Top SFF Books of 2021

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This year has been a pretty good year as far as reading goes. I managed to get just under 140 books read and so far that’s been the most since 2018. When I went to pull all my five star reads (excluding multiple books from the same series or re-reads of old favorites) I only had a list of ten — which is convenient for me since I love round numbers.

However, ten is pretty low all things considered. About one third of my reading was non-fiction this year, so that could be part of the reason why it’s so low. But, another big reason is burnout. I’m going to diversify more next year and read more of other genres, review those, and see what happens. Maybe there’s an audience for it, or maybe there isn’t — but either way, I need to change things up before I never five-star anything, lol.

That said, here are the ten reads this year that kicked it up a notch and got me to hand out 5 stars.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

I loved this book so much, and the audio that accompanied it just took it to another level. This was a nice bounce-back surprise since I didn’t like Artemis all that much. The MC is sent out into space to try and save Earth from an unforeseen threat that starts fucking with the sun. This had a great sense of humor, an intimate cast, a tense setting, big consequences, and interspecies communication trial and error technique that just tickled me to my bones.

Swordheart by T. Kingfisher

Aye, a romance has made it onto my list! This has an older cast which caught my attention right away. I’m too old and grumpy for young-love to really get me interested. This had a widower who meets an unlikely companion. He’s a touch ornery and hilariously ‘wrong for the times’. He’s been put into a sword and only comes out every few decades or so, and at this point he’s hundreds of years old. What I love most about this journey of theirs, is that she gets them out of a lot of bad situations by being smart as often as he fights their way out. She’s also super curious and a scientist at heart. She comes up with some amazing experiments to see what does and doesn’t happen when he pops in and out of the sword, had me giggling so hard. <3

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

This is the second in a series and I really enjoyed the expansion to the world and its people. I don’t want to be spoilery on a top ten list, so I’ll say if you enjoyed the first book I think you’re going to love the second. Everything is building in a satisfying way, and I found Lin and her struggles to be very compelling.

Idols Fall by Mike Shel

This is the third in a series. I almost never make it to book two, so I need to really love a series to make it to book three or beyond. This concluded a series I’ve been following for a long time, and it’s so satisfying when an author sticks the landing.

We are Legion (Bobiverse) by Dennis E. Taylor

These are just fun… your mileage may vary depending on your sense of humor and how much you like scifi/androids/AI. A guy pays a lot of money to have his brain/personality “saved” to eventually be revived and put into a new body when technology was up to snuff. When they wake him up though it’s not a human body they put him into, they put into an android. What’s worse is he’s treated like a slave and so he has to find a way to free himself. What’s also cool is he can self-replicate… so it gets really crazy and I followed this through to book 3. I didn’t stop because I wasn’t enjoying it, I just got side tracked. While writing this list it’s served as a welcome reminder that I need to go back and read the rest.

Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I honestly don’t recall how I came across this one, it could be an audible sale. I’m really glad I gave it a shot because what a strange little book this is about alternate lives and leans into the idea that we all have, “what could have been”. This book is based around a suicidal MC and her journey through “what could have been” if random parts of her life had just been a little different. Each time she picks up a book in this midnight library she’s thrown into a full alternate timeline where she chose a different path in life. A different boyfriend, a different job, a different university…It’s a cathartic experience and speaking as someone who’s suffered from depression I found this to be an incredibly good read. Matt Haig himself speaks a lot on depression (which I looked into after reading this). Your mileage may vary and I would not necessarily recommend this for everyone given the theme.

Recursion by Black Crouch

This was one of my first reads getting back into scifi this year, and I really loved the audio that went with it. A guy gets caught in a time loop and it’s like a blend of Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day. People are having what’s known as False Memory Syndrome and imagining whole lives that never happened. The main character is navigating a wave of suicides and homicides as society is dealing with delusions on a mass scale. Imagine if Covid also gave you hallucinations so real you thought you lived them.

The Age Of Madness Series by Joe Abercrombie

And the most depressing book series of the year goes to: The Age of Madness. I started this journey when A Little Hatred came out a couple of years ago, but I read the last two of the series this year. This is dark, fucked up, funny, thrilling, gut wrenching, and depressing tale. If you’ve read Joe before, none of that should be surprising. It had an ending that will stick with me for a long time. It literally took the wind out of my sails for the rest of the day when I finished. It is so utterly rare when a book has a deep emotional impact on me like that, and it’s an auto-five star. This series is brutal, so if you’re not into that, pass on it.

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

This is one of the more political/character driven titles on the list, and I absolutely adored it. This is not the first in a series, however. It starts with City of Lies, which obviously I also recommend. Everything in this book kicks up a notch from where it was, and the prose was just outstanding. It’s rare when characters grip me so hard and I’m so invested in everything they’re doing. This is a fantastic follow-up and I would say anyone who liked the first will adore the second. I am going to devour whatever she produces next.

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

This is the strangest book on my list but I stand behind it fully. Tippy is a detective… and a triceratops. He was at one time a little girl’s imaginary friend and is now working the streets of the “Stillreal”, a place for rejected imaginary friends. Someone is killing imaginary friends, something that was thought to be impossible, and Tippy is on the case. This actually got kinda dark considering the premise, but omg was it good.

I’m hoping that there’s something on this list for everyone. I didn’t do it intentionally, not sure that would be possible, but it’s got urban fantasy, political fantasy, low grimdark fantasy, go save earth first contact sci fi, time-twisting sci fi, AI/android alien planet colonization scifi, comedy romance high fantasy, classic epic high fantasy, and bonepunk fantasy. I can’t wait to see what makes it onto my 2022 list <3