There are a few things we want to see in 2018. A queer superhero. An end to the idiotic meanderings of misogynistic Star Wars fanboys. A new Cher album full of ABBA covers. All of these things will take time but luckily, there’s one thing we don’t have to wait for: kickass sci-fi heroines. Sure, there are a few on the big and small screen, but when it comes to tough-as-nails, complicated, morally questionable, mistresses of badassery, sci-fi is where it’s at. And because sifting through the practically endless choices of genre fiction is almost as daunting as scrolling through Netflix on a Friday night, we’ve rounded up a few sci-fi options, all featuring interesting, complex women at the center of the action.
Here are seven sci-fi books with girls who are kickin’ ass and taking names.
Legend – Marie Lu
Any self-respecting sci-fi lover has probably already devoured the delicious word feast that is Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy, but whether you’re coming to these books a fresh-eyed newbie or returning for seconds, you won’t be disappointed. The series follows two characters with distinct points of view. The first is a rebellious troublemaker named Day who’s accused of murder in the first book. The second, and the reason Lu’s dystopian tale makes it on this list, is June, a 15-year-old girl who proves to be Day’s equal in every way. June begins the series as a naïve young woman set on revenge and while we loved watching her thoroughly hands a bunch of dudes their asses, it’s the journey she goes on as the series progresses that truly makes her a heroine worth rooting for.
Carve the Mark – Veronica Roth
If you’ve read the Divergent series, you know two things: Veronica Roth is capable of some mind-blowing world-building in her writing, and she loves strong female leads. In Carve the Mark she only doubles-down on those two strengths, introducing an off-world planet inhabited by two very different societies. Cyra belongs to the Shotet, a harsh and violent people who have become accustomed to war and bloodshed. On top of that, she has a gift, a special power that allows her to inflict pain on others, but when she decides to fight her tyrannical brother for her freedom and for the man she’s beginning to love, Cyra learns that a person’s strength isn’t just measured by the number of people they’ve killed.
The 100 – Kass Morgan
Kass Morgan took an unlikely group of heroes, a band of juvenile delinquents, and made them responsible for saving the fate of mankind in her The 100 series. There are plenty of strong female characters in this one, but the main heroine is Clarke Griffin, a young woman forced into a position of leadership when she’s sent to the ground to see if Earth is habitable 100 years after a nuclear apocalypse. The rest of her people fight to survive in space on board a ship known as the Ark, but it’s Clarke who must gather her courage and learn to fend for herself if she’s to save humanity. Bonus: while it doesn’t strictly follow the plot of Morgan’s books, the CW show of the same name is a great companion watch if this series really draws you in. Which it will.
Defy the Stars – Claudia Gray
Another space adventure, this one from Claudia Gray follows a young woman named Noemi Vidal. An orphan, a solider, and a badass fighter pilot, Noemi serves the planet Genesis, an off-world colony of humans who escaped Earth after realizing the planet was basically doomed. Now that Earth’s resources are well and truly dried up, the government wants to claim Genesis as its new home. Of course, war breaks out and Noemi finds herself at the center of it when she stumbles upon an A.I. who’s programmed to follow her every command and who’s starting to become self-aware. Noemi is the best kind of heroine: driven, a bit sarcastic, bluntly-honest, and completely aware of how awesome she is. While most YA books focus on heroines “finding themselves” and “discovering their abilities,” Noemi already knows how capable she is and she’s not afraid to show it.
Empress of A Thousand Skies – Rhoda Belleza
Rhoda Belleza tackles a lot — racism, oppression, the plight of refugees, the role of propaganda and social media — in her space opera, Empress of a Thousand Skies. The main character Rhee is a descendant of a long line of warrior emperors. After her family is assassinated, she seeks revenge for the murder of her people while trying to evade assassination attempts and the media. Rhee is physically capable of defending herself, and she’s confident in her choices, even when faced with the burden of leadership and the price of fame.
The Stars Are Legion – Kameron Hurley
Even in the world of sci-fi, Kameron Hurley’s novel about a young woman who wakes up on an organic world ship with no memory of her past is a bit, well, out there. Zan is an all-around badass, a woman tasked with the impossible: make it onto the mothership Mokshi to find out why all of the ships are dying. Literally. These ships are living, breathing organisms that birth people, and in turn, people birth parts to the ship. If that wasn’t cool enough, Zan has a complicated, layered relationship with another warrior goddess, Jayd, which means we’re finally getting some queer representation in the outer realms.
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers’ crowdfunded novel became a bit of a sensation when it debuted just a few years ago. The story is a mix of Firefly meets Guardians of the Galaxy, with the action focusing on a rag-tag bunch of crewmembers aboard a spaceship known as the Wayfarer. Rosemary Harper, a Martian-born human, is the heroine of this tale, though we get to spend time with each colorful character of the crew. Rosemary is tough, resilient, and hiding a dark past, one that we uncover with every off-world adventure and intergalactic space jump.