Hadron Age SF: 75 Favorites from 2004–2023

This page will eventually list my favorite 75 science-fiction novels published during the Twenty-Oughts (2004–2013, according to HILOBROW’s periodization schema) and the Twenty-Tens (2014–2023). At the moment, it is very much a work in progress. As HILOBROW readers know, for some years now I’ve been focused on (re-) reading the best adventures — across all genres, including sf — of the twentieth century. Now, I need to catch up.

Science fiction’s 2004–2023 era doesn’t seem to have a moniker… so for the moment I thought I’d dub this the “Hadron Age.” In honor of the world’s largest and highest-energy particle collider, which opened for business in 2009… and the goal of which is to investigate the basic laws governing the interactions and forces among the elementary objects, the deep structure of space and time, and in particular the interrelation between quantum mechanics and general relativity. Seems like a decent metaphor, at least for now, for the knotty, challenging, breathtaking sf of this era.

Hope this list-in-progress is helpful to your own sf reading. Please let me know what I’ve overlooked.

— JOSH GLENN, WINTER 2021–2022

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JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST HADRON AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES (IN PROGRESS) | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.

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SOME PRE-HADRON AGE TITLES

The following titles from science fiction’s Diamond Age (1984–2003) era are listed here in order to provide historical context.

  • William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984).
  • Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985).
  • Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen (serialized 1986–1987).
  • Iain M. Banks’s Use of Weapons (1990).
  • Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents (1998).
  • China Miéville’s The Scar (2002).

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HADRON AGE SF: 2004–2013

Notes on sf from the Twenty-Oughts (2004–2013, according to HILOBROW’s periodization scheme) TBD.

Here’s the Twenty-Oughts list, so far. My tentative plan is to add a new title each week, beginning in January 2022.

  1. Iain M. Banks‘s The Algebraist (2004). Two thousand years from now, humans have spread outward from Earth across the galaxy — which is largely ruled by the hierarchical Mercatoria empire. Fassin Taak is a Slow Seer, a scholar who has devoted his life to studying the eccentric Dwellers, fabulously long-lived, slow-existing non-humanoids who inhabit gas-giant planets… in this case, Nasqueron. Some years ago, Fassin’s star system was cut off from the rest of the galaxy when their wormhole portal was destroyed… presumably by the Beyonders, space marauders may or may not be as bad as they’re made out to be. What they’re after, we’re given to understand, is the fabled Dweller List of coordinates for their own super-secret system of wormholes. Now Fassin must revisit the anarchic, semi-absurdist Nasqueron Dwellers in search of this MacGuffin… while wrestling with his conscience, which tells him not to turn the list over to the Mercatoria. There are a lot of villains in this fast-paced, complex, mind-expanding yarn… including a (literally) devilish warlord, whose fleet of crack soldiers is moving rapidly toward’s Fassin’s homeworld (Ulubis), not to mention one of Fassin’s oldest friends, a sociopathic industrialist. There’s also a backstory, here, about the Mercatoria’s persecution of Artificial Intelligences — which becomes, by the end, the main story. The space battles are epic, the Dwellers are weird and wonderful, and Fassin emerges as an inspiring figure — a middle-aged former radical who finds himself still willing to risk everything for a good cause. Fun facts: This is Banks’s third science fiction novel that isn’t set in The Culture… though in some ways it feels like a prequel to that series. His earlier two non-Culture sf novels are Against a Dark Background (1993) and Feersum Endjinn (1994).
  2. Charles Stross’s Glasshouse (2006).
  3. Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown (2007).
  4. Matthew De Abaitua’s The Red Men (2007).
  5. Lauren Beukes’s Moxyland (2008).
  6. Iain M. Banks‘s Surface Detail (2010).
  7. China Miéville‘s Embassytown (2011).
  8. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (2013).

The following titles are ones I intend to read or re-read before making a selection of my favorites from this period. (Not every title here, that is, will make the final list.) I may add other titles to this list, too; it’s a work in progress.

  • Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris’s comic Ex Machina, Vol. 1 (2004-2010).
  • Peter F. Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star (2004).
  • Theo Ellsworth’s Capacity (serialized 2004–2007, as a book 2008).
  • Minister Faust’s The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (2004).
  • Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage (2004). Nebula winner. N
  • David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004).
  • Jack McDevitt’s Polaris (2004).
  • Ken MacLeod’s Newton’s Wake (2004).
  • Ian McDonald’s River of Gods (2004).
  • Octavia E. Butler‘s Fledgling (2005). The author’s last book.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005).
  • Grant Morrison‘s run on Seven Soldiers of Victory (serialized 2005–2006).
  • Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island (French: La Possibilité d’une île, 2005).
  • Jack McDevitt’s Seeker (2005). Nebula winner.
  • Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin (2005). Hugo winner.
  • Charles Stross’s Accelerando (2005).
  • John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War (2005).
  • Geoff Ryman’s Air: Or, Have Not Have (2005).
  • Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006).
  • Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It (2006).
  • Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman (serialized 2006-08).
  • Peter Watts’s Blindsight (2006).
  • Elizabeth Bear’s Carnival (2006).
  • Daniel Suarez’s Daemon (2006).
  • Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (serialized 2006, Chinese:三体, Ken Liu translator).
  • Max Brooks’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (2006).
  • John Scalzi’s The Ghost Brigades (2006).
  • Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End (2006).
  • Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato Jr.’s run on Thunderbolts (2007).
  • Joe Haldeman’s The Accidental Time Machine (2007).
  • Minister Faust’s From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain (2007).
  • Charles Stross’s Halting State (2007).
  • Tobias S. Buckell’s Ragamuffin (2007).
  • Ian McDonald’s Brasyl (2007).
  • Jonathan Lethem & Farel Dalrymple’s Omega the Unknown (2007–2008).
  • Iain M. Banks‘s Matter (2008).
  • Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother (2008).
  • Charles Stross’s Saturn’s Children (2008)
  • Liu Cixin’s The Dark Forest (2008, Chinese: 黑暗森林).
  • Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War (2008).
  • Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (2008).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream (2009).
  • Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (2009).
  • Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009).
  • Iain M. Banks‘s Transition (2009).
  • Margaret Atwood‘s The Year of the Flood (2009).
  • Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief (2010).
  • Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010).
  • Janelle Monae’s album The ArchAndroid (2010).
  • Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death (2010).
  • Moebius‘s Arzak: L’Arpenteur (Arzak: The Surveyor, 2010).
  • Connie Willis’s Blackout/All Clear (2010). Hugo winner.
  • Mira Grant’s Feed (2010).
  • Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010).
  • Charles Burns‘s X’ed Out (2010).
  • Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (2010).
  • Liu Cixin’s Death’s End (2010, Chinese: 死神永生).
  • Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011).
  • Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (2011).
  • Marie Lu’s Legend (2011).
  • Daniel Clowes‘s The Death-Ray (2011).
  • James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes (2011).
  • Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (2012).
  • Minister Faust’s The Alchemists of Kush (2011).
  • Charles Burns‘s The Hive (2012).
  • Sabrina Vourvoulias’s Ink (2012).
  • Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water (Finnish: Teemestarin kirja, 2012).
  • Iain M. Banks‘s The Hydrogen Sonata (2012).
  • Michel Fiffe’s COPRA (serialized 2012 – ?).
  • Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’s Saga (serialized 2012 – 2018; 2022–ongoing).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 (2012).
  • Mike Mignola with Dave Stewart and Clem Robins’s Hellboy in Hell (serialized 2012–2016).
  • Madeline Ashby’s vN (2012).
  • James S.A. Corey’s Caliban’s War (2012).
  • John Scalzi’s Redshirts (2012). Hugo winner.
  • Douglas Rushkoff with Goran Sudžuka and José Marzán Jr.’s A.D.D. — Adolescent Demo Division (2012).
  • Malinda Lo’s Inheritance (2013).
  • Janelle Monae’s album The Electric Lady (2013).
  • Matt Haig’s The Humans (2013).
  • Brian K. Vaughan with Marcos Martín and Muntsa Vicente’s The Private Eye (serialized 2013).
  • Yuri Herrera’s The Transmigration of Bodies (2013, Spanish: La transmigración de los cuerpos).
  • Gordon Dahlquist’s The Different Girl (2013).
  • V.E. Schwab’s Vicious (2013).
  • Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light (2013).
  • Margaret Atwood‘s MaddAddam (2013).

HADRON AGE SF: 2014–2023

Notes on sf from the Twenty-Teens (2014–2023, according to HILOBROW’s periodization scheme) TBD.

Here’s the Twenty-Tens list, so far. My tentative plan is to add a new title each week, beginning in January 2022.

  1. Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon (2014).
  2. Becky Chambers’s The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (2015). When Rosemary, an introverted young human from Mars, signs up as clerk on the patched-up Wayfarer, all she wants is the opportunity to start over. She quickly proves her value to the ship’s ragtag crew — Sissix, the female Aandrisk (reptilian) pilot; mech and comp techs Kizzy and Jenks; doctor and cook Dr. Chef; algaeist Artis; navigator Ohan; and Ashby, the ship’s captain — when they’re boarded by Akarak pirates. Later, when the the Wayfarer is offered the lucrative job of helping to build a hyperspace tunnel (allowing interstellar communications and transportation to commence) between two distant points in the galaxy, the crew thinks they’ve finally got it made… but can they survive their voyage across the war-torn galaxy? There are thrills and chills galore, here, but what makes this space opera so charming and re-readable is its characters, and specifically their generous open-mindedness regarding race, gender, sexuality, and species. The use of xe or they as pronouns is normalized, there are many formidable female characters, and perhaps most importantly we find within the Wayfarer an infectious spirit of optimism. (“It’s as though Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy had one hyperactive and excited baby,” Andrew Liptak enthused in his review for io9.com.) And I haven’t even mentioned Lovey, the ship’s AI, who falls in love with a crewmember… and vice versa! Fun facts: Originally self-published with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Chambers’s debut novel was included in the win for the 2019 Hugo for Best Series.
  3. Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves (2015).
  4. Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky (2016).
  5. Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous (2017).
  6. Annie Nocenti and David Aja’s The Seeds (serialized 2018–2021).

The following titles are ones I intend to read or re-read before making a selection of my favorites from this period. (Not every title here, that is, will make the final list.) I may add other titles to this list, too; it’s a work in progress.

  • Simon Stalenhag’s Tales From The Loop (2014, Swedish: Ur Varselklotet).
  • Piers Torday’s The Dark Wild (2014).
  • Lydia Millet’s Pills and Starships (2014).
  • Charles Burns‘s Sugar Skull (2014).
  • Kevin J. Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars (2014).
  • Grant Morrison with Ivan Reis and others’ The Multiversity (serialized 2014-2015).
  • Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine DeLandro, Cris Peters, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Clayton Cowles’s Bitch Planet (serialized 2014-2017).
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (2014).
  • G. Willow Wilson with Adrian Alphona, and others’ Ms. Marvel (2014-ongoing).
  • M.R. Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts (2014).
  • Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword (2014).
  • William Gibson‘s The Peripheral (2014).
  • Pierce Brown’s Red Rising (2014).
  • Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014).
  • Catherynne Valente’s Radiance (2015).
  • Matthew De Abaitua’s IF THEN (2015).
  • Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti (2015).
  • Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Rico Renzi’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (serialized 2015–2020).
  • Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not (2015).
  • N.K. Jemisin’s Fifth Season (2015). Hugo winner.
  • Margaret Atwood‘s The Heart Goes Last (2015).
  • Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy (2015).
  • Veeraporn Nitiprapha’s The Blind Earthworm in the Labyrinth (2015, Thai: ไส้เดือนตาบอดในเขาวงกต).
  • Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus (2015).
  • Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time (2015).
  • Matthew De Abaitua’s The Destructives (2015).
  • Tom Taylor and David López’s All-New Wolverine (serialized 2015?).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora (2015).
  • Simon Stalenhag’s Things from the Flood (2016, Swedish: Flodskörden).
  • Madeline Ashby’s Company Town (2016).
  • Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein , Black Hammer (serialized 2016–on).
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates with Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin’s Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (serialized 2016–2021).
  • Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit (2016).
  • Mishell Baker’s Borderline (2016).
  • Nisi Shawl’s Everfair (2016).
  • Aditi Khorana’s Mirror in the Sky (2016).
  • Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue (2016).
  • Malka Older’s Infomocracy (2016).
  • Ezra Claytan Daniels’s Upgrade Soul (2016).
  • Tade Thompson’s Rosewater (2016, revised 2018).
  • Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit (2016).
  • Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter (2016).
  • N.K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate (2016). Hugo winner.
  • Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning (2016).
  • Ann Leckie’s Provenance (2017).
  • Charles Glaubitz’s Starseeds (2017).
  • Mur Lafferty’s Six Wakes (2017).
  • Kameron Hurley’s The Stars are Legion (2017).
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars (2018).
  • Yoon Ha Lee’s Revenant Gun (2018).
  • Janelle Monae’s album Dirty Computer (2013).
  • Olivia A. Cole’s A Conspiracy of Stars (2018).
  • Vita Ayala with Emily Pearson, Jessi Jordan, Chris Shehan, Isaac Goodheart, Marissa Louise, and Jim Campbell’s The Wilds (serialized 2019).
  • John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire (2017). NOTES TK.
  • Omar El Akkad’s American War (2017).
  • Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts (2017).
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne (2017).
  • N.K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky (2017). Hugo winner.
  • John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire (2017).
  • JY Yang’s he Black Tides of Heaven (2017).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 (2017).
  • Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (2017).
  • Martha Wells’s All Systems Red (2017). Hugo winner.
  • Becky Chambers’s Record of a Spaceborn Few (2018).
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars. Hugo winner.
  • Catherynne Valente’s Space Opera (2018).
  • Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam (2018).
  • Katie Williams’s Tell the Machine Goodnight (2018).
  • Margaret Atwood‘s The Testaments (2019).
  • Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade (2019).
  • K. Ancrum’s The Weight of the Stars (2019).
  • Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire (2019). Hugo winner.
  • Charlie Jane Anders’s The City in the Middle of the Night (2019).
  • Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This Is How You Lose the Time War (2019).
  • Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline (2019).
  • William Gibson‘s Agency (2020).
  • Jenny Offill’s Weather (2020).
  • Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness (2020).
  • Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds (2020).
  • Nikhil Singh’s Club Ded (2020).
  • Lydia Mikllet’s A Children’s Bible (2020).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future (2020).
  • Yudhanjaya Wijeratne’s The Salvage Crew (2020).
  • Cadwell Turnbull’s The Lesson (2020).
  • Martha Wells’s Network Effect (2020). Hugo winner.
  • Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest (2020).
  • Becky Chambers’s The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (2021).
  • Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock (2021).
  • Ken Macleod’s Beyond the Hallowed Sky (2021).
  • Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife (2021).
  • Matt Bell’s Appleseed (2021).
  • Jeff VanderMeer’s Hummingbird Salamander (2021).
  • Rae Carson’s Any Sign of Life (2021).
  • Xiran Jay Zhao’s Iron Widow (2021).
  • Nnedi Okorafor’s Remote Control (2021).
  • Annalee Newitz’s The Terraformers (2021?).
  • Charlie Jane Anders’s Victories Greater Than Death (2021).
  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun (2022).
  • Charlie Jane Anders’s Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak (2022).
  • 2023 titles TK

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JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST HADRON AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES (IN PROGRESS) | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.