Some of the (Hopefully) Best New Modern Sci-Fi Authors to Read Now
[SPOILER NOTE: we tried our best to be as un-spoiler-y as possible, but there is a small chance that some minor spoilers slipped through.]
[Ed: This list is in part a response to a previous list we did which garnered the feedback that you wanted newer, fresher, modern sci-fi authors to enjoy. So we did our best to listen to the feedback, and try to provide you with just that. Thank you to all the readers who commented and shared their thoughts, and we hope you enjoy this list!]
If you’re a total sucker for lists that claim things like “10 Sci-Fi Writers You Should Be Reading!! #4 Will Surprise You!” (like I am) you clicked on this article purely out of some duty you feel to yourself as a voracious reader, even though 9 out of 10 times the list will contain names like Alastair Reynolds (Ed: Hey! … OK, OK, I deserved that) and Frank Herbert. Yes, you’re probably right ubiquitous internet list, I should be reading more sci-fi classics. But I want something new! New, modern sci-fi authors so hot off the presses you can see the steam.
Because I know how exhausting it is to click past the first page of Google search results, I did the work for you, my lovely fellow Sci-Fi Addicts. <3 I can almost guarantee that many of these authors will be new to you unless you’re an uber-reader of such magnitude you read in your sleep, in which case, I salute you.
How to Read this List of New Modern Sci-Fi Authors
This massive list is separated into two sections: Brand Spankin’ New and Pretty Dang New. The former features only authors who started publishing sci-fi novels in the last three years and have excellent reviews. I’ve included a short description of their novels, as well as plain-speak “Real Reviews” I’ve paraphrased from Amazon and Goodreads.
The latter features authors whose first sci-fi novel appeared in 2000 or later (with one exception…sorry), and have won some big deal awards and made quite a splash. Because there’s, like, 10 times as many of these guys as the Brand Spankin’ New authors, I’ve made it a bit more concise by giving you a brief rundown of their first sci-fi novel, their most famous or latest sci-fi novel, and any awards they’ve won (for sci-fi novels only).
Because I hate figuring out systems to order these lists, it’s gonna be alphabetical! No best to worst, newest to oldest nonsense. Alphabetical. It’s elementary, Watson.
6 Brand Spankin’ New Modern Sci-Fi Authors
Well, after digging through the internet until my fingers bled, I’ve found 6 spectacular sci-fi writers whose earliest novel was published in 2014 or later. (In the interest of full disclosure, some of these writers have short stories or even poetry published before 2014, but no sci-fi novels.)
Palmer’s debut science fiction novel, Too Like the Lightning, came out in spring 2016, and has been thrilling critics since. Luckily for you, it’s the beginning of a series, so if you fall in love with Mycroft Canner or Carlyle Foster, don’t be afraid to commit to a relationship!
Mycroft Canner, a convict forced by the law of the 25th century to wander the world as a public servant, and Carlyle Foster, a spiritual counselor in a world where religion is illegal, stumble across a young boy named Bridger who can make manipulate reality to bring inanimate objects to life (and other things). Gender has been all-but-erased, and censorship and categorization plague every aspect of their lives.
Real Reviews: People love Palmers writing for the religious and political themes, but some readers claim it’s very dense and complex. This is an engaging adventure, not a breezy summer afternoon beach-book.
In 2015, poet Eleanor Lerman succumbed to the nerdy side and published her first science fiction novel. That novel, Radiomen, is a poetic aliens-among-us tale that talks a lot about dogs, and has awesome reviews.
Laurie, a woman who works at an airport bar, met an alien in her childhood but doesn’t remember. Add in cults, obscure tribes, alien dogs, and the concept of a universal network, and you’ll have a tiny idea of what Radiomen is about.
Real Reviews: Everyone is raving about beautifully this story is written, and I’ve yet to see any negative comments.
James L. Cambias
Cambias broke out on the sci-fi book scene in 2014 with his imaginative novel, A Darkling Sea, which is a hard science fiction adventure that takes place on a very alien world. He’s followed his debut success with Corsair, a near-future cyberpunk-y space pirate saga. The two are very different in tone and reader response, so I’ll do just a brief blurb on each:
In A Darkling Sea, the reader follows three narrators through an inter-species conflict that arises on the world of Ilmatar, where humans and Sholen barely get along, and then stumble across a blind alien species that lives under a layer of ice a kilometer thick.
Real Reviews: The book is a well-written and thought-provoking adventure with believable aliens and beautiful worlds, but some readers say it has some slow sections that drag on.
In Corsair, which came out early 2016, two brilliant hackers who have a brief but passionate affair are brought together 10 years later on opposite sides of the space pirate conflict, both fighting for the materials from space mining. What they don’t know is the trouble that lies ahead.
Real Reviews: Contrary to A Darkling Sea, Corsair is a fast paced page turner, though some think the world building and character development is a bit thin.
Speak: A Novel, which came out in early 2016, is Hall’s first work of science fiction, and she didn’t pull any punches. Critics are raving about her, saying the book is unique in that it doesn’t remind them of anything else.
Speak has a lot going on, so I’ll let Halls people do the talking:
A young Puritan woman travels to the New World with her unwanted new husband. Alan Turing, the renowned mathematician and code breaker, writes letters to his best friend’s mother. A Jewish refugee and professor of computer science struggles to reconnect with his increasingly detached wife. An isolated and traumatized young girl exchanges messages with an intelligent software program. A former Silicon Valley Wunderkind is imprisoned for creating illegal lifelike dolls. (Amazon)
Real Reviews: Speak is quite polarizing- most people can’t praise it highly enough for inventiveness and deciphering what it means to be human in the face of AI, and some found that it didn’t have enough action. If you like “science fiction of the mind,” this is a book for you!
If you’ve heard of Older before, it’s likely in the context of her humanitarian works in Darfur, Japan, Mali, and many more places. Her first ever novel, Infomocracy, was published in 2016 and went on to win best fiction and science fiction from Kirkus and the Washington Post, respectively.
Infomocracy will be the first of a new series by breakout author Malka Older, and focuses entirely on politics and the balance between knowledge and power, where the people are ruled by search engine corporations. An election is coming up, and three potential candidates fight for their party, for incredibly different reasons.
Real Reviews: This book is being praised as revolutionary, and a much-needed social commentary on the world at this point in time, but many agree the first third of the book is confusing, and the narrative format unwieldy.
Brown is already proving himself a force to be reckoned with. His debut novel turned into an award-winning trilogy as he cranked out a book a year since 2014, and now he’s back for a sequel trilogy, the first of which is to be called Iron Gold. His beloved Red Rising trilogy is going to be made into a movie by Universal Studios and directed by Marc Foster.
Morning Star, the third book in the Red Rising series, which came out in 2016 and debuted as #1 on the New York Times Best-Selling list, among other lofty accomplishments. The series follows Darrow, a lowborn man with big ambitions to bring down the corrupt Society from the inside. He’s a crafty tactical genius, and quickly advances through the ranks and works in service of his enemies. The Red Rising trilogy takes place on a futuristic Mars segregated into a color-based class system very similar to Brave New World.
Real Reviews: Fans adore the brutal, violent nature (physical violence like anti-grav hangings, as well as sexual violence like rape) of the rebellious story, whereas others wished the plot was a little more complex, and Darrow wasn’t such a perfect hero.
Honorable Mention: Matthew P Buscemi
Buscemi began his speculative fiction career in 2013, not 2014, but he definitely deserves a spot on this list. His first novel, Voyage Embarkation, the first in a five-part series, follows “18-year-old Kal Anders as he explores the multiverse. His adventure takes place entirely in Chicago, Illinois, but he’s constantly shifting dimensions, and human history and culture changes with every shift.”
Buscemi has since published six novels and novellas, as well as a collection of short stories I’ll be reviewing soon called Transmutations of Fire and Void.
Schrödinger’s City, published in 2015, is a captivating tale told from dozens of perspectives about City, an unexplainable place filled with uncertainty and danger. People appear without reason, disappear without cause, and two young City-dwellers are fighting to discover the truth, if there is one at all. Apart from the dangers of City itself, the fanatic Amaranthines destroy humanity to make way for their evil magic Luster, which possesses and warps everything it touches.
Real Reviews: Fans appreciate the intelligent jokes and twists in reference to real-world scientific and philosophical theories, and it is unanimously called “strange but appealing” by everyone who reads it.
22 Pretty Dang New Modern Sci-Fi Authors
Next, I’ve collected some awesome pretty dang new modern sci-fi authors who hit the scene in 2000 or later in a big way. Because they’ve had a little more time to gather a following, they tend to have more awards and film/television adaptations out or in the works! Those lucky ducks with adaptations in the works have asterisks by their names, so keep an eye out for news about their film/TV adaptations!
First Novel: Salt, published in 2000. Military science fiction about an interstellar colonization attempt gone wrong told from dueling perspectives (religious and anarchist).
Best Known For: Jack Glass, published in 2012. Gritty crime mystery with the tone and feel of a more sly Golden Age science fiction classic.
Awards: BSFA Award for Best Novel (Jack Glass), John W. Campbell Award (Jack Glass)
First Novel: The Martian, published in 2011. Hard science fiction about an astronaut trapped on Mars with little to no hope of rescue.
Latest Writing: Principles of Uncertainty, published in 2016. A collection of short stories set in space.
Awards: John W. Campbell Award, Goodreads Choice Award for Best Science Fiction, and Ridley Scott directed the movie. (winning)
First Novel: Ancillary Justice, published in 2013. A space opera set in the distant future when a militaristic empire conquers the universe and uses human bodies possessed with AIs as soldiers. The first of a trilogy.
Awards: BSFA Award (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword), Nebula Award (Ancillary Justice), Kitchies Award Golden Tentacle (Ancillary Justice), Locus Award (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy), Arthur C. Clarke Award (Ancillary Justice), Sydney J. Bounds Award (Ancillary Justice), Prix Bob Morane (Ancillary Justice), Seiun Award (Ancillary Justice).
First Novel: The Time Traveler’s Wife, published in 2003. The novel tells the story of a young man suffering from Chrono-Impairment, a condition that causes him to jump back and forth through time uncontrollably, and how it affects the woman he loves.
Latest Novel: Raven Girl, published in 2013. This unusually captivating novel tells the story of a Postman who falls in love with a raven, and their child’s struggle to find herself as a being, physically and emotionally.
First Novel: Accelerando, published 2005. A series of related space opera short stories with a hard science fiction theme about the solar system being dismantled to form a vast computational device inhabited by impossibly intelligent consciousnesses.
Best Known For: The Laundry Files, a huge series of sci-fi spy thrillers (novels and short stories) which began in 2004 and has at least two more to go.
Awards: Locus Award (Accelerando, The Apocalypse Codex)
First Science Fiction Novel: Perdido Street Station, published in 2000. This novel marks the first of the Bas-Lag series that combines ancient magic and steampunk technology, which takes place in a “fairly grubby, police statey kind.” (from an interview with Miéville)
Best Known For: The City & the City, published in 2009. A “weird fiction” crime mystery that takes place between two twin cities, where a murder ties in with the legend of a third city that lies somewhere between.
Awards: Arthur C. Clarke Award (Perdido Street Station, Iron Council, The City & the City), British Fantasy Award (Perdido Street Station, The Scar), Locus Award (The Scar, Iron Council, Un Lun Dun), Hugo Award (The City & the City), Kitchies (The City & the City), and A World Fantasy Award (The City & the City).
First Novel: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, published in 2003. This novel takes place in the future after death and scarcity have been erased and the world is organized by who’s most popular. The protagonist has just been killed and revived for the fourth time, and lives in Disney World, fighting against the high-tech updates that ruin the “purity” of his Magic Kingdom.
Upcoming Novel: Walkaway, will be published in April, 2017. This novel follows an ultra-rich heiress and a guy named Hubert, Etc. as they embrace communism and walk away from the shambles of formal modern society and venture out into the dangerous world, destroyed by climate change and predators, and discover how to beat death.
Awards: Locus Award (Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom), Sunburst Award (A Place So Foreign and Eight More, Little Brother), John W. Campbell Award (Little Brother), White Pine Award (Little Brother), Prometheus Award (Little Brother, Pirate Cinema, Homeland)
Daniel H Wilson*
First Sci-Fi Adult Novel: Robopocalypse, published in 2011. A supremely intelligent AI is accidentally released and begins to take down humanity by turning every automated robotic thing against them, leading to the New War. A group of Native Americans fight back with the help of a robot in love with a human mechanic.
Latest Novel: Robogenesis, published in 2014. The sequel to the super popular Robopocalypse takes place after humanity defeats the AI… or so they thought.
Awards: Alex Award (Robopocalypse), Barnes & Noble Best Book Award (Robopocalypse)
First Novel: Ghostwritten, published in 1999. (Sorry, I know I said 2000 but it’s really good!) This innovative novel follows 9 individual people across the world and intertwines their stories with “fearful symmetry. Though it’s tough to explain, people who read it claim they are permanently changed.
Best Known For: Cloud Atlas, published in 2004. If you have seen the movie, you know how impossible it is to explain, and the book is even more so. Through six separate stories, the reader picks out threads woven through centuries.
Awards: John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (Ghostwritten)
First Novel: According to Crow, published in 2005. Two boys from warring nations become friends and escape into a new world, but war follows.
Best Known For: The Alchemy of Stone, published in 2008. This steampunk novel follows an automaton’s role in a Proletariat Revolution in a city originally built by stone gargoyles.
First Novel: Ready Player One, published in 2011. The keys to a huge tech company are on the line for the Gunter (egg hunter [Easter Eggs, like in video games]) who discovers the 1980’s themed secrets in the world’s largest life sim in 2044.
Latest Novel: Armada, published in 2015. In 2018, a high school student sees a UFO from a popular video game outside his window. A shuttle picks him up and, in the vein of Enders Game, takes him to a military base where he learns the video game is a simulation of an actual war against aliens, and that he’s going to help them win.
Awards: Alex Award (Ready Player One), and Steven Spielberg is directing his screenplay.
First Novel: The Quantum Thief, published in 2010, first of a trilogy. Famous thief, Jean le Flambeur, is in jail. He’s sprung free by a warrior who needs him to steal the Pellegrini, but first he has to steal back his memories. He runs into a young detective from a suffocatingly polite society, and the game begins.
Upcoming Novel: Summerland, will be published in 2017. In 1938, the British Empire and other major players on the world stage are trying to expand their territory into the afterlife, called Summerland.
Awards: Tähtivaeltaja Award (The Quantum Thief), John W. Campbell Award (The Quantum Thief)
First Novel: Half Way Home, published in 2010. 500 people were sent to colonize an alien planet, but everything goes wrong. They wake up 15 years early, only 50 survive, and there are traitors among them.
Best Known For: The Silo Series, starting with Wool published in 2011. Humanity clings to survival in a subterranean city called the Silo, with each book following a different person living in the Silo.
Awards: Ridley Scott bought the film rights.
First Novel: Principles of Angels, published in 2008. This is the first of the Hidden Empire series, which contains five novels, ending with Queen of Nowhere, published in 2013. It takes place in Khesh City, a floating world above an uninhabitable planet policed by assassins called Angels. A singer and a prostitute are all that stands to save Khesh City.
Best Novel: Bringer of Light, published in 2011, is the fourth installment of the Hidden Empire series, and the highest rated (on Goodreads). It takes the narrative in a completely new direction, with a young man trying to save a lost world.
Awards: Fenn has been a guest of honor at many science fiction conventions.
First Sci-Fi Novel: The Passage, published in 2010. This is the first of The Passage Trilogy, which begins in a near-future apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic world plagued by vampiric creatures infected by a highly-contagious virus.
Latest Novel: The City of Mirrors, published in 2016. The third installment of The Passage Trilogy provides a thorough finish to the series, as well as in-depth flashbacks and forwards that reveal the fate of humanity.
Awards: The Whiting Award, Ridley Scott will direct the movie adaptations of The Passage Trilogy.
First Novel: A Conspiracy of Alchemists, published in 2013 is the first of The Chronicles of Light and Shadow series. Schwarz has been called the High Priestess of British Steampunk, and for good reason. An airship pilot gets dragged into an incipient magical apocalypse caused by up-to-no-good Alchemists.
Latest Novel: Sky Pirates, published in 2014. Though there are rumors of a fourth novel, Sky Pirates is so far the last of The Chronicles of Light and Shadow. Life has been hard for the spunky airship pilot, but a job in Egypt turns out to be a better opportunity than she ever imagined.
Awards: RNA Award (A Conspiracy of Alchemists)
First Novel: The first of an in-works trilogy, Spyridon, published in 2016, follows Jane Doe as she realizes that she doesn’t get along with people well because she isn’t one. One of her fellow beings brings her back to Spyridon, where she must join their fight for freedom.
First Novel: The Zombie Survival Guide, published in 2003, is a survival manual for ordinary citizens containing in-depth plans for surviving a zombie apocalypse.
Best Known For: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, published in 2006. This epistolary fiction novel is a collection of accounts of survivors of the catastrophic zombie outbreak.
Awards: Grand Canyon Reader Award (World War Z)
First Novel: The Gone-Away World, published in 2008. This novel follows a group of ex-special forces, now truckers, as they live in the bizarre post-apocalyptic wasteland polluted with a material that animates whatever people are thinking about (when they come into contact), bringing monsters and even new people to life.
Upcoming Novel: Gnomon will be published later this year (2017), and focuses on a state with omnipresent surveillance. Despite this, a murder takes place, and the detective on the case discovers more about her society than she bargained for.
First Novel: The Windup Girl, published in 2009. This biopunk novel is set in 23rd century Thailand, ravaged by global warming and run by biotech megacorps. The titular windup girl is stuck as an indentured worker in a sex club, and hopes of escaping while trapped in a world of corporations and subterfuge.
Latest Novel: The Water Knife, published in 2015, tells the story of a near-future world ravaged by drought.
Awards: Compton Crook Award (The Windup Girl), Hugo Award (The Windup Girl), John W. Campbell Award (The Windup Girl), Locus Award (The Windup Girl), Nebula Award (The Windup Girl), Michael L. Printz Award (Ship Breaker), Prix Planète SF des blogueurs (The Windup Girl), Seiun Award (The Windup Girl)
First Novel: Starfish, published in 1999. (Ed: …rules were meant to be broken…)The first book of the Rifters trilogy introduces us to a world run off undersea power generating stations, manned by the outcasts and downtrodden. A startling discovery leads these Rifters to rise up with newfound strength.
Best Known For: Blindsight, published in 2006. This bizarre and challenging first-contact story follows a crew made up of a linguist with surgically induced multiple-personality disorder, a cyborg biologist, a pacifist soldier, a genetically modified vampire, and a man with half a brain incapable of empathy but a brilliant predictor of human actions, all led by an AI, sent to meet with an alien race stranger than them all combined.
Awards: SFinks Prize (Blindsight), Tähtivaeltaja Award (Blindsight), Seiun Award (Blindsight)
Richard K. Morgan*
First Novel: Altered Carbon, published in 2002. This dystopic cyberpunk novel (first of a trilogy) is set 500 years in the future, where humanity has spread to “extrasolar planets,” and can extend their lives by downloading their memories and personality into a new body. Takeshi Kovacs is a detective called in to solve an apparent suicide the deceased believes is a murder, due to a 48 hour lapse in his memory prior to death.
Latest Sci-Fi Novel: Thirteen (or Th1rt3en), published in 2007. Marsalis is a Thirteen, a genetically engineered super soldier meant to embody the “naked aggression and primal survival skills” of pre-civilization humans. Though the project was trashed because the people were afraid of the potential dangers, and the Thirteens were sent to rot on Mars, Marsalis is back, making a living as a bounty hunter when another Thirteen comes along to shake things up.
Awards: Philip K. Dick Award (Altered Carbon), Arthur C. Clarke Award (Thirteen), John W. Campbell Award (Market Forces)
Final Thoughts on New Modern Sci-Fi Authors
I personally am most excited to read Watts’ Rifters trilogy, but The Gone-Away World looks crazy interesting! From the Pretty Dang New section, I’ve added the following my Amazon cart: Salt, Accelerando, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, The Alchemy of Stone, Principles of Angels, The Gone-Away World, and Starfish. I’d love to hear which novels and authors you’re most jazzed about! And, as it should be, this list will continue to grow and evolve, and if I missed some new sci-fi authors you think deserves a spot on this list, please comment! One thing talented writers can never get enough of is exposure, so share, share, share!