Wednesday, March 1, 2017

YA Guy Lists... His Top 10 YA Sci-Fi!

In an earlier post, YA Guy promised to get around to listing my favorite YA science fiction novels. Having written that, I decided there's no time like the present. This list isn't in any particular order; everything on it is as good as it gets.

Chris Howard, Rootless. A wildly imaginative novel about a world without trees and a young man who constructs artificial ones. The imagery is wonderfully bizarre, the voice unlike any other. The two books that follow, The Rift and The Reckoning, aren't quite the equal of the original, but they're well worth reading nonetheless.

Fonda Lee, Zeroboxer. I give this book a slight edge over Lee's follow-up, Exo (though as you'll see if you read my review of the latter, I loved that book too). The story of a young athlete who fights in zero-G arenas, Lee's debut is distinguished by its visceral and very convincing fight scenes, its otherworldly settings, and its perceptive social commentary. Many sci-fi writers excel at either action-packed or thought-provoking stories. Lee excels at both.

Phillip Reeve, Railhead. Set in a galaxy where light-speed trains (not starships) zip from one planet to another, this book is a bit short on characterization but light-years long on dazzling, innovative world-building.

J. Barton Mitchell, the Conquered Earth trilogy. I've been singing the praises of this series for years, and I hope people are listening. Comprising Midnight City, The Severed Tower, and Valley of Fires, this epic story of aliens who master humanity via a telepathic signal that reduces all but teens to slavery features some of the most imaginative settings I've ever encountered, particularly the Strange Lands, where the laws of physics go haywire. The representation of diverse teen-led cultures that have developed in the absence of adults is notable too, as is the appealing cast of characters.

Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker.  Unlike many YA science fiction writers, Bacigalupi writes sci-fi for adults too. And it shows: Ship Breaker feels like the work of an artist with a deep knowledge of and respect for the genre, not that of a dabbler trying to cash in on a craze. Ship Breaker, the tale of a young man's odyssey in a post-fossil fuel era, is excellent, and its sequel, The Drowned Cities, is nearly as good, particularly in its further development of the most fascinating character from the first book, the hybrid "half-man" Tool.

M. T. Anderson, Feed. The twisted tale of a future society in which everyone sports a "feed"--a link to the internet wired directly into their brain--this book is hilarious and scary in equal measure. One of the best YA science fiction satires I've ever read.

Mindy McGinnis, Not a Drop to Drink. Along with its sequel, In a Handful of Dust, this stark representation of a world with barely any potable water is just barely science fiction--which is not to say it's not believable. On the contrary, without resorting to high-tech gadgetry or other hallmarks of the sci-fi trade, McGinnis does an utterly convincing job of portraying a future that looms dangerously close at the present moment.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Illuminae. When I first heard of this book, I'll admit I thought it sounded gimmicky. But when I read it, I was blown away by the technique, as the story of a spaceship fleeing interplanetary assault and at the mercy of a HAL-like computer is told through a series of hacked documents and mind-blowing typographic effects. The tale isn't quite as original as the telling, but the two in conjunction will keep you rocketing along. I haven't read the next book in the series, Gemina, but I'm definitely planning to.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games trilogy. There are not only a number of great sci-fi contrivances in these books--mutts, the Arena in Catching Fire, the pods in Mockingjay--but on the whole, the series offers a highly effective satire of violence in the entertainment media. What makes the endless copycat stories so vastly inferior is their failure to attempt anything similar: they've got a girl with a gun, but they don't have the sharp satirical sensibility of Collins's books.

James Dashner, The Maze Runner trilogy. The prequels are terrible, so don't waste your time. And the trilogy gets increasingly frantic and unbelievable as it progresses. But the Maze and the Grievers are brilliant sci-fi inventions, with the Scorch not far behind.

So there you have it, folks. Enjoy these books, and drop me a line if you have any suggestions. I'm always looking for good, original, compelling YA sci-fi!

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