Best Lesser Known Sci-fi Books To Read During The Holidays

Who said that sci-fi doesn’t go well with the holiday season? Nobody that’s a lover of the genre, that’s for sure. Science fiction, after all, is not only about aliens and robots but about humans, at its core. Those familiar with sci-fi know that there’s a story for every time of the year.

Sci-fi readers have the chance to transport themselves to places that have never been and never will be, and to learn something truthful about today’s society and alter their vision of today’s world along the way. This is what will always bring new readers to the genre, and this is also why holidays are a perfect time to spend a couple of days in mysterious worlds with unknown creatures that speak directly to the reader’s heart.


8/8 Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

In this so-called “weird fiction” novel, the world of magic and the world of technology co-exist peacefully. What’s not peaceful is Yagharek, a birdlike creature who becomes one of the main antagonists towards Isaac and Lin, the two main characters in the novel.

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The story is action-packed and poignant. It introduces readers to a city, New Crobuzon, that feels alive and wants to jump out of the pages. It is truly amazing that there is still not a movie based on it, but one can hope for the future.

7/8 Tales Of Old Earth by Michael Swanwick

Tales Of Old Earth Book Cover

In this anthology of nineteen sci-fi and fantasy tales, writer Michael Swanwick manages to push, pull, stretch, and dissect the entire genre of speculative fiction.

There are some really hard sci-fi stories that would make for perfect movie adaptations. But they work amazingly well as short stories too – if the reader is prepared to be slapped in the face with some harsh truths about the society we live in. But then again, that’s a constant when it comes to sci-fi.

6/8 Light by M. Jon Harrison

Light Book Cover Sci-fi

The reader will meet three outrageous characters in this novel: a physicist who is also a serial killer, a female cyborg pilot, and a rogue adventurer plus an ex-space pilot.

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The stories of all these characters are linked by two things: The Shrander, a creature that can take many forms; and The Kefahuchi Tract, an asteroid-thing that has the power to destroy civilizations. On this asteroid, they will find three clues: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton. What will these strange discoveries lead them to? Readers will have to find out.

5/8 Sea Of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea Of Tranquility Book Cover

If readers are wondering why there are no books yet about the pandemic, the answer is that there are. Sea Of Tranquility is one, but not the way it is expected. It was written during the pandemic, which changed a lot of aspects about how people make books, movies, and games.

Even though the story is not about what happened during COVID-19, it is infused with ideas of time and how it flows, about perception. (And yes, some pandemics are mentioned.) Those ideas about the flow of time explore the time-travel theme by going to four different timelines: 1912, 2020, 2203, and 2401. It then moves back from there to 2203, 1918, then lost somewhere in time, then 2172, and finally 2195.

4/8 A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire Book Cover

Fans of sci-fi film and television sometimes have the idea that the books won’t be as captivating as onscreen content, but this idea has been proven wrong time and time again. If one finds a book that they love, then ten or more books like it will suddenly appear, as if by magic.

This is what happens with A Memory Called Empire. This superb novel that is a whodunit mystery at heart, but it is embellished with such vivid imagery of the space stations, towns, habits, and people of the sci-fi setting that the reader feels like it’s not that far away from them.

3/8 The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City In The Middle Of The Night Book Cover

At the heart of this fantastical novel, there is a question: What would you give to change the world? In the universe that Charlie Jane Anders creates, humanity is struggling to survive.

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One part of the colonized planet that humans have ended up on is dark and frozen, while the other part is hot and full of sun. The titular city is where the two protagonists are going to figure out how to face all the challenges of social and political turmoil.

2/8 The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World by Harlan Ellison

The Beast That Shouted Love At The End Of The World Book Cover Old Vintage

This anthology of short stories comes from a writer who has been called many names and inspired much controversy. It includes one of his most famous stories, A Boy and His Dog, but readers must not let the title fool them. It is not for dog lovers, as much as it is for people who love old stories of science fiction, from a writer who dares to break all the ethical codes and see what’s underneath.

Ellison had a taste for pushing limits. In this short story collection he does it masterfully by depicting not his own morals, but the morals of a society that he sees as declining.

1/8 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Doomsday Book Old Cover

Gamers and readers who love all things time travel will fall head over heels in love with this book (and the three others that followed it). Willis’ books explore the unexpected consequences of time travel, and Doomsday Book is no different.

Kirvin wants to travel to 14th-century England and observe life there. Her mentor, Mr. Dunworthy, completely disagrees, but Kirvin is sent there anyway. What follows is absolute chaos, as back in 21st century England a deadly virus begins, and simultaneously in medieval England, the plague starts.

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