2022 Top Speculative Fiction

Merry Christmas Eve and what better to speculate about than some of the best fiction of the year! Of course we are talking about our top picks for speculative fiction. If you love futuristic or dystopian fiction, this is your category!

Top Pick: Upgrade by Blake Crouch

If you pick up a Blake Crouch book, you know that you are going to be in for a wild ride that will likely result in sleepless nights while reading the book and after reading the book because you keep thinking about it for months.  Upgrade was no exception to his formula.  However, he changed tactics a bit and strayed from his usual focus on quantum entanglement to human gene modification.  He has also moved from being more current day to a time of a dystopian world after disasters. 

Read the full review here.

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Runner Up: Fairy Tale by Stephen King

This book is like a book within a book in certain ways. I read the first few hundred pages, which could have been a book on its own, and then the story took off in another direction that was creative and had a way of bringing fantasy into reality in way I haven’t read in a really long time. It has been an incredibly long time since I have read anything by Stephen King, and I had this one recommended to me by a friend. I’m glad he did because it was so different from anything I have read this year that it made it that much more enjoyable.

Read the full review here.

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Honorable Mention: Clean Air by Sarah Blake

This has unexpectedly become one of my favorite books for the year.  I’ve always enjoyed the dystopian genre, but it has become quite predictable over the years.  I’m glad to see such a unique take with Clean Air.   From the premise of the book to the characters, I loved it all.  I was hooked from the beginning and just had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. 

Read the full review here.

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Honorable Mention: 48 States by Evette Davis

Davis brings a fresh look with 48 States.  Named so because two of the states are evacuated for energy production, this book dives into some of the darker areas of what could potentially happen to our country. 

Read the full review here.

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48 States

Author: Evette Davis

Publisher: Flesh & Bone

Release Date: June 7, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unique take on dystopian United States. 

No one could have anticipated the attacks that would occur on United States soil. Multiple political assassinations took out much of the country’s leadership until the Secretary of State was the next in line for the presidency.  After that, things changed rapidly.  In order to become fully oil independent, the states of North Dakota and Wyoming were completely evacuated to be used solely for energy production, giving them the names Energy Territory No. 1 and No. 2.  Congress was suspended.  Millions were deported out of the county and immigration came to a halt.  The county as we knew it, ceased to exist.

River Peterson works as a truck driver in Energy Territory No. 1.  After returning from the Caliphate Wars, her husband took his own life, leaving her and her daughter with massive debt.  There was little she could do beside take a job in this wasteland to pay everything off before she could return to Idaho to see her mother and daughter.  One night on the way to her apartment, a man runs out in front of her truck. She can see that he is deeply wounded and makes the decision to take care of him.  Unbeknownst to her, he is Finn Cunningham, the son of the President of the United States and is trying to prove the harm that the territories are causing the rest of the country’s water supply.  When the dawn of a new threat arises within the borders of the county, River and Finn must work together to find a way to save their own families and countless others in the process.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as a unique take on dystopian literature.  This genre has become so common that it seems like authors either have the same ideas or someone is getting copied.  However, Davis brings a fresh look with 48 States.  Named so because two of the states are evacuated for energy production, this book dives into some of the darker areas of what could potentially happen to our country.  I loved both River and Finn as the two main protagonists.  They were cut from different cloths, but still so much the same.  Both characters had some growth, which might have had to have some setbacks first.  The villain was quite overplayed as well, but when you have an egotistical maniac on the loose, what do you expect.  The story was interesting to read out and I thought it was well done.  There is some language throughout and some implied sex, but nothing really graphic or over the top.  Even so, I still recommend this book for mature readers.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.


Author: Marie Lu

Series: Skyhunter #2

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Release Date: September 28, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Steelstriker is a fantastic follow up to Skyhunter with all the drama, action, romance, and suspense I’ve come to expect from Marie Lu!

After Mara has fallen to the Karensa federation, Talin is under the Premier with her mother, held captive, and used against her to make her do whatever the Premier wants her to do. Her friends and other Strikers are dead or in hiding as she is transformed into a Skyhunter, one of the deadliest war machines ever. Red is hiding out with the other Strikers waiting for the time they can free Talin and help free the other countries held under the federations power. Talin and Red still have a connection from their time together and try to use their link to help them go against the Premier. With challenges at every turn, they are going to have to fight harder than they ever imagined to come out on top and set those they love free.

By the time I finished this book I found myself comparing many aspects of it to other well-known YA dystopian series. If you have read one in particular, you will fully understand what I mean by this. One of the best aspects of this novel for me was the dual point of views so we got to see more of what was happening as opposed to just seeing the view from Talin’s eyes. It was easy to feel all the angst that Talin and Red were going through at every turn with the beautiful writing Marie Lu put on the pages. This series, along with other series I read by Lu, really get me in the feels with the main characters and what they go through. I have a real empathy for them, and it only works because the writing in this genre by this author. Young Adult Dystopian can be hard to write and write well but Marie Lu does it so good. I love a Dystopian novel if it is done right and this one was. The only exception I have is the use of a few adult themes throughout the book when it is marketed to Young Adults. The relationship between two of the male characters doesn’t go too far but it isn’t my favorite aspect of a book for young adults. I realize that many adults read these books as well and it will be no issue for many, but I don’t like it pushed in books for kids. The story flowed well and I think readers that enjoy the Dystopian genre will not want to miss these books.


Author: Marie Lu

Series: Skyhunter #1

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A perfect fit in the YA Dystopian category that is Marie Lu at her best! I loved the first series I read by her, and this is going to rank right up at the top!

In the future, the world is a very different place. Strikers are some of the deadliest weapons around with the best fighting skills and loyal to defend Mara, the last free nation left. Talin is a Striker, but also an outcast; she wasn’t born in Mara but fled with her mother after her homeland was invaded. She has no voice after fumes from fires destroyed her vocal cords leaving her to communicate with signs and work to be accepted as a Striker to help destroy the evil Federation who uses mutated humans called Ghosts to win their battles. When Mara captures a changed soldier from the Federation, he turns out to be the answer to their prayers after Talin works to keep him alive and convinces him to work on their side against the Federation. Together they will have to work to try and save them all or die trying.

It has been a while since I have read a great YA/Dystopian that really caught my attention and held it. Marie Lu is great in this genre and really knows how to write in a way that captures readers’ attention and keep it until the very end. It can be hard to write a character that doesn’t speak; Talin lost her ability to speak when she was young and starts communicating through signs. Once she meets Red and has a connection with him, they start communicating through their link and it makes the story flow very smoothly. Each character in this book carries a certain amount of the story and it takes all of them, even the ones that are not very likable, to make the story come together the way it does. The only thing I didn’t like was the few adult themes that I thought weren’t right for a book in the YA section, but they were pretty subtle and not enough for me to not recommend to my kids when they get to the point of reading these books. This is the type of story that I think both girls and boys will enjoy, even though the main character is a female it will appeal to both boys and girls. I recommend this to readers that are fans of Young Adult Dystopian novels with lots of action and drama throughout.


Author: Matthew Fitzsimmons

Series: Constance #1

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Release Date: September 1, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Sci/Fi thriller with an intricate plot and high stakes that drive the story all the way never letting up until the very end!

Set in the near distant future, advances in science have brought about the ability to make human clones. It is something only the wealthy can afford and there is another group opposing cloning calling it an abomination. Contance “Con” D’Arcy isn’t wealthy but is gifted a clone by her aunt. Every month she must go for an upload of her consciousness that is kept stored in case something happens to her. One day Constance’s clone wakes up unsure of what has happened. She hasn’t had an upload in eighteen months and her original is dead. Secrets are buried deep, and it seems no one can be trusted. Con is now on a mission to find out what happened to cause her to be activated and what it all means for her and the rest of the world.

Constance is definitely for fans of science fiction; it is not for the faint of heart with all the action and thrills throughout. Constance started out strong but after it switched to her clone, she became an even stronger character. The line between science and what should and shouldn’t be done is very fine here and it isn’t glossed over. The “God” Complex is evident in a few of these characters and Fitzsimmons does a good job tackling this issue. The fact that this is only set twenty years in the future is a bit unnerving that things could go that direction in our lifetime. A few of the secondary characters and plot lines could have been left out and I still feel like the story would have flowed well. They might be important for the sequel though, which I feel certain is to come. There is a lot more story to be fleshed out with these characters and I would like to see the direction they take. I recommend this book to lovers of science fiction and dystopian books.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Forgive Us

Author: E.T. Gunnarsson

Publisher: Bragi Press

Release Date: January 23, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

3.5 Stars

A look at what could happen over the next 150 years when humans destroy their planet.

In 2099, Oliver has been surviving on his own for years trying to make his way east over the Rocky Mountains to see if there are civilizations.  Between the occasional crazed nomad and mutants, he has managed to survive off his wits and his gun.  After a chance encounter when he saves a fellow survivor named Sam, they band together to bring in more refugees seeking shelter to create one of the first reborn nations in North America.

Fifty years later, war is going on between two nations.  A nomad named London and a young girl named Rose are making their way across the desert when they are caught in the midst of a skirmish.  When one of the bands realizes they mean no harm, they are offered to come back to their city and be employed as traders.  But trading in the midst of a war can have dire consequences.

Another thirty years reveals the exploits of man to escape the Earth’s fall on a space station orbiting the planet.  Simon is a descendant of those people who finds tensions between factions on the station are starting to escalate and he may be the key to having his group gain the upper hand.  But one false move could land him in a zero-gravity prison, or worse, expelled to space!

As far a speculative fiction goes, this teenage author has got one heck of an imagination.  Setting up new worlds with three different timelines, all with a common link, was a very entertaining read.  At first, I wasn’t sure what the connections would be, but within the last couple of chapters, everything fell into place.  If you love dystopian and post-apocalyptic thrillers, this is your cup of tea.  Fair warning, there is a lot of foul language throughout the book.  So, I recommend this for mature readers that enjoy this genre.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

A Gentle Tyranny

Author: Jess Corban

Series: Nede Rising #1

Publisher: Tyndale House

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After a slow start, this turned out to be a story that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to see what comes next.

A new look at the popular YA Dystopian genre that so many readers love. A Gentle Tyranny sets up in the world of Nede where women have taken over and have “Gentled” the men. It has taken years of research and testing to be able to tame these men and set up a new hierarchy that on the outside seems tame, but on the inside, nothing is as it first seems. Raina Pierce is seventeen and has been selected to compete for the apprenticeship of becoming the Matriarch of Nede. Her grandmother currently holds the position leading some to believe that Raina is the obvious choice. The trials she must go through show Raina that all that she learned growing up was only part of the story. The world is not what she expected and not so gentle after all. Will she be selected to take over and make the changes so desperately needed? Or will she even be alive to see who wins?

A Gentle Tyranny started really slow; I almost gave up on it but am glad I stuck with the story. It was hard to picture the new world and connecting with these characters was difficult. In any new series, especially a dystopian such as this, the world building takes time.  About halfway through, things started to pick up and catch my attention. Once I felt the connection with the characters, I was more invested in the story and couldn’t wait to see how it played out. I really enjoyed Raina in the forest and her interaction with the men, so different from what she was led to believe.

As a debut novel, Jess Corban finally found her footing and took off. While this isn’t my favorite of the year, I will definitely be giving the next in the series a chance. Hopefully now that the world is built, the pace will be quick and the enticing characters will continue to engage the readers. I recommend this to fans of dystopian that are willing to be patient and let the story go where it will and be happy with the payout at the end.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: May 19, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of The Hunger Games will not want to miss this prequel that will have readers view President Snow in a new way you never thought possible!

The Hunger Games is about to have its tenth game and eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is getting ready to be one of the first mentors the games have ever had. His family has fallen on hard times and it is up to him to repair the powerful Snow name and prove they will come out on top. The odds are not in his favor as he is given the assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest assignment he could have gotten. If he is able to help her succeed and win the games, he will no longer be looked down upon and be able to resume the high status his family has always held. If she fails so does he. It doesn’t take long though for him to develop feelings for her making his job that much harder.

Fans of The Hunger Games will not want to miss this newest addition. I picked it up knowing there was no way I would ever feel any empathy for President Snow, the villain of the first three books. Within the first few chapters, I forgot to look at him in that way and was wrapped up in this story and how a young Snow developed into the foul, loathsome dictator we know from the series. Suzanne Collins did an outstanding job turning this character around for us and making him be seen in a whole new light. So many little references to the trilogy are tied in here and each time I came to a page with these I would find myself smiling. We find out the origin of the song Katniss sings to Rue and the song she sings in MockingJay. These instances were some of my favorites. If you pay close attention to names throughout, you will be able to connect them to descendants later on in the story. So much is tied while it is its own story. If you’ve read The Hunger Games, you are probably like me in thinking there is no way you could every feel anything other than hatred for the character of Snow. Don’t be surprised when you walk away shaking your head at how wrong you were. The book read quickly and was thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend this one to all readers that have read The Hunger Games and want a look into the origin of Snow and so much more.

The Hive Queen

Author: Robin Kirk

Series: Bond Trilogy #2

Publisher: Blue Crow Books

Release Date: August 29, 2020

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark apocalyptic thriller that will leave readers transported to a completely different world and a story like none they’ve ever read before.

The Weave has been destroyed as Fir and his brothers escape to the east to find a land of freedom. Fir searches for the Master of men, a fabled warrior who promises freedom to men from the Weave. On their way, they find more trouble than they thought possible. The Hive Queen, Odide, brings Fir and his brothers into her hive and quickly bespells him to betray his brothers and risk all their lives in the process and almost forget the love he had for Dinitra. Now he is faced with a choice, loyalty to his brothers, allegiance to the Hive Queen, or follow his heart and love for Dinitra. Between the Hive and the Master, Fir is faced with the hardest decisions he has ever had to make, and nothing has prepared him for what is yet to come.

For me, The Bond lacked world building and character connections. Just when I felt I was connecting to the characters by the end of the book, my main protagonist is changed in The Hive Queen and I have to start from the beginning to make the character connection and feeling myself firmly in this world. It isn’t something that was ever achieved for me. I lacked a real connection with Fir, I expected to pick up this book and continue with Dinitra, 12, and their story; instead, they aren’t even mentioned until the last third or so of the book. I was really hoping to connect and enjoy this story more, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While I think Science Fiction lovers will enjoy this story much more than I did, it isn’t a story for everyone. I know the first one was compared to The Hunger Games, and I can see that in a way, but not as deep as the connection could have been. I did enjoy the devious game the Hive Queen herself was playing throughout and the way Fir is able to reconnect with Dinitra, those were the redemptive qualities for me. Not enough to make me want to read again but I was able to finish the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Bond

Author: Robin Kirk

Series: Bond Trilogy #1

Publisher: Goldenjay Books

Release Date: November 30, 2019

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A dark, apocalyptic thriller that will leave readers with questions but wanting more after the last page is turned.

In a world where males are obsolete and women are all that are known, females have been equipped with enhanced gifts engineered by a group called Sowers and the Weave. Dinitra waits to find out her purpose with the other girls when they turn sixteen. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the Sowers make mistakes. The Weave is under scrutiny and a group of resistance and rebels are planning to attack with their own breed of humans they created, including males. Dinitra gets her assignment and is sent far away to a group she never thought she would be with and finds out secrets of the Weave and herself that could change everything.

The Bond definitely did not start or end the way I expected. The start was slow and then didn’t seem to mesh with the middle or end very well. I had a hard time with this one, the world building wasn’t really there for me. This is set in an apocalyptic future and no matter how hard I tried, I could not envision what was happening. I needed about a hundred more pages of well-enhanced detail for who these people were, what has happened in history to lead to this point, and where the story is heading. Even though this is labeled a YA, I have a hard time recommending it for that age group because of some of the themes throughout. If I had a hard time following, I’m guessing young readers will as well. By the end, the story did pull me in a little more and I enjoyed the bond between Dinitra and 12, even if the set up to that point was little off. Dinitra did grow a tremendous amount as a protagonist from start to finish; at the beginning I saw her as weak, unskilled and pretty hopeless for what the set up was going for, but by the end she is one of the strongest around and able to better carry the story. I’m still a little unsure of where it is all headed but will follow up with the next in the series to see if I can better connect with the characters and the story. I do think this story will be enjoyable for lovers of Dystopian and Science Fiction.  If that is not one of your favorite genres, this one isn’t for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.