Here is our shortlist of futuristic sci-fi works to kick-start your 2021.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Our list begins with an old novel that will soon reclaim its place among the all-time sci-fi greats. Frank Herbert’s Dune is being adapted into a movie and will be released this year. Published in 1965, Dune is set in the distant future where characters live in a feudal interstellar society. Noble houses take control or stewardship of planets. The narrative revolves around House Atreides as they fight various enemy houses. Themes of politics, religion, ecology, and technology are heavily featured in this book. Dune is the first among Frank Herbert’s famous sci-fi series. Its sequels include Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune. For hardcore sci-fi fans, Dune is a must-read work.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The last decade saw the rise of military sci-fi. One of the more successful works is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which was published in 2011. The story is set in a 2045 dystopia (not far from now) and follows the story of Wade Watts. Wade lives in poverty with his aunt. In order to help her, Wade becomes a “gunter” or an egg hunter. He spends most of his spare time researching 1980s -1990s songs, films, TV series, and videogames. Going by the avatar name Parzival, Wade joins the egg hunt, a virtual reality game. Finding the “Easter Egg” is a significant part of the story as anyone who can find the egg will inherit the game creator’s fortune. For Wade, this could mean a ticket out of the slums and the opportunity to take control of the OASIS, the virtual universe.

The Madhouse Projects by Rick Badman

Rick Badman is among the emerging sci-fi writers whose works feature distant future technology. One of his books, The Madhouse Projects, reminds me of the popular 80s TV series Back to the future. The book features a talented engineer named Dick Thurman. Thurman is dismissed from the university and began working for an organization called BOSS. The site is an underground research and development installation in Arizona called the Madhouse. There, Dick Thruman builds a flying car. Soon after, Dick’s wife Kate starts work in the facility and creates numerous inventions such as the virtual reality program and a micromachine program designed for people to experience “good trips.” The Madhouse Projects by Rick Badman is a remarkable adventure sci-fi that is light and easy to absorb. 

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi is another sci-fi author who rose to prominence since the start of the early 2000s. He has over 20 published works ranging from sci-fi novels to short stories. One of his early works is the 2004 Pump six and Other Stories. It is a collection of eleven short sci-fi stories. The collection includes Paolo Bacigalupi’s early and award-winning works such as “Yellow Card Man” (Hugo nominee), “The Calorie Man” which is a Sturgeon award-winning short story, and “The People of the Sand and Slag” which was nominated in both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Among the themes featured in the book are social criticism, environmental advocacy, and political parable. The collection includes space opera, time travel, hard SF, alien invasion, near-future dystopia, alternate history, and steampunk.

Artemis by Andy Weir

After the successful publication and movie adaptation of his first novel, The Martian, best-selling author Andy Weir released Artemis. Set on the only city established on the Moon in the 2080s, Artemis (also the city’s name) follows the story of porter Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara. To make ends meet and survive in an expensive city such as Artemis, Jazz also ventures part-time as a smuggler. Her adventure begins when Jazz is offered a large sum of money that could be her ticket to a more decent life. However, the job entails a crime worse than smuggling. As she begins to execute the plans for her ultimate job, Jazz finds herself in a middle of a complex power-struggle to control the city. Artemis is a high-octane space sci-fi that readers will surely enjoy. In 2017, Andy Weir’s second book was voted as sci-fi of the year by Goodreads readers.