The best sci-fi novels where food plays a defining role in the story

Who am I?

I’ve always been surrounded by food culture. I grew up in a diner family. My parents started Lakey’s Cafe just before I was born. My first jobs as a kid were in that restaurant. After that, I worked in restaurants as a server for more than 10 years of my life. When the opportunity presented itself to throw in the napkin and become a writer, I did. My writing now as a professional writer centers around the food and beverage industry. One topic that I don’t see discussed enough is the role that food plays in science fiction and fantasy novels. Food in novels has a way of showing us something about ourselves.


I wrote...

The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky: The Noah and Clare Chronicles Book 1

By Buffy Naillon,

Book cover of The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky: The Noah and Clare Chronicles Book 1

What is my book about?

It’s the 22nd century, and America is ravaged by a dangerous new disease called Sudden Onset Anorexia (SOA). People who get this disease can eat and eat and eat and yet, they waste away to nothing.

At the center of this story is Clare King, a reality TV star. Her every move is recorded live… When she sleeps… Who she dates… And what she eats, or more importantly, what she’s not allowed to eat. In true miracle-in-disguise fashion, Clare manages to escape her life in front of the camera and find happiness and love for the first time. SOA, Clare’s life as a reality star on the run, and food politics come crashing together when Clare stumbles upon the horrifying origins of the 22nd century’s most deadly disease.

The books I picked & why

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Catching Fire

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of Catching Fire

Why this book?

You can’t get much more food-oriented in science fiction than a novel called The Hunger Games, and true to its name, food and food politics play a central role in the book’s theme. The book’s author, Suzanne Collins, uses juxtaposition and food politics throughout the series to highlight the difference between the haves and the have-nots. While all the books in the Hunger Games series highlight these discrepancies, it’s Collins’s second book Catching Fire where the differences are most pronounced. The feast in the Capitol, along with its potions to induce vomiting (and by extension, encourage more eating), stands out in particular: The reaction of the book’s main character, Katniss Everdeen, herself a poor girl from the Seam of District 12 makes this scene both comical and revolting.

Catching Fire

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The second book in the ground-breaking Hunger
Games trilogy.

After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta return
to their district, hoping for a peaceful future. But their victory
has caused rebellion to break out ... and the Capitol has decided
that someone must pay.

As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the
Capitol's Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless they
can convince the world that they are still lost in their love
for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Then comes the cruellest twist: the contestants for the
next Hunger…

Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

I first got introduced to the character Paul Atreides and the book Dune when I was 23 years old. Back then, I had little understanding of food politics, ecology, and the lengths that people are willing to go to control both of these resources. Today, as I reread the book for the second time, some 30 years later, I recognize that the book’s food themes are more relevant today than ever before. Paul’s journey as the person who eventually controls the spice is a lesson to all who are interested in food politics and diplomacy.

Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…


The City of Endless Night

By Milo Hastings,

Book cover of The City of Endless Night

Why this book?

Milo Hastings’s book, The City of Endless Night, written right after the end of WWI, foretells Germany’s eventual rise to power again. The book’s main character Lyman De Forrest takes us through a socially stratified underground Berlin, where 300,000,000 people live. In the lower strata, every aspect of life, including how much a person gets to eat each day (based on their weight), is controlled. Despite being more than 100 years old, this book is surprisingly modern and the food politics are just as relevant.

The City of Endless Night

By Milo Hastings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The City of Endless Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The War of the Worlds

Why this book?

When most people think about Orwell’s War of the Worlds, they rightfully think about invasion fiction. But what stands out to me as a food writer is how Orwell uses food—or the lack of access to it— to show us how quickly society would deteriorate in the event of an invasion—an alien invasion, in this case. One of the book’s most telling lines for a foodie like me was the last line of chapter 7. After having raced home to save himself from the invasion and to have dinner with his wife, the Narrator (who isn’t named in the book) states: “I did not know it, but that was the last civilised dinner I was to eat for very many strange and terrible days.” For him and many others, dinner with family and friends is the epitome of civilization.

The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The War of the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

But planet Earth was not only being watched - soon it would be invaded by monstrous creatures from Mars who strode about the land in great mechanical tripods, bringing death and destruction with them. What can possibly stop an invading army equipped with heat-rays and poisonous black gas, intent on wiping out the human race? This is one man's story of that incredible invasion, from the time the first Martians land near his home town, to the destruction of London. Is this the end of human life on Earth?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpré (illustrator),

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Why this book?

It’s hard not to talk about the boy who lived without talking about the role that food plays in the Harry Potter books. It is a vehicle for so many storytelling elements. It highlights Harry’s malnourished state at home with his aunt and uncle; it sets the tone for life at Hogwarts; and it conveys British culture in a very real, though maybe not obvious way. The cultural aspect of food in Harry Potter is particularly of interest to me as a foodie and as a translator. The Potter novels are some of the most challenging books to translate, partly due to the culturally specific food that JK Rowling highlights in her books. Pretty delish, all in all.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpré (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New, repackaged audio editions of the classic and internationally bestselling, multi-award-winning series, read by Stephen Fry containing 7 CDs with a total running time of 8 hours and 25 minutes. With irresistible new jackets by Jonny Duddle to bring Harry Potter to the next generation of readers.

Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a…

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