Michael Crichton, author of "Micro"

The 5 Best Sci-Fi Books to Binge-Read This Summer

A look at some of the most addicting, immersive and captivating standalone novels and series to dive into over summer break.

Pages x
Michael Crichton, author of "Micro"

A look at some of the most addicting, immersive and captivating standalone novels and series to dive into over summer break.

When school ends and summer begins, taking a break from reading may sound incredibly appealing. But as the weeks pass, doing nothing becomes less and less satisfying. Even if you have a summer job or hobbies, it’s easy to become disillusioned by the relative normalcy of “real life.”

That’s where the books come in. Novels are amazing escapes into fantastic worlds that are nothing like our own. From the legendary realm of Middle-earth to the distant reaches of the stars, these stories are guaranteed to take you places you’ve never been before.

1. “Micro” by Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton has written a lot of great books, the most popular of which is “Jurassic Park,” but that’s just one of the many incredible adventures that this mastermind of science fiction wrote in his life. Crichton’s book, “Micro,” published posthumously in 2011, is a techno-thriller that takes place on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu.

The story follows seven graduate students from Cambridge University who become involved in a murderous plot orchestrated by the CEO of a nanotechnology company called Nanigen. When they are forcibly shrunk down to the size of insects by the murderer, the seven students must try to survive in the vicious, deadly micro-level ecosystems of O’ahu.

“Micro” is a thrilling look at life in the micro-zone. Although the book would be an interesting read for anyone, “Micro” contains some instances of gruesome and detailed violence, and is intended for more mature audiences.

“Aurora” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Image via Goodreads)

2. “Aurora” by Kim Stanley Robinson

If you’re into science fiction, another great author in the genre is Kim Stanley Robinson. Like Crichton, Robinson’s novels tend to be heavy on the science. “Aurora” is a more recent release, published in 2015, and therefore deals with hyper-modern questions about space travel and its many dangers.

The novel, which primarily takes place on a starship soaring at near-light speeds through interstellar space, is a tense and fascinating look at human nature and ingenuity. Set in the not-so-distant future, “Aurora” also provides insight into the real science of interstellar travel. The story follows a young girl named Freya as she grows up aboard a generation starship bound for the (relatively) nearby Kepler planetary system. The plan is to start a human colony on an Earth-like celestial body orbiting the star Kepler-1. However, things go wrong when they reach the habitable sphere and find that it may not be as hospitable as they’d hoped.

“Aurora” is the epitome of “hard” science fiction. Everything that happens is logical and based on real science.

3. “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare

Moving on from science fiction to fantasy, Cassandra Clare’sThe Mortal Instruments” series is an absolute must-read for fans of the urban fantasy genre. Unlike the previous two novels listed, the books in this series are entirely fictional, as well as highly addicting, fast-paced and full of lovable characters and complex villains. The magic and mystery surrounding both the heroes of the story and their nemeses will keep you flipping pages until you reach the end.

Set in an alternate version of New York called Downworld, “The Mortal Instruments” series starts when Clary Fray sets out in search of her missing mother. She finds out that many creatures out of mythology are real: werewolves, vampires, warlocks, faeries and demons. She also discovers that there are mystical warriors known as Shadowhunters living in the city. These warriors are half angel, half human and use their incredible abilities to defend the world from demons.

Beautifully written, charming and clever, Clare’s magical version of modern New York is the perfect summer escape. Although the series is written for a young adult audience (the teenage love triangle alone makes that abundantly clear), anyone fan of urban or modern fantasy would enjoy this long-running book series.

4. “The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness” by Michelle Paver

What makes this six-book series unique is that “Chronicles of Ancient Darkness” doesn’t take place in modern times or the Middles Ages; instead, Paver’s series is set in Europe during the Stone Age, before humans settled down to farm the land and build permanent civilizations. It does a fantastic job of mixing the struggles of survival against nature with survival against rogue demons and misguided tribe mages.

The first book in the series, “Wolf Brother,” starts with twelve-year-old Torak losing his father in a bear attack. However, it wasn’t an ordinary bear; someone trapped an ancient and powerful demon in the bear’s body and sent it after Torak’s father. Torak, aided by his wolf pup companion, sets out to discover who summoned the demon so that he can avenge his father and (hopefully) stop evil from taking over the world.

Although “Chronicles of Ancient Darkness” is intended for younger readers, this series is an amazing escape into a fantastic world of long ago.

Image via Slate Magazine

5. “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien is often referred to as the father of all fantasy series. If you can think of a fantasy genre trope or cliché, it probably started here. From its incredibly vivid setting to its vastly detailed languages, history and lore, Tolkien’s literary masterpiece defines the high fantasy genre. Because this series is so well loved around the world, it’s a must-read for everyone.

“The Lord of the Rings” is the story of the War of the Ring, a battle between the forces of good and evil for dominion over the fantasy realm of Middle-earth. The story follows several characters, but it begins and ends with Frodo Baggins. Frodo is a Hobbit, a race of small peace-loving people who live in the idyllic Shire, but when the Great Ring of Power resurfaces after being lost for centuries, it’s up to Frodo and a fellowship of people from across the realm to destroy the Ring before it falls back into its evil master’s hands.

This sweeping, epic series isn’t just for fantasy fans. Tolkien’s ability to imagine and portray beauty, love, friendship and courage in the face of danger and evil is unrivaled. That, along with his often humorous and whimsical writing style and sharp insights into human (or human-ish) nature, makes “The Lord of the Rings” a timeless classic guaranteed to sweep you off your feet and away on an incredible adventure.

Writer Profile

Devon Hodge

Western Washington University

Leave a Reply