The Top 10 Sci-Fi Series Of The Decade Subverted The Genre In The Best Ways
As the end of the decade draws near, we are taking a look at some of the best books of the past ten years. The 2010s were a great time to be a fan of the science fiction genre. Not only did we get peak television and movies, but we also got some excellent science fiction novels. Here we will take a look at the top 10 sci-fi series of the decade.
The Top 10 Sci-Fi Series Of The Decade
Here are the rules that I made up, similar to those I implemented in my best fantasy series of the decade post. Only one series per author. There must be at least at least three books in the series out currently. Trilogies are a series. The first book in each series has to have come out in 2010 or later. I am allowing science-fantasy on this list as I’m not that much of a genre snob and I don’t think sci-fi has to be ‘hard’ all the time. As always, this list is highly subjective and I determine rankings in a variety of ways that definitely did not involve throwing darts at a board (not too much anyway – we all know rankings are arbitrary right?). I also had a lot of help from Goodreads rankings for this list. Now let’s dive in.
10) Bel Dame Apocrypha Series by Kameron Hurley
Image via Simon & Schuster
The first book in this series God’s War came out in 2010 and was a nominee for the best novel at the Nebula Awards. This series revolves around Nyx, an assassin turned bounty hunter/pirate living in a post-apocalyptic world. This series may actually be science-fantasy since it involves magic and shapeshifters. However, it also involves aliens and giant bugs on another planet, so I’m placing it in the sci-fi category. The series spans three main novels and a couple of novellas set in the universe. An elite sisterhood of assassins with kick-ass female characters in a unique world elevates these novels into the top 10 sci-fi series of the decade.
9) Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers
Image via Harper Collins
A space opera that is certain to satisfy any fan of Battlestar Galactica or Firefly. The Wayfarers series began in 2014 with The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet. This character-driven series is different from much of the plot-driven science fiction that typically drives the genre. Wayfarers follows the ragtag crew of an interstellar starship and asks deep questions about what it means to be human in a chaotic universe. In a 2018 interview with Barnes & Noble, Chambers said “I want my books to feel like a good future, something you might want to be part of and work toward. I want you to believe that there’s something beyond dystopia worth fighting for.” This thoughtful series eschews the grim and gritty tone of so much sci-fi and fantasy. Instead, Chambers chooses to focus on hopeful narratives, and the wonder found in the stars.
8) Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel
Image via Random House
Sleeping Giants came out in 2016, a debut sci-fi novel of a different breed. It starts with a young girl who who discovers a bizarre artifact – a giant metal hand buried in the Earth. It follows her to adulthood as she attempts to understand and piece together the limbs of a giant metal robot that have been scattered all around the world. Secret conspiracies and ancient alien technology make this action-packed trilogy a fun and unique read. Do you like giant robots? Then you will love the Themis Files.
7) Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown
Image via Random House
Red Rising was Brown’s debut novel which came out in 2014. This story of humanity living in caste systems on Mars in the far future will be enjoyable for fans of The Hunger Games. The color-coded society of Red Rising is built on a lie that keeps members of the lower class toiling to make Mars liveable for the upper caste. One man sets out to infiltrate the elite Gold caste and uncover the truth. Brown drew inspiration from “the plight of Irish immigrants in the U.S. in the 19th century, and the disenfranchisement of the lower classes.” There is also a companion prequel series of comic books – Red Rising: Son of Ares – published by Dynamite in 2017.
6) Southern Reach Series by Jeff VanderMeer
Image via MacMillan Publishers
The three books in this series – Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance were all released within six months of one another in 2014. These eco-sci-fi novels center around Area X, a mysterious wilderness cut off from civilization for decades. A secret organization (the titular Southern Reach) has been sending expeditions into Area X over and over again, each of them failing in a new way. The first novel was also adapted by Alex Garland in 2018, in a film starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac. As weird as that movie was, it only scratches the surface of the utter weirdness of VanderMeer’s novels. The Southern Reach series masterfully blends science fiction with psychological horror. Fans of Stephen King will want to check out this series.
5) The Silo Trilogy by Hugh Howey
Image via Simon & Schuster
Author Hugh Howey gave hope to aspiring writers everywhere when he self-published the short story Wool in 2011. That story turned into a best-selling series that have since been released in omnibus form. Wool, Shift, and Dust contain the novellas that turned into the Silo trilogy. It starts with a post-apocalyptic society living underground in giant silos. The lives and social status of individuals are determined by what level of the underground bunker they inhabit. Compelling characters and suspenseful mysteries drive the Silo trilogy. Fans of the Fallout video game series will also find a lot to enjoy in the books, with its vault-like silos and tales of humanity struggling to survive in a post-nuclear world.
4) The Interdependency Series by John Scalzi
Image via Tor
John Scalzi is a highly prolific science fiction author who rose to acclaim with his Old Man’s War series in the early 2000’s. However in 2017, Scalzi put out the first book in a new space opera series – The Collapsing Empire. This series revolves around an extra-dimensional field called The Flow that allows for interstellar travel. As The Flow shifts course, civilizations find themselves on the verge of collapse. That description may sound serious, but don’t be mistaken. Scalzi’s trademark humor is at its peak with this series, full of memorable characters and witty dialogue. Scalzi’s work is ‘accessible’ science fiction, so if you find yourself daunted by the prospect of overly serious space operas crammed with scientific terminology, you might want to check out The Interdependency Series.
3) The Binti Series by Nnedi Okorafor
Image via Tor
In an interview with Lightspeed Magazine, Author Nnedi Okorafor describes her award-winning novel Binti as “a space opera about an African girl in the future who sneaks away from her beloved home to attend the finest university in the galaxy.” Fans of Octavia Butler should absolutely check out the Binti series by Nnedi Okorafor (fun fact – Okorafor is also adapting Butler’s Wild Seed series for television!) As the foremost writer of Africanfuturism today, Okarafor’s writing draws heavily from her Nigerian heritage. She takes this rich history and integrates it naturally into her novels, sending her culture into the stars with her protagonist.
Binti won the Hugo, Nebula, and the Locus Awards for best novella and the story continues with Home and The Night Masquerade. Okaraofor’s originality and unique style marks a shift in the realms of science fiction. Binti helps move the genre away from traditionally white male dominated ‘hard’ science fiction. If any series of the past decade can indicate the sea change in science fiction novels, it is this one. Binti has certainly earned her spot in the top 10 sci-fi series of the decade.
2) The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey
Image via Hachette
James S.A. Corey is the pen name for The Expanse co-authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The two first came together creating adventures in the form of an online role-playing game. Yes, The Expanse actually started as a series of RPG adventures. The gamers also developed the characters and primary narratives together, before setting out to turn them into a series of novels. The first book Leviathan Wakes came out in 2011. It follows protagonist James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante. They are drawn into a web of political intrigue between Earth, Mars, and the ‘Belters’ who live and work on the asteroids. There is also a deeper mystery involving a detective and a missing girl that ends up becoming the thread of protomolecule that ties everything together.
It also didn’t take long for The Expanse to become a television series on the SyFy channel. It has since famously been cancelled, and then uncancelled when it was picked up by Amazon. Currently there are eight novels in the series, along with several short stories and novellas. The Expanse may just be the defining sci-fi series of the past ten years. This earns it the number 2 spot in our top 10 sci-fi series of the decade list.
1) Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann Leckie
Image via Hachette
Ancillary Justice was Ann Leckie’s debut novel, published in 2013, and what a debut it was. Upon its release, Ancillary Justice won a slew of literary awards – the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, and the Arthur C. Clarke awards all went to this book in 2013-2014. A space opera for the ages, the Imperial Radch trilogy is also a moving meditation on what it means to be human. The series is told in first-person (a rarity in sci-fi most of the time) and follows the character of Breq whose mysterious identity lies at the heart of the novel’s big questions and themes.
The official synopsis for Ancillary Justice tell us “On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren – a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.”
Ann Leckie came along and turned an entire genre of science fiction on its head. Her subversive and unique take on the space opera may scare off some fans. But if you can get past the fact that gender doesn’t really exist in this universe, and that thousands of people and/or ships can live inside of one body then you’ll find an emotionally resonant and compelling story.
What was your favorite sci-fi series of the past decade? Let us know by joining the conversation with Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today.
(Featured Image via Pixabay | Art by Thomas Budach)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.