did I love this book?

I love a book that from page one, you have no idea at all where it’s going to take you. Lagoon is such a book. I love the idea it’s based on: ‘what if the aliens invaded, but they just didn’t pick America, because that wasn’t what was interesting to them?’ I found it so beautifully written that it reignited my passion for Sci-Fi after a long absence. There are lands and minds and people to explore in this book that are futuristic and fantastical and I adored every minute of it.

By Nnedi Okorafor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lagoon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria's legendary mega-city, they're more alone than they've ever been before.

But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world... and themselves.

'There was…

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