The best science fiction novels about underdogs and rebel groups

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved science fiction since I was a nerdy high school student acing all the math and science courses my high school offered and power-reading through the library’s sci-fi section. I saw Bladerunner on a mediocre date with a hot guy a grade ahead of me, slouched down in our seats, hoping to hold hands but it never happened. The film, however, blew my mind. Fast forward through my engineering degree where I saw every cyberpunk film and punk band I could, through a punk-fueled creative writing MA and anarchist English PhD, to today where I study grassroots media and sometimes teach Comics or Science Fiction. 

I wrote...

Transformative Media: Intersectional Technopolitics from Indymedia to #Blacklivesmatter

By Sandra Jeppesen,

Book cover of Transformative Media: Intersectional Technopolitics from Indymedia to #Blacklivesmatter

What is my book about?

In 1999, Seattle activists adopted cutting-edge live stream technology to cover the World Trade Organization protests and forever changed the global justice movement’s relationship to media. Transformative Media traces subsequent developments in technopolitics, revealing the innovative digital efforts of activist groups such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo today. Drawing on participatory research, Sandra Jeppesen examines how a broad array of anti-capitalist, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people rely on alternative media and emerging technologies in their battle against overlapping systems of oppression.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Dispossessed

Sandra Jeppesen Why did I love this book?

I love The Dispossessed because it imagines a world in which a non-hierarchical society is developed intentionally as a whole, organizing work, families, living spaces, education, food production, and so on around how best to fulfill the society’s needs while also supporting the development of individual talents. It juxtaposes this intentionality and equality against a capitalist society which is very toxic and individualistic, where people are selfish, society is hierarchical, some elites are extremely wealthy, with mass poverty and despair in the populace. This alternative to capitalist society does not romanticize, but shows how hard it would be to achieve, along with the importance of people working together.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Dispossessed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the very best must-read novels of all time - with a new introduction by Roddy Doyle

'A well told tale signifying a good deal; one to be read again and again' THE TIMES

'The book I wish I had written ... It's so far away from my own imagination, I'd love to sit at my desk one day and discover that I could think and write like Ursula Le Guin' Roddy Doyle

'Le Guin is a writer of phenomenal power' OBSERVER

The Principle of Simultaneity is a scientific breakthrough which will revolutionize interstellar civilization by making possible instantaneous…

Book cover of Perdido Street Station

Sandra Jeppesen Why did I love this book?

China Miéville is a brilliant writer, and Perdido Street Station is one of his earlier novels, but I would recommend anything he has written. What I like specifically about this novel, though, is that the main character runs a renegade printing press which is key to spreading information about their growing underdog movement, and in addition, his partner is from another species which is vilified and misunderstood. The evil beings in this world that they are fighting are massive moths that are so beautiful if you stare at them they suck your brains out. Ew, right? The group is a small rag-tag combination of individuals with a variety of different motivations to be involved, but somehow they pull it together in unexpected ways, and, well things get interesting. 

By China Miéville,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Perdido Street Station as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the August Derleth award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, Perdido Street Station is an imaginative urban fantasy thriller, and the first of China Mieville's novels set in the world of Bas-Lag.

The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of its own bewildering world. Humans and mutants and arcane races throng the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the rivers are sluggish with unnatural effluent, and factories and foundries pound into the night. For more than a thousand years, the parliament and its brutal militia have ruled over a vast array of workers and artists, spies, magicians,…

Book cover of Woman on the Edge of Time

Sandra Jeppesen Why did I love this book?

I have to admit, I almost didn’t read this book. The first fifty pages are so dreary and difficult, with domestic abuse, racism, and excruciating poverty, with no science fiction to be seen. But then, suddenly, the main character is teleporting to another world or also has guests from that world visit her in ours, and things get very interesting. The alternative world has non-binary gender, it is not capitalist but communal, and they have eradicated most of society’s ills, from killer automobiles to cigarettes, domestic abuse, poverty, racism, and so on, and have replaced these with loving relationships, complex child-rearing arrangements and a more loving-relationship-oriented approach to life. It is a fascinating juxtaposition and definitely worth the opening slog.

By Marge Piercy,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Woman on the Edge of Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of those rare novels that leave us different people at the end than we were at the beginning.' GLORIA STEINEM

'She is a serious writer who deserves the sort of considered attention which, too often, she does not get...' MARGARET ATWOOD

Often compared to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Naomi Alderman's The Power - Woman on the Edge of Time has been hailed as a classic of speculative science fiction. Disturbing and forward thinking, Marge Piercy's remarkable novel will speak to a new generation of readers.

Connie Ramos has been unjustly incarcerated in a mental institution with…

Book cover of Neuromancer

Sandra Jeppesen Why did I love this book?

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” The best opening line. Gibson’s style is so minimalist, it cuts to the bone. The implant technologies he envisions are as fascinating as his world-weary characters, but it is the post-apocalyptic Sprawl that gives life to both. Gibson doesn’t condescend to describe this world, he sets his characters in motion within it. Case, the underdog, is up against a powerful cartel—you don’t want to be him, but you do want him to get what he’s after. What that is, or whether he does, I won’t say, because you should read this book. It broke cyberpunk in 1984, the same year as Terminator, and two years after Bladerunner. Neither techno-optimist nor techno-pessimist, Gibson shows us exactly how media technologies can tune people in to a live or a dead channel and we need to make the right choices or pay the price.

By William Gibson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The book that defined the cyberpunk movement, inspiring everything from The Matrix to Cyberpunk 2077.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

William Gibson revolutionised science fiction in his 1984 debut Neuromancer. The writer who gave us the matrix and coined the term 'cyberspace' produced a first novel that won the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards, and lit the fuse on the Cyberpunk movement.

More than three decades later, Gibson's text is as stylish as ever, his noir narrative still glitters like chrome in the shadows and his depictions of…

Book cover of Walkaway

Sandra Jeppesen Why did I love this book?

Doctorow and I had a mutual friend in common—the incredible Possum who organized Toronto’s Anarchist Free University for many years until his early demise, Rest in Power—full disclosure, and that’s how I started reading his fiction. Walkaway is one of my favorites. This is a world where 3D printers have changed everything. People who are poor, exploited, unhappy, or maybe just feeling adventurous can—and do—walk away from the capitalist world within the city walls and live quite literally on the fringes, using 3D printers and their imaginations of a world without exploitation to construct whole new societies. Can they successfully build a utopia despite the many conflicts that arise? Who knows? But I do know I’m hoping for a sequel.

By Cory Doctorow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a world wrecked by climate change, in a society owned by the ultra-rich, in a city hollowed out by industrial flight, Hubert, Etc, Seth and Natalie have nowhere else to be and nothing better to do.

But there is another way. After all, now that anyone can design and print the basic necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter - from a computer, there is little reason to toil within the system. So, like thousands of others in the mid-21st century, the three of them turn their back on the world of rules, jobs, the morning commute and... walkaway.…

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By FX Holden,

Book cover of Aggressor

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

What is my book about?

It is April 1st, 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan. The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region. But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

Aggressor is the first novel in a gripping action series about a future war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that are on the drawing board today and could be fielded in the near future, Aggressor is the page-turning military technothriller you have been waiting for!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the upper class, industrial espionage, and physicists?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the upper class, industrial espionage, and physicists.

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