In honor or National Science Fiction Day on January 2nd, this month’s task for our 2022 Reading Challenge is to read a hard sci-fi novel rooted in actual, real-world science. Below you’ll find a few recommendations to meet the task, but for even more suggestions, give us a call at 708-867-7828. Your librarians are here to help.
Download a printable form and keep track of your reading tasks throughout the year to earn a free book.
Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
An enormous cylindrical object has entered Earth’s solar system on a collision course with the sun. A team of astronauts are sent to explore the mysterious craft, which the denizens of the solar system name Rama. What they find is astonishing evidence of a civilization far more advanced than ours. They find an interior stretching over fifty kilometers; a forbidding cylindrical sea; mysterious and inaccessible buildings; and strange machine-animal hybrids, or “biots,” that inhabit the ship. But what they don’t find is an alien presence. So who—and where—are the Ramans?
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place. So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What’s known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine-and what he will become is far stranger.
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Discover the novel that launched one of science fiction’s most beloved, acclaimed, and awarded trilogies: Kim Stanley Robinson’s masterly near-future chronicle of interplanetary colonization. “A staggering book . . . the best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written.”–Arthur C. Clarke For centuries, the barren, desolate landscape of the red planet has beckoned to humankind. Now a group of one hundred colonists begins a mission whose ultimate goal is to transform Mars into a more Earthlike planet. They will place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light onto its surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels drilled into the mantle will create stupendous vents of hot gases. But despite these ambitious goals, there are some who would fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Private William Mandella is a hero in spite of himself–a reluctant conscript drafted into an elite military unit. He never wanted to go to war, but the leaders on Earth have drawn a line in the interstellar sand–despite the fact that their fierce alien enemy is unknowable, unconquerable, and very far away.
Contact by Carl Sagan
In December, 1999, a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who — or what — is out there? In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he predicts its future — and our own.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future–to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save humankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire–both scientists and scholars–and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.
The Children of Men by P. D. James
The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
Humanity has colonized the solar system–Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond–but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli , they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for–and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything. Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations–and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.