One of my favorite things about being a Howler is seeing new fans emerge and join the pack. Such is the case for Corrine Sinfield, a new Howler who reached out through the contact form months ago to express her excitement over Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series and ask what other books I’d recommend to tide her over while we all eagerly await the arrival of Dark Age. I wrote her back with some of my ideas and vowed to do a post breaking down my full list of books that are well worth a read if you haven’t already. Here’s Corrine’s message…
I stumbled upon this series by accident. I think the first book was cheap on Amazon. I’m absolutely addicted to the series and am just rereading it all as I flicked though so quickly on the first turn just to see what happens! I know I will finish it again soon and am concerned as to what to read next. My usual genre was historical fiction but since Pierce Brown I’m craving for sci-fi. Can you recommend anything to tide me over until the next book comes out!! I love your site never can i recall ever being so into a series!! Best wishes and regards Corrine uk xxx
Before I get to my recommendations, I think it only fair to state that when I fall in love with a series, I tend to avoid looking for other books with a similar plot or setting. The standard is set too high that anything similar runs a high chance of paling by comparison. I bounce around, looking for good stories wherever I can find them. So if you’re looking for a list of books that are just like Red Rising, I apologize. This is not that list. This is a list of books I love in the range of almost-as-much-as to just-as-much-as Red Rising.
Here they are in no particular order…
Ender’s Game (1985) – Orson Scott Card
Set in the future when humanity is preparing for a space war against an alien race, child-genius Ender Wiggin is recruited to train in a battle school alongside other brainy and ambitious kids. The story has Ender facing various mental, physical and psychological tests as he rises the ranks in the face of the impending war.
Why it’s great:
While the story is great, full of suspense and great moments, it’s Ender’s humanity that allows Enders Game to stand out as one of the better sci-fi novels out there. Admittedly, I still haven’t read past the first book to see where the story goes next, but I did check out Ender’s Shadow, which offers some fascinating insights (and some very interesting reveals) from the perspective of one of Ender’s closest allies.
The Martian (2011) – Andy Weir
During a mission to Mars, an explosion happens that results in scientist Mark Watney’s crew believing he’s dead. The crew has to abandon the planet, unknowingly leaving Mark to fend for himself on a barely habitable planet. The story follows Mark as he attempts to survive and communicate with Earth in the hopes of being rescued.
Why it’s great: It’s so much fun! Even if you’ve seen the movie, the book really is such a great read and delves a bit deeper into Mark’s efforts to survive on Mars. As The Martian’s narrator, Mark Watney is candid and funny, offering scientific insights into his day-to-day activities while also lacing everything with a bit of humor and sarcasm. And all of it builds up to an exciting, nail-biting conclusion.
Ready Player One (2011) – Ernest Cline
Set in 2045, when humanity spends most of its time gaming, working, shopping, learning and socializing in a virtual-reality world known as the OASIS, one kid is among many trying win it all. It’s five years after OASIS creator James Halliday has died, and whoever finds all three keys hidden somewhere in the OASIS will inherit his massive fortune as well as ownership of the OASIS. As Halliday was a major fan of 80s pop culture, those seeking the keys and the coveted egg know that the secret to the keys likely exists somewhere amidst all of the 80s pop culture references that exist around the OASIS.
Why it’s great: Think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except instead of winning candy, Wade Watts is trying to win what is effectively the internet of the future. As an underdog tale, the story itself feels like something out of the 1980s. It’s exciting, clever and altogether satisfying to see Wade and his friends attempt to navigate Hallidays riddles in search of the keys to the ultimate prize. (Again, you may have seen the movie, but there’s so much in the book that plays out differently.)
Dark Matter (2016) – Blake Crouch
Part mystery, part sci-fi adventure, Dark Matter centers on Jason, a husband, father and college physics professor who gets abducted and when he comes to, discovers he’s in an alternate reality where he’s not married and has no kids. The story progresses as Jason has to figure out how he got there and how to get back.
Why it’s great: God I love alternate realities, though I don’t envy the writer who’s brave enough to tackle them. Seriously, Dark Matter‘s such a thrilling, clever journey. It has a lot of fun exploring the concept of the (many) paths not taken from one determined scientist’s perspective…s.
Outlander (1991) – Diana Gabaldon
Claire is a British combat nurse who’s fresh out of World War 2 and on holiday with her husband in Scotland when she touches a stone and finds herself transported back to the 18th century. Out of her time, she finds herself arranged to marry Jamie Fraser, a dashing Scottish warrior. Romance and adventure ensues.
Why it’s great: It’s light on the actual sci-fi, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction, Outlander‘s a winner. Not only does it offer a view of 18th Century Scotland, but it does it with the perspective of a (relatively) modern day woman. Claire may be out of her time, but she’s more than capable of handling herself in this more brutal reality. Plus, the romance is great (and the love scenes are no joke, so brace yourself.)
The Stand (1978) – Stephen King
Set in the aftermath of an apocalyptic virus that wipes out most of humanity, society has broken down and good and evil find their place among what’s left of humanity. The story follows characters on both sides as it builds up to their inevitable confrontation.
Why it’s great: As an author, Stephen King is good at a lot of things. Writing great characters is high among them and The Stand is one of the more stellar examples of that. In the grand tradition of King books, The Stand is a lengthy read, but it’s the kind of story that grows on you over time and really takes hold with every page.
Timeline (1999) – Michael Crichton
A group of history students must travel back to 14th Century France in the hopes of tracking down their stranded professor.
Why it’s great: Man, I love Michael Crichton. The author really knew how to twist science into a great story and somehow break it all down in a digestible and often thrilling way. In the case of Timeline, it’s mixing quantum physics with history and adventure. A group of young students embark on a daring mission and test their knowledge of a place and time they only know from books and digs. (If the plot sounds familiar, it was adapted into a movie in 2003 staring Gerard Butler and Paul Walker.)
Warm Bodies (2010) – Isaac Marion
Set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, Warm Bodies is not told from the perspective of a survivor, but rather, from one of the zombies. R can’t remember the rest of his name, nor does he know much about his former life. Still, he’s managed to maintain just enough of his self-awareness to fall in love with Julie, one of the remaining human survivors.
Why it’s great: A zombie romance? Seriously?! And yet, somehow Isaac Marion manages to make it work. Warm Bodies is charming and suspenseful, thanks to R’s clever inner-voice and a delightfully suspenseful plot, and is well worth a read.
The Passage (2010) – Justin Cronin
The world is on the verge of a full-on vampire apocalypse caused by a contagious virus, when a lawman is tasked with tracking down a little girl who could be the key to saving humanity. That’s the basic synopsis, but story is so much bigger than that. It following different characters and advances significantly through time as this virus takes hold.
Why it’s great: Vampires are not falling in love in this story. These vampire-like former humans are the mean, bitey kind that humans run from, not toward. Much like The Stand, this is the kind of story that takes its time to bring you into it. It introduces multiple characters and throws a few twists and gut-punching turns along the way. I’m still working my way through the second book in this series, but I can already tell it’s a keeper. (Plus, FOX is turning it into a TV show set to air in 2019).
Other great books and series:
I expect to add on to this part as I think of more books I love…
Harry Potter – JK Rowling (Not exactly sci-fi, but I’m a massive fan, so I can’t leave it off this list. Even if you’ve seen the movies, the books are required reading for life.)
Scythe – Neil Schusterman
Lock In – John Scalzi