The best sci-fi novels overflowing with intrigue and mystery

Dan Moren Author Of The Nova Incident: The Galactic Cold War Book III
By Dan Moren

Who am I?

Growing up I devoured science-fiction and spy stories by the boatload—the only person I wanted to be more than James Bond was probably Han Solo. Of course, I couldn’t really become either of them, but I always knew the next best thing would be telling stories about those kinds of characters. Ultimately, I couldn’t decide whether to focus on space adventures or spies, so the only real answer was to smash those two genres together. Five years and four novels later, the world of the Galactic Cold War is humming along quite nicely. But I’m still always on the lookout for the next great sci-fi spy novel.

I wrote...

The Nova Incident: The Galactic Cold War Book III

By Dan Moren,

Book cover of The Nova Incident: The Galactic Cold War Book III

What is my book about?

When a bomb explodes in the bustling Commonwealth capital city of Salaam, responsibility is quickly claimed by an extremist independence movement. But after a former comrade, an ex-spy with his own agenda, is implicated in the attack, Simon Kovalic and his team of covert operatives are tasked with untangling the threads of a dangerous plot that could have implications on a galactic scale. And the deeper Kovalic digs, the more he'll uncover a maze of secrets, lies, and deception that may force even the most seasoned spy to question his own loyalties.

The books I picked & why

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A Memory Called Empire

By Arkady Martine,

Book cover of A Memory Called Empire

Why this book?

A galactic empire. A space station on the outer fringes. Mysterious aliens coming from the darkness. I love how Arkady Martine’s twisty space opera is just teeming with life; she creates a world that seems so different from ours, but is instantly relatable. This story, of an ambassador dispatched from that remote station to the Empire she’s always admired, only to discover that her predecessor was murdered and the chip containing his memory sabotaged, kept me guessing throughout. Plus, you don’t want to miss the scene with some extemporaneous brain surgery.

The Collapsing Empire

By John Scalzi,

Book cover of The Collapsing Empire

Why this book?

I love a good space opera, and John Scalzi’s second to none in that department. In some ways, this book (and the two that follow it in The Interdependency series) remind me of the original Foundation, as an immense space empire under a new and untried leader struggles to come to terms with an imminent catastrophe that could bring it to its knees. I personally found the foul-mouthed and irreverent Lady Kiva Lagos a particular delight, as a force of nature that bulls her way through any obstacle. 

Caliban's War

By James S. A. Corey,

Book cover of Caliban's War

Why this book?

Okay, it’s the second book in the tremendously popular series The Expanse (perhaps you’ve heard of this little series turned TV show), but it’s also my favorite. That’s because Corey ramps up the intrigue as Mars, Earth, and the Belt find themselves enmeshed in an open war that has some decidedly murky underpinnings. This volume also introduces two of the series' best and most memorable characters: Martian marine Bobbie Draper and savvy Earth politician Chrisjen Avasarala. The book kicks off with a bang, and doesn’t let up, concluding with perhaps one of the most page-turning action sequences I’ve ever read.

Memory: Volume 11

By Lois McMaster Bujold,

Book cover of Memory: Volume 11

Why this book?

This is probably my favorite book of all time, from my favorite series of all time, The Vorkosigan Saga. Miles Vorkosigan, spy and accidental leader of a mercenary fleet, comes face to face with his mortality when he’s injured during a mission. As he recovers, he has to rebuild his life and his identity and find a new purpose in an empire that prizes warriors—a long-running challenge for this diminutive disabled hero. Meanwhile, one of his mentors, spymaster Simon Illyan, is dealing with a threat that could not only unravel his own life but decades’ worth of the Empire’s secrets. It’s funny, tense, and touching all at turns; I can’t think of that many sci-fi adventures that will have you laughing and crying. 

Nightwatch on the Hinterlands

By K. Eason,

Book cover of Nightwatch on the Hinterlands

Why this book?

Combining a murder mystery with a colorful sci-fi universe that’s full of magic? Yes, please. Odd couple Lieutenant Iari and Ambassador Gaer (who, don’t let the title fool you, is actually an alien spy) have to team up to discover why a retired battle-mecha killed someone—an occurrence that should be impossible. The rapport between Iari and Gaer is a delight, and the plot quickly unfolds from a mere murder to something far more sinister. I absolutely love the world that Eason creates—it has the scale of a video game-like Mass Effect while simultaneously creating compelling characters. 

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