#SciFiMonth Top Ten Science Fiction Reads of 2021

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As we say good bye to another year of Sci-Fi Month, it’s time again to put together a list of my top ten science fiction books (4 stars and up) that I’ve had the pleasure to read in 2021.

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Kicking things off is the one and only Murderbot! In this sixth volume of the Murderbot Diaries, our protagonist puts on a detective hat to investigate the shocking discovery of a dead body on Preservation Station, a quiet little outpost which doesn’t exactly scream killer central. Might this have something to do with Dr. Mensah and her team who are in hiding from their enemies? It’s possible that those hunting them have tracked them down, but then again, the death might be completely unrelated. That’s what Preservation’s Senior Officer Indah is trying to figure out, along with support teams from Station Security and Port Authority. Murderbot being Murderbot though, all it wants is to be left alone with its shows, but Dr. Mensah has other ideas. It had been a right challenge to convince the pertinacious Indah to take in a SecUnit, so in order to continue cultivating goodwill with their hosts, she believes it would be prudent for Murderbot to help out with the investigation as a consultant. While Murderbot isn’t at all happy with that plan (but then again, it seldom is), it knows Dr. Mensah is right. Plus, getting involved in the case might also mean gaining access to some of the security systems and data it had been denied before, and the sooner they can rule out a threat from GrayCris, the safer Dr. Mensah and her team will be. (Read the full review)

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey

Two friends. One big idea. This is the story of Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, a couple of geeky fanboys who met in college and bonded over a love of technology and science fiction. Both young men are brilliant on their own, but together as a team, they have what it takes to change the world. It all begins with Adhi’s graduate dissertation which none of his supervisors would take seriously, dismissing his vision of a new application for quantum computing as nothing more than a flight of fancy. Dejected, he confides in his best friend Ben, who ends up taking a very different view on his project. Despite having had two start-ups blow up on him already, Ben is confident he can find the connections and funding to help Adhi realize his revolutionary idea. Everyone will want a piece of the technology, Ben insists, and with it, they can also help the world in so many ways. This is how, after much experimentation and trial-and-error, the two men end up launching a groundbreaking new service which would allow users to peer into the future with a special computer that can connect to the internet one year from now. In fact, Ben and Adhi already know their company will be a huge success because they have already tested their technology and seen the headlines—until, of course, their system encounters a glitch. If it turns out their computers cannot offer perfect prediction as they claimed, the impact on their company would be devastating. Just how far will they go to keep it a secret? (Read the full review…)

The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes

I’m usually super skeptical with any book whose blurb invokes comparisons to The Expanse because that’s one tough promise. Still, I must doff my hat to J.S. Dewes, because I have a feeling The Last Watch is about to become my next big sci-fi obsession. To set the scene, imagine the dark and lonely reaches at the edge of the universe, beyond which simply nothing exists. This is the Divide. Here is where the Argus keeps its watch, the space station home to a ragtag crew of misfits known as the Sentinels. Their job is to patrol edges of space, maintaining the warning and defense systems in place to protect against any unknown threats. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when humanity was nearly wiped out by an alien species called the Viators, and only after multiple wars and untold number of deaths did they finally manage to drive the invaders out. Although that had been many years ago, the Sentinels aren’t about to take any chances, always remaining vigilant and on alert. But now comes a danger no one was expecting. The Divide is starting to collapse, threatening to destroy everyone and everything with it. The commander of the Argus, a Titan veteran of Viator war named Adequin Rake,must find a way to stop the collapse, but with communications down and their resources stretched to the limits, the Argus finds itself cut off from all help. Left with no other recourse, Rake turns to the wise-cracking and irreverent Cavalon Mercer, an exiled prince from the Allied Monarchies of the Core. (Read the full review…)

Adrift by W. Michael Gear

Every time I find out about a new book in this series, I simply cannot contain my glee. I do hope the W. Michael Gear keeps them coming, because I don’t think I could ever get tired of returning to Donovan, watching yet another group of know-it-all settlers think they can get the better of the planet only to be slapped down and shown just how wrong they were. Nope, it never gets old! This time, Adrift takes us to the seas, where the Maritime Unit has just set up their research facilities perched on the edge of a reef, hundreds of miles from the closest shore. Having survived the last ten years trapped aboard the Ashanti with a cult of cannibals, the members of this small team mostly made up of oceanographers and marine scientists are excited to have finally arrived on the planet and are eager to start studying its aquatic ecosystems. For many of them, Donovan represents more than just a new life—it’s also a fresh start for humanity. But this idealism is shattered almost immediately. Visiting from the mainland, Supervisor Kalico Aguila tries to warn the scientists that Donovan is not like Earth, but unfortunately, hubris proved to be Maritime Unit’s downfall. (Read the full review…)

Day Zero by C. Robert Cargill

Imagine Calvin & Hobbes but with Hobbes as Terminator, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this book. It stars Pounce, a furry anthropomorphic AI “nannybot” shaped like a tiger. His owners had bought him to be a companion and best friend to their eight-year-old son Ezra. When the novel begins, everyone is paying attention to a brewing revolution led by Isaac, the first bot to ever be granted freedom and independence. After founding Isaactown, he has invited other bots to join him to build a place where A.I. can live on their own terms. But not everyone sees this as a good thing. Some even see it as blasphemy against God. Driven by this belief, a radical religious group commits an unspeakable act of violence, annihilating everyone in Isaactown. Things quickly escalate, and before long, the government is warning people to power down their bots until they can determine if the A.I. protocols that prevent them from harming humans are still in place. However, this proves too late, as the majority of bots are already turning on their owners. Ever the loyal companion though, Pounce chooses to protect Ezra, knowing he’s all the boy has left, and he will do whatever it takes to keep him safe. (Read the full review…)

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Andy Weir found a winning formula with The Martian by playing to his strengths, putting his super space nerdery and geeky sense of humor to good use, ultimately creating a smart, funny, tech-savvy survival story that is at once action-packed and full of heart. So it’s no surprise that for Project Hail Mary, Weir has returned to the tried-and-true, except this time, he’s perfected his methods, and the result is a must-read for his fans. In this one, humanity faces extinction as a former scientist turned schoolteacher finds himself the lone survivor on a desperate, last-ditch space mission to save the Earth and all life upon it from a sun-eating Astrophage. But first, he’ll need to get his memory back. As the story begins, our protagonist wakes up alone on a spaceship. He can’t remember how he got there, but somehow he’s aware that he has been asleep for a very long time. Eventually, he remembers his original role was to support the space mission crew from the ground, so just how the heck did he end up on this ship, lightyears away from the solar system? And what can he possibly do to save Earth? (Read the full review…)

Dead Space by Kali Wallace

An excellent combination of the crime mystery and science fiction genres, Dead Space was absolutely brilliant, and I believe readers who enjoy a thriller element to their stories will find this one especially rewarding. As the novel opens, we are introduced to Hester Marley, a scientist whose life’s dreams were ripped away by a catastrophic incident that leaves her severely injured and bankrupt. Now she works as a security officer simply trying to remain inconspicuous and make ends meet. But pretty soon, her plans are shot to hell once more as a former colleague is found violently murdered. In truth though, David Prussenko was more than just a co-worker. To Hester, he was also a close friend as well as a fellow victim of the attack that left her life in ruins. Even more devastating, she and David had just reconnected mere hours before his body was discovered, because he had wanted to share with her a shocking discovery related to their past work and history. What had David wanted to tell her, and could it have been related to his murder? (Read the full review…)

The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel

The world of The Body Scout is one where its citizens prize cybernetics and other body modifications, and the use of such enhancements has changed virtually every aspect of human life, including sports. Our protagonist Kobo is a talent scout for the professional baseball league, making his living traveling around the world recruiting new people for his bosses and hunting for the latest mods to improve performance. Meanwhile, his adoptive brother Zunz is making a name for himself as a rising star playing professionally, and Kobo couldn’t be happier for him. But then one day, in the middle of a playoff game in front of millions watching, Zunz suddenly drops dead on the field. Everyone is calling it a tragic accident, but Kobo isn’t buying it. He suspects it may be murder, and the plot thickens as he is next hired by the owner of Zunz’s team to investigate the death, with the promise of a large reward if he can somehow implicate their ivals. Seizing this opportunity to seek answers to his own questions, Kobo begins his twisted journey into the dark and unforgiving world of sports and corporate politics where everyone has a stake. (Read the full review…)

Citadel by Marko Kloos

I’ve been really enjoying The Palladium Wars series, and like its predecessors, the third volume is another fun and action-filled addition to this space operatic mil-SF saga. Once more, we return to our four main perspective characters to follow up on what they’ve been up to since we last saw them: Aden, a former prisoner-of-war from the losing side of the battle who has now joined up with a crew of a transport ship under a false identity; Idina, a Palladian soldier stationed on the defeated planet of Gretia who is working with the local authorities to stem the tide of local unrest; Solvieg, who has managed to regain control of her father’s company after it was taken away from him, but now finds herself with the heavy responsibility of dealing with the family business; and Dunstan, a commander in the Rhodian Navy who has just ben handpicked to captain an experimental prototype ship with technology that has the potential to change the way war is waged forever. (Read the full review…)

Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons

Set in the near future, this story follows Constance D’Arcy, whose aunt Abigail Stickling is the late genius behind Palingenesis, the world’s first and largest manufacturer of clones. After some initial reluctance, Con eventually decides to keep the clone gifted to her by her aunt, though the process would require her to make regular trips to Palingenesis to have her memories uploaded to the system. If she dies, the company will automatically activate her clone and transfer the latest backup, so it’s a good idea to keep it as fresh as possible. So imagine our protagonist’s surprise when, after a routine memory upload, she wakes up at Palingenesis not in her original body but in that of her clone. Not only is she hit with the horrible realization that this means that the real Con, her old self, must have died, but she is shocked to find out that her last memory upload was actually a whopping year and a half ago, far longer than the recommended maximum of three months. Palingenesis, already mired in scandal and bad publicity, would be ruined if this damning evidence of their lapse in protocol is ever discovered. As the company moves to eliminate her, Con finds herself alone in a desperate fight for survival while also trying to piece together her life from the past 18 months. (Read the full review…)

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