Generation ships, sentient forests, exploding moons — there has been no shortage of action, speculation, and mystery in the year’s best sci-fi and fantasy novels. These books are remarkable, too, for the way they brazenly combine tropes from many different genres. In several of these novels, for example, mythological, intellectual, and literary history combine in unfamiliar and enlightening ways. In others, the uncanny reigns and the human is decentered — whether we’re talking about a disturbing imaginary friend or a weaponized cat. Here are the best sci-fi and fantasy novels of the year so far.
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson
Call it an ark, a generation ship — whatever. The trope is arguably the most agile in all of recent narrative art. From Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme to Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men to Wall-E, the ark is ubiquitous in the cinema of the last 15 years, serving mostly to rescue humanity from imaginative deadlock as well as the material constraints of life on Earth. Until recently, the image of the ark has been less persuasive in the novel, but that all changed last month with the publication of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, which is by some measure the greatest of all 21st century ark narratives. You can read an excerpt from Aurora at The Baffler, where Robinson is the fiction editor, here.