20 must-read feel-good science fiction

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Just before social distancing measures began in response to the new coronavirus, COVID-19, I made an impulse buy. I have a pet backpack in my virtual cart – one with a clear dome that makes your cat look like an astronaut. I’ve used it every day since it arrived to turn my cat into a space cat as we roam the mostly open space around the apartment. She enjoys it. Me too. At this moment, it is not difficult to imagine that we are walking on a distant, unknown planet. Our walks are almost an adventure—a pleasant little opportunity to get out of restlessness, anxiety, and isolation. Maybe you’re looking for that escape too. You may be eager to travel to a far corner of the galaxy, or travel through time. You probably want it without a lot of high-stakes intergalactic warfare or a dystopia on Earth. You are lucky. These 20 feel-good science fiction books are for different tastes and moods, but they’re all comfort food of sorts.

icy effect coverchill effect Valerie Valdes

Appropriately, let’s start with the psychic space cat.Hypnotized cat in cargo La Serena Negra, a tattered ship with a motley crew. Captain Eva Innocent’s misadventures and adventures are told in episodic form as she and her crew reluctantly run errands for the Refrigerator crime syndicate. These errands are dangerous and ridiculous, and it’s hard not to smile as Eva hides from mind-melding monks and space cannibals.

This is how you lose the time war By Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Can you use some forbidden romance? Red and Blue are opposing agents, working in secret to help their respective sides win a space- and time-bending war. Through extensive conflict, they alternate roles: sometimes predator, sometimes prey. But next is something else. As you can see from the letters, other feelings—impossible, inconvenient ones—began to blossom.

space opera Catherynne M. Valente

Eurovision may have been canceled this year, but you can deliver a similarly hilarious experience straight to your home.A pitch-perfect analogous read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, space opera Discovery Earth competes for its existence in a galactic talent race. our champion? British one-hit wonder db jones and absolute zero.

Fenna Nino Shipley

The premise is delightful: When a customer disappears through an interdimensional portal inside an IKEA-style furniture store, two employees (the most recent ex) must track her down after consulting a musty store guide. The execution is more poignant than farce, balancing the humour of the mission with a meditation on heartache and friendship.

The long road to an angry little planet by Becky Chambers

if you allow me to speak Star Trek For you: This quirky and cozy space trip reads like Star Trek: The Next Generation bottle episode Deep Space Nine figure.wacky crew traveler They’re on their way to the epic job of digging wormholes, but their journey (and the way they learn to interact with each other) is more important than their destination.

love my artificial intelligence by Alyssa Cole

The title of this audiobook tells you what you need to know. Regina Hall and Mindy Kaling lead an ensemble cast for this sci-fi romantic comedy. In the near future, Trinity Jordan becomes obsessed with her neighbor’s burly but eccentric nephew, Li Wei. It turns out that the person next door is not like a person, but more like a person.

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Ethan

This introduction to dual studies has been positioned as princess bride Interact with Princess Leia. (And what could feel good more definitively than science fiction?) In a clever twist, the classic story of a princess blessed (and cursed) with a gift from a fairy takes place in a space kingdom, not Earth . What about the princess? Well, she must save the prince from the galactic forces that steal his throne.

Crosstalk coveragecrosstalk by Connie Willis

Do you think we live in an age of information overload? We don’t know anything about Willis’ grotesque sci-fi romantic comedy star Britdie Flannigan. In the near future, Breidy and her boyfriend agreed to outpatient brain surgery aimed at increasing their bond and empathy. When things went awry, Breedy escaped the ordeal of being completely related to everyone else—with far more information than any one brain could handle.

prey of the gods Nicky Dredden

And now something completely different. Drayden’s first novel is a wild, crazy journey that blends science fiction, fantasy and mythology. In a future South Africa, a group of disparate characters come together as a sleeping demigod tries to regain her powers. Littering is a new addictive hallucinogen, an emerging AI uprising and, of course, a plague of dik-diks.

Gurkhas and Lord of Tuesdays Saad Hussein

Fantasy meets sci-fi in this novella about the awakened elves of Kathmandu in the future. After sleeping for a thousand years, Melek Ahma arrives in a city now controlled by an omnipotent artificial intelligence whose high-tech karma point system has shaped a surface utopia. The djinn were introduced into the system by an outlaw soldier; their pairing would change the status quo.

All systems red by Martha Wells

It’s hard not to feel a connection to Murderbot. The moniker was self-granted by a corporate security bot that hacked its governor module and became self-aware. Rather than heeding the company’s offer, Murderbot would rather stay alone in his dorm room catching up on soap operas. But when a mission goes off the rails, the robot can’t stay out of the way entirely.

How to live safely in a sci-fi universe Charles Yu

Conceptually, Yu’s metafiction works are part of Doctor Who and part of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. Charles Yu (character) is a time-traveling technician in a world where the line between fiction and reality is more fluid. It’s a story about a time-space disaster, but it’s also a book about a father-son relationship, with Charles constantly searching for his missing father.

forever queen coverforever queen Max Gladstone

The Found-family feel and hijinks fuel this space opera. When tech mogul Vivian Liao tries to get off the grid, she certainly succeeds. During a hacking attack, Vivi is teleported into the future thousands of years later by a mysterious glowing woman. She landed in a firefight that she later learned was just a blip in a larger confrontation with the Queen, the almighty ruler of the galaxy.

The tea master and the detective by Aliette de Bodard

Sherlock Holmes in space. This stand-alone novella in DeBodard’s Xu Ya universe is a satisfying mystery.In this Sherlock Holmes tribute, Watson is shadow child, a sentient mind living a modest life as a sort of herbalist.Enter Long Chau, a gender-flipping consulting detective who comes to shadow child Ask for help (it turns out to be) murder investigation.

computing star Mary Robinette Kowal

The first book in the female astronaut series combines two comforting things: a righteous space race hidden figures and competent crisis management. In 1952, a meteor struck Earth, flattening much of the Chesapeake Bay, including Washington, D.C. Suddenly, our homeland is no longer hospitable, and the race begins to send men—or, in fact, women—to colonize the stars.

Oona failure Margarita Montimore

The New Year is a time when many people want to be a new version of themselves. Una Lockhart experiences this more realistically than most. When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve 1982, Oona was about to turn 19. But she was 51 when she woke up in 2015. Every January 1st, Oona finds herself at a different stage in her life, constantly learning her identity in fits, starts and distinct hairstyles.

promote Jacqueline Koyanagi

Space opera is often helmed by queer people of color with chronic illnesses. But that was Alana Quick, one of the best sky surgeons around. Skills aside, she’s still barely making ends meet.as a crew member tangled axons Arriving in search of her sister, Alana sneaks aboard, hoping to find a job. Instead, she finds herself on a dizzying adventure.

One damn thing after another Jody Taylor

The St. Mary’s Historical Institute is not as full of outdated scholars as its name suggests. St. Mary’s researchers are adventurers who document important moments in history from the scene itself — and, you know, try not to die while doing so. The first book takes you from the Cretaceous period to World War I, but in 10 other books and some short stories, these unfortunate events continue.

Gideon IX by Tamsyn Muir

The most interesting thing is your flesh. You might think a book about the politics of death and necromancer space doesn’t qualify as “feel-good science fiction,” but you’d be wrong. In a world of death art, the emperor is holding a contest to bestow power and immortality on the winner. Disgruntled female swordsman Gideon is asked to help her nemesis Harrow in the match. The result is foul-mouthed, rigid perfection.

here and now by Mike Chen

Time-travelling agent Kin Stewart has been trapped in our time for 18 years. Since being stuck on a mission in 1996, he has carved out a life in modern-day San Francisco and has a wife and daughter. Now, his fellow Chrono Corruption Agency agents have come to “rescue” him and return him to 2142, erasing all evidence of his life in the 20th century. But Kim wasn’t ready to lose his family.

That’s feel-good science fiction. But looking for more advice? Try these related Book Riot picks.

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