Science fiction has always been thought of as a genre for men. People always think of alien invasions, colonization and time travel as topics that would interest the boys. However, nothing could be further from the truth, and it’s high time we change our perceptions about this genre. Today, we bring to you a list of 20 Sci-fi novels with powerful female protagonists who claim their agency and propel the plot.
List of Sci-fi Novels with Powerful Female Protagonists
- Satellite Love by Genki Ferguson
- Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
- Warcross by Marie Lu
- The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Kindred by Octavia E Butler
- Forget Me Not by Alexandra Oliva
- The Vines by Shelley Golden
- Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
- Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
- Artificial Absolutes by Mary Fan
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
- Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
- Across the Universe by Beth Revis
- Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
- Mindscape by Andrea Hairston
Satellite Love by Genki Ferguson
Satellite Love follows our protagonist Anna Obata as she navigates her lonely life as an outcast from school and a caretaker of her senile grandfather. As the millennium turns over, she gazes at the stars for comfort and ends up being noticed by a Low Earth Orbit Satellite. What follows is a tale of movement from loneliness to intimate human connection, with lots of complications and plot twists. It is a bittersweet novel, one that will move you to tears just as it fills you with intense hope and love.
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
This novel is an imaginative story of astronauts in a compromised spaceship who cannot seem to remember their past. Amidst the confusion, they realize that they are in their cloning vats, implying that the clone’s previous incarnation has died. The novel is now a mystery about the murderer – it has to be one of them. This is a gripping tale of that combines sci-fi and mystery to discuss themes of personhood and humanity.
Warcross by Marie Lu
This story follows Emika Chen, a hacker who tracks people who illegally bet on a game that practically the whole world is obsessed with. A glitch on the night of the opening game turns her into an overnight superstar and which snowballs into something much bigger than what she expected. A total page turner with a stellar plot, this one packs a punch.
The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker
As the title suggests, this novel follows the sole bar owner of Mars, who also happens to be its Empress, Mary Griffith as she expands the small colony into an independent metropolis and wards off intruders from Earth. A classic sci-fi plot with quirky additions, sci-fi lovers are sure to love this one.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
The latest addition to the sci-fi world, this book was published on the 2nd of March this year. It’s set in a dystopian future where children are genetically engineered to be smarter and deliberately kept away from socialization. Klara is our protagonist and one such Artificial Friend. This novel, which has created a lot of buzz in the reading community, chronicles her experiences in the dystopian world.
Kindred by Octavia E Butler
A magnificent narrative that combines slave history, time travel and subjugation of women, Octavia Butler creates a story that is as heartrending as it is unforgettable. It chronicles the life of Dana who travels back in time and meets her ancestors who have borne the shunt of slavery. Aware of its repercussions in the present, she becomes intimately involved in the affair. All these elements (and more) make it a must read.
Forget Me Not by Alexandra Oliva
This novel takes place in the near future and follows Linda, living in occupied Seattle, far away from her hometown. Linda’s mother has mysteriously disappeared and secrets continue to plague Linda – what has happened to Linda’s parents and her sister? As she navigates her life as the “Clone Girl,” she must figure out her identity. This novel is a well crafted mystery with elements of sci-fi that enrich its plot.
The Vines by Shelley Golden
Set in a decrepit hospital somewhere in New York, this book is the story of Cora, a beautiful and mysterious girl trapped in the hospital. Ravaged by inhumane experiments and contagions, Cora is waiting to be discovered by Finn, who will uncover her past. Again a blend of mystery and sci-fi, this book gives as much as it promises.
Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
In a fantasy world where everyone derives unusual ‘currentgifts’ from the an eternal source of power, Cyra combats her useless and problematic currentgift of pain. Meanwhile, she also refuses to stay a pawn in the hands of her brother, and this sci-fi novel becomes a reflection on the power of women to reclaim their agency.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The first book in the Lunar Chronicle series is a retelling of the fairy tale “Cinderella” but with a sci-fi twist. Queen Levana watches on from Luna (the moon), waiting to make a move to colonize Earth. The fate of Earth hinges on the cyborg, Lihn Cinder and this thrilling adventure is what the novel encompasses. Let’s just say, the hype around this one isn’t without reason.
Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza
Comprising space travel, a queen trying to reclaim her throne, assassination attempts and forced unison of rivals, this novel has all the elements of good science fiction. Yet, it is anything but stereotypical. With its fast pace, diversity and inclusion, this one binds the traditional aspects of sci-fi with its unique aspects. Moreover, it gives recognition to a much overlooked element in science fiction – prejudice due to colour.
Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
Set in the future where the planet is torn about by ecological decadence, this novel follows Minh as she goes about restoring river ecosystems. However, with the invention of time travel comes the ability to live a life abounding in nature’s bounty and avoid the ecological disaster humanity has brought upon himself. Long term restoration projects are stalled as humanity turns yet again to instant gratification. As Minh embarks on an adventure to Tigris and Euphrates of 2000 BC, she goes to the roots of time travel to solve the problem. This sci-fi read is replete with thought-provoking ideas and tugs at one’s conscience and accountability.
Artificial Absolutes by Mary Fan
In this thrilling science fiction–adventure introduces a society where interstellar travel is an everyday reality, computers infiltrate every aspect of human life, and the forbidden technology of artificial intelligence may be closer than most people suspect. When Jane Colt accidentally witnesses the kidnapping of her best friend, Adam, she calls on her big brother, Devin, hoping he’ll believe her even when all the records say that there’s no way she saw what she claims. Soon the two of them are in flight and what ensues is pure adventure.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In this cruel dystopian tale, Offred must enter into a sort of sexual servitude to Fred and must perform just one function – breed and help repopulate the earth. If she refuses to do so, she must meet her death. When she is unable to get pregnant by Fred, she sleeps with Nick, the driver. This quickly turns into a passionate affair with far-reaching consequences. This is a dystopian classic, with strong undercurrents of feminism and makes for a disturbing yet fulfilling read.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
With civilization on the brink of extinction due to a flu pandemic, Kirsten and her band of musicians and actors traverse the world, trying to keep the spirit of humanity burning. As villains and circumstances stir things up, the novel picks up pace and draws you in.
Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
The only graphic novel on this list, Bitch Planet is a feminist take on the exploitation film genre. In a dystopian reality in the near future, women are banished to a prison on a different planet if they fail to comply with their patriarchal overlords. Filled with several female protagonists – with diverse, races, colours, bodies and sexual orientations – this book is a kick in the shin of patriarchy and racism. Plus it’s also an engaging and refreshing read, replete with wonderful illustrations by Taki Soma and Valentien De Landro.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
The first book in the trilogy, Across the Universe is the story of frozen people being transported to a new planet over the course of 300 years, but nothing goes to plan. Our protagonist Amy is expected to sleep throughout the journey, but wakes up 50 years earlier. Now, all rules of traditional space and time travel are put to waste. On top of this, there is a murder mystery and romance complications to spice things up. A perfect sci-fi with a strong female protagonist.
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
The stunning introduction to the Southern Reach trilogy is full of powerful women characters. The four main protagonists journey to an area cut off from civilization. This is the twelfth expedition to Area X. The first expedition reported a utopic place, the second committed mass suicide and the eleventh died of cancer. The book chronicles the events that unfold during the twelfth expedition and is a brilliant, well-paced read.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This story follows Rosemary Harper as she journeys through space in the ship ‘Wayfarer.’ Her eventful journey becomes all the more dangerous when she must risk her life (for reasons that we won’t give because they’re full of spoilers.) To navigate these uncertain times, she learns to depend and trust in her crew, and discovers and redefines love in the process. A peculiar blend of sci-fi and literary fiction, this book is a great feel-good yet thrilling read.
Mindscape by Andrea Hairston
In a futuristic world divided into zones by the extra-terrestrial Barrier, interzonal war breaks out. Greedy politicians, religious fanatics and gangsters try to impede the peace treaty and the architect of the treaty is assassinated. The novel follows her protege Elleni as she tries to make things better. This is a uniquely feminist book which also offers elements of fantasy and thrill. The fluid timeline and non-linear narrative make it all the more interesting.
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