To the moon and back
From ‘Interstellar Afrotourism’ to a journey into the farthest reaches of the universe, here’s a reading list to stir your grey cells
BINTI by Nnedi Okorafor
Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novella in 2015-16, Binti is the first major work of science fiction to feature a female African protagonist. Set in a future when intergalactic travel is a reality, this novel (the first of a trilogy) by Nigerian author Nnedi Okorafor traces the journey of a young woman named Binti who leaves home to study at a prestigious intergalactic university—the first of her race to do so. The book, which has been described as “Interstellar Afrofuturism”, tells a sci-fi adventure story while subtly dismantling ideas of race and cultural identity.
ASTROPHYSICS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY
by Neil deGrasse Tyson
This best-selling book is a collection of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s essays answering questions that often puzzle us: What is the nature of space and time? How important are we in the universal scheme of things? (answer: not very). Although written in Tyson’s trademark wry, accessible style (“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you”), be warned that this book is not “Astrophysics for Dummies” and you will need to exercise your brain (and internet search skills) to grasp the monumental concepts Tyson touches upon.
PACKING FOR MARS: THE CURIOUS
SCIENCE OF LIFE IN THE VOID
by Mary Roach
In this quirky and atypical book about space colonization, Mary Roach approaches the subject from a functional, utilitarian perspective with chapters that discuss human bodily functions in space (going to the loo, having sex, vomiting) but also those that navigate deeper waters: How much can humans give up? How do astronauts cope with prolonged isolation? This is as close to the “a towel is the most important item a Hitchhiker can carry” kind of advice that an actual book on space travel can give.
THE EXPANSE SERIES by James S.A. Corey
This is the space saga of recent years, in book or film, with meticulous, vivid world-building and bang-on politics. Written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who use the joint pseudonym “James S.A. Corey”, The Expanse is set hundreds of years in the future when humanity has colonized practically the entire solar system, and a new hierarchy has emerged—Mars is a powerful political entity while the asteroid belt is an exploited colony where humans (“Belters”) have developed a different physicality because of generations spent in zero gravity. The science is solid and the storytelling fabulous.
RED MOON by Kim Stanley Robinson
This sci-fi novel takes place in 2047, a mere 30 years in the future, and is a realistic depiction of what living in the time of space travel will mean for us. In the book, the moon has been colonized by China and quantum engineer Fred Fredericks is travelling there for the first time with Ta Shu, a celebrity travel reporter. There’s a murder in this book, a political revolution, an exploration of Chinese culture, and an intriguing life-on-luna perspective from one of the most imaginative contemporary sci-fi writers.
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