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2020 begins a new decade of science fiction, and judging by this year’s upcoming book releases it will be a decade of hope and humor in the face of potential disaster. While the dystopian and apocalyptic trends remain strong in 2020 — as they have throughout the 2000s — unlike in previous years, these books also tend to be hopeful and funny. This is similar certainly to the vibe I’ve gotten from listening to creatives speak about Lower Decks, and even Star Trek: Discovery; for while Discovery is perhaps grittier than past series, I always see glimmers of hope and humor sprinkled throughout, particularly in the second season.
And so, here are twenty excellent 2020 science fiction books that meet those aforementioned tenets, paired (just like last time!) with the Star Trek characters who might enjoy them most. Get ready to grow that to-be-read pile.
Jonathan Archer — Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie (April 7)
Young pilot Ettian Nassun is the kind of guy that always does the right thing, just like Captain Archer. So when his best friend’s life is endangered, he of course steps in to save him, even though he only recently discovered his friend is heir to the evil Umber Empire.
Hoshi Sato — The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (January 14)
A woman travels the stars and leaves all human connection behind her. That is until a mute boy falls from the sky and the two immediately connect and learn to communicate in unique ways. It’s a lovely, metaphysical novel that Sato would be sure to enjoy.
Michael Burnham — Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi (January 21)
A gut-punch of a dystopian novella about a brother and sister with unique lives and skills (sound familiar?) whose lives are devastated by structural racism in America.
Philippa Georgiou — The Last Emperox by John Scalzi (April 14)
If you only read book series once they’re finished, you’re in luck. The Last Emperox is the final book in Scalzi’s The Interdependency series, about Emperox Grayland II and her fight to save her people spread across the stars. Star Trek alum Wil Wheaton even narrates the audiobooks!
Paul Stamets — Finna by Nino Cipri (February 25)
This one is a funny romp into a multiverse that’s definitely not Ikea (it’s Ikea), where capitalism rages and queer relationships flourish. Given all the stress Stamets is under at work, this could be just the perfect literary escape!
Captain Kirk —The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey (April 14)
In a post-apocalyptic world where nature is deadly, a young boy is thrust out of his safe village, Mythen Rood, and must learn how to survive.
Spock —The Mother Code by Carole Stivers (May 5)
In order to save itself, the human race resorts to a plan to genetically engineer children in the wombs of robots. Kai is one such child, immune to the epidemics that ravage humanity. This is both an intriguing and character-driven hard sci-fi that explores the question of ‘what makes one human’-- a question that Spock has certainly found himself pondering from time to time.
Uhura — And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks (February 11)
These feminist SFF short stories explore post-apocalypses, radical technologies, revenge, and women’s rage. It’s a perfect book for this moment in time.
Jean-Luc Picard — The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu (February 25)
Ken Liu is one of the best contemporary short story writers. His lyrical SFF stories are both profound and depressing, and well worth reading with a decidedly literary tone that the Enterprise captain would enjoy.
Worf — The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (May 19)
A new Hunger Games novel! I can easily imagine a younger Worf devouring each book in the series. The only details we have right now is that it takes place during the tenth Hunger Games, and will be a prequel.
Tasha Yar — Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (February 4)
The second installment in Ireland’s Dread Nation series, these books are ass-kicking alternative history adventures with fantastic female friendships that Yar would certainly support!
Data/Lore — Network Effect by Martha Wells (May 5)
You cannot go wrong with The Murderbot Diaries. This is the first full novel in the series and can be read as a standalone. A cross between Data and Lore, the AI Murderbot doesn’t really like people, but she guesses she should do the right thing and save humanity... again.
Benjamin Sisko — The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata (February 4)
In 1929, Dominican immigrant Adana Moreau writes a science fiction novel about a young girl finding a lost city on a parallel earth. Her son Maxwell destroys the manuscript upon her death. Decades later, Saul receives a manuscript of Moreau’s sequel, which has been mailed to him by his deceased Jewish grandfather. An unusual and engrossing literary sci-fi that evokes the feel of the classic Deep Space Nine episode, “Far Beyond the Stars.”
Jadzia Dax — The Seep by Chana Porter (January 21)
The Seep are aliens that want nothing more than human happiness and utopia for all. Seeptech allows humans to be reborn into a new body once they become unhappy with their own, a concept that a Trill could at least somewhat relate to. When Deeba decides to be reborn, her wife Trina is devastated.
Elim Garak — Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu (April 14)
In 2196, a century after the war with the Mars colony, a group of delegates travel to Earth to study its culture and, in turn, teach people about their culture on Mars. This tome of a novel is part political treatise on displacement and part political philosophy on the divide between socialism and capitalism.
Kira Nerys — The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (August 4)
There's no cover for this one yet, but Major Kira should enjoy the adventures of Cara and her doppelgangers who tend to die in parallel dimensions. Because of their deaths, she’s able to travel along the multiverse, making her a perfect data collector. But when her few remaining doppelgangers start being murdered one by one, she’s thrown into a new dangerous adventure with multidimensional consequences.
Kathryn Janeway — The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal (July 14)
This is the third installment in Kowal’s fantastic Lady Astronaut series. It’s set in an alternate 1950s where meteors have hit Earth and plunged it into a climate catastrophe. These lady astronauts are pioneering a way to get people off Earth and to safety.
Tom Paris — A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen (January 14)
A charming post-apocalyptic novel where four strangers in San Francisco find a way to rebuild amongst absolute destruction. It’s kinda like a post-apocalyptic version of “Future’s End,” and feels like a holodeck program Tom Paris would love to take part in.
Seven of Nine — Docile by K.M. Szpara (March 3)
In this capitalist dystopia, the poor become dociles, owned by the rich to pay off their family’s debt. They’re given the option to take the drug Dociline, which makes them happier and more complacent in their servitude, but docile Elisha Wilder refuses to take the drug. As a fellow seeker of individuality and independence, Seven might be able to relate.
B’Elanna Torres — Sea Change by Nancy Kress (April 24)
Renata/Caroline Denton is a lawyer and operative in an underground science organization whose research could save the world. B’Elanna should enjoy the who-done-it turn the book takes when a spy infiltrates the group and only Renata can discover who it is.
If you want to grow your to-be-read pile even more, remember to check out my summer reading recommendations based on your favorite Star Trek character.
Margaret Kingsbury (she/her) is a contributing writer at Book Riot, where she raves about the SFF books she loves. She writes about children's books at Baby Librarians, a website she co-founded, and you can find her on Twitter @areaderlymom and on Instagram @babylibrarians