The best world-building and character based SF that triggers deeper thought and reflection

Who am I?

I'm a linguist by trade with an MA in Intercultural Communications. I'm also an immigrant in my chosen country. You could say I have a fascination for different worlds/cultures in my blood. But those cultures only really come alive with the people that live in them, the way they think, feel, and talk, and especially where their cultures meet, with all the tensions, heartbreaks, love and hate, misunderstandings, fear, and courage that reverberate in those encounters.


I wrote...

Santuario

By G.B. Gordon,

Book cover of Santuario

What is my book about?

Police teniente Alex Rukow has spent his life trapped on Santuario, his people’s home-slash-prison-island. They’ve been living in poverty under the tyrannical regime of their own elite familias for the last two-hundred years, ever since the Skanians banished them to the inhospitable south. Increasingly shamed by the decisions of their ancestors, the Skanians seek to open their borders. But dissent exists on both sides, and in this explosive political situation, a dead body appears on the island.

Bengt, a Skanian investigator, is shipped to Santuario to lead the murder investigation. But he and Alex run afoul of the local familias, and the problems with their investigation and their budding relationship seem like nothing compared to just getting out of this whole mess alive.

The books I picked & why

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The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

By N.K. Jemisin,

Book cover of The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1

Why this book?

This trilogy is absolutely epic—in scope, in emotion, and in sheer craftsmanship. I love good bones, and the structural mastery displayed here is blowing me away. And the worldbuilding is immersive and all-encompassing. It sucks you in, and doesn't let you go even long after you finish the last page.


Use of Weapons

By Iain M. Banks,

Book cover of Use of Weapons

Why this book?

This is a book that asks all the hard moral questions, and isn't shy about not having all the answers, but leaving the reader to try and come up with their own. The worldbuilding is—pardon the pun—out of this world. And if, like me, you can't get enough of it, there are more books set in the same universe.


Expendable

By James Alan Gardner,

Book cover of Expendable

Why this book?

A seemingly perfect society and its ugly underbelly always make for a compelling read. But this one goes a step beyond with compassion, culture-clash, inclusivity, sheer storytelling genius, and characters I was rooting hard for through every page. Luckily, since I couldn't get enough, there are quite a few sequels.


Leviathan Wakes

By James S. A. Corey,

Book cover of Leviathan Wakes

Why this book?

This one has it all. I was chewing my nails down to the quick over the fate of the characters. The worldbuilding is incomparably complex and detailed down to the language (though the books don't develop Belter to the same extent as the TV series), and the pace left me breathless, and forgetting work, dinner, and sleep.


Golden Witchbreed

By Mary Gentle,

Book cover of Golden Witchbreed

Why this book?

I read this book decades ago from a library, and it stuck with me to such an extent that I had to go out, find it back, buy it, and read it again. Both the characters and the worldbuilding are breathtaking. The story is full of intrigue, politics, careful diplomacy, and self-interested string-pulling, love, fear, and wonder. It's an absolute doorstopper, and I inhaled it.


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