This is for all of you who are scared to dip your feet into the ocean that is sci-fi. Whether it's because you aren't into spaceships or aliens, or if it's because you think it's too technological, intellectual, or depressing, I have something for you! Science fiction is just so varied that there really is something for everyone.
If there's anything in particular you are looking for, just ask and I'll do my best to recommend something for you!
Biological sci-fi (for those of you who don't like spaceships or physics or robots, but don't mind medical terms or think genetic engineering is cool)
This one is set in a world where people are born with two souls and one fades away over time. But what happens when your other soul never really goes away?
The story is very character-centric and there's a bit of medical terminology, but I would call it sci-fi lite.
This is one of my favorite books, and while it is part of a series, I think it stands alone very well. It's set in a world where teenagers who are considered "unstable" can be "unwound" - their body parts and organs will be given to people who need them (and since all parts of their body will still be living, it's called "separated existence," not murder). It's very frightening, very character-driven, and very good!
Environmental sci-fi (what happens after we use up our natural resources)
All of Paolo Bacigalupi's books deal with the environment and the state of the world after we have abused it. My personal favorite is the Windup Girl, but that one might be very intense for people who are intimidated by engineering jargon, foreign languages, and books that deal with very difficult topics (i.e. abuse). So instead I recommend Ship Breaker - which is technically YA but definitely not watered down or over-simplified, just less disturbing and jargon-heavy. It's about a world run by giant agricultural and oil companies, and people scavenging for supplies off of old ships to survive. Nailer is one such scavenger, and when he finds a newly-beached clipper, he has to decide whether to scavenge for all its worth or help the wealthy young girl trapped inside - and maybe find a way to a better life. But perhaps life outside isn't as great as he thinks it is. Perhaps he won't ever find out.
Madeleine L'Engle's books are all wonderful stories in themselves, but what makes them really great is how much you grow to love the characters. You almost start believing that you are a part of the Murry clan! I loved A Wrinkle in Time and the rest of the books in the series - they are always hopeful and beautiful, and even when there is darkness, you always know light will prevail.
Books that take place in space but aren't too technology-heavy
Ok, ok, so Ender's Game might be a bit more on the spaceships & aliens side, but the focus of this book is really the characters and how they deal with what's thrown at them. Even if you have been put off by the movie, you should read the book - it's very thought-provoking. I liked the sequel, Speaker for the dead, even better, so if you are up for it go read both of them! (The rest of the Ender and Ender's Shadow quartet are also good, but I don't think they are quite as good as the first two Ender books).
There's another book that I want to put on here, but knowing that it takes place in space will be a huge spoiler so I'm going to stick it somewhere else on this recommendation list :)
Sci-fi/fantasy blends (if you like a bit of magic and fairy dust to go along with your androids and dystopian worlds)
Mistborn is more fantasy than science fiction, but it's set in a dystopian world and the magic system is pseudo-scientific (alchemy, anyone?). I really enjoyed it, and I'd highly recommend it (a synopsis and my review can be found here).
Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella in a dystopian earth where plagues ravage the population and gorgeous humanoid aliens from the moon are trying to take over. Oh, and did I mention Cinderella is now Cinder, a cyborg? This is a great fairy-tale retelling!
Dystopian novels and Revolutions
I actually didn't care for this book that much, but I didn't think it was necessarily a bad book. I didn't really connect with these characters, but I'm sure other people will so I thought I'd put it on here. I think the tagline on the cover (Every revolution needs a hero) and the beginning of the synopsis say it all:
Keep Your Head Down.
Don't Get Noticed.
Don't Get Noticed.
What's a sci-fi recommendation list without the Hunger Games? I do recommend the first book, but I would suggest either lowering your expectations for the next two or just watching the movies because the books sort of went downhill for me. Unless of course it doesn't bother you when your characters change dramatically (personality and motivation-wise) over the course of a series or you can accept that people are simply pawns of war - in which case, keep reading! You might enjoy them more than I did.
This is hands down my favorite science fiction series, so GO READ THIS.
If that isn't enough to convince you, here's my review of the third book - it doesn't spoil anything from the series, and it gives you a much better picture of why I liked it so much than my review of the first one.
Again, what's a sci-fi recommendation list without Margaret Atwood? I'm assuming that A Handmaid's Tale is already on your radar (and if it isn't, go read it!), so I'm recommending Oryx and Crake. This series is very well-written and very horrifying because of how plausible all of these twisted scenarios are. It's more on the biological/pharma side of things, if that's something you're interested in. I love this series, and I have yet to read the last book, but I'm sure it will be wonderful.
And the final no-brainer, 1984! This is the first dystopian novel I've read, and I was fascinated. It's not a very fast-paced story, but I couldn't stop thinking about the ending for a very very long time. This one requires mulling over, but I highly recommend it!