November 4, 2014

Ten must-read self-published science fiction novels

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of blogs that will highlight stellar, not-to-be-missed titles by self-published authors in various genres.

By Paul Goat Allen

The motivation behind writing this series of blogs—which will essentially spotlight “must read” self-published releases in various genre categories— is simple. As a genre fiction book critic who has spent the last 20 years reviewing thousands of releases (both traditionally published and indie-published), I’m sick and tired of hearing naysayers spew vitriol about the supposed lack of high quality self-published work.

The publishing landscape is radically different from just a decade ago—and with every passing year, I’ve seen the quality of self-published work increase exponentially. The fact is that there is an abundance of extraordinary self-published releases out there—in all genre categories—that are just as good, and in some cases better, than the titles traditional publishers are offering.

Yep. You read that last sentence correctly—better than titles being published by the big presses. And here’s why. The genre fiction market is incredibly tight right now—and has been for years. Publishers simply can’t afford to take chances. Many innovative storylines that would have been picked up a decade ago by big publishers are being passed over simply because they’re too nichey, perceived as having too narrow an audience.

What’s happening to all of those niche stories? Many are being self-published. But often self-published authors have no clue about promoting themselves and their work, and these masterworks, sadly, come and go virtually unnoticed.

That’s another reason for writing these blogs—to do everything I can to promote these literary gems that deserve to be read and enjoyed by millions.

You can consider this blog a public service announcement. I review books for a living. For every masterpiece that I stumble across, I have to read hundreds of mediocre and downright dreadful books. When I think about all of the time I’ve spent reading bad books…. I know that I’ve wasted entire months of my life. But you don’t have to suffer through all of those excruciatingly bad reads. The 10 titles listed below are the crème de la crème of self-published science fiction. (I could have made this list much longer but I figured 10 titles was a good place to start.)

Enjoy—and you’re welcome!

1. I2, by James Bannon: This debut novel is a fusion of cutting-edge science fiction and psychological thriller that revolves around a terminally ill bio-software scientist’s attempt to upload his mind into the consciousness of a baby in utero in order to once again be with the woman he loves. This novel blew me away.

2. The Darkest Side of Saturn, by Tony Taylor: This deeply thought-provoking novel about a scientist who discovers an asteroid on a possible collision course with Earth is a towering science fiction tour de force; a courageous and visionary work that is comparable in thematic power to Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s Hugo Award-winning novel A Canticle for Leibowitz—epic in every sense of the word. Read BlueInk review.

3. Sequela, by Cleland Smith: Set in a near future London and revolving around a naïve young scientist’s meteoric rise to fame in the lucrative fashion virus industry, this pseudonymous debut (the author is Scottish poet Angela Smith) is conceptually mind-blowing—unarguably a science fiction masterwork.

4. The Mothership, by Stephen Renneberg: Intelligent, compelling, and visionary, this blockbuster of a science fiction thriller from Aussie novelist Renneberg takes place in the wilds of the Northern Territory of Australia and involves humanity coming in contact with a vastly advanced race of aliens—but that’s just the beginning of this utterly readable storyline laden with jaw-dropping plot twists.

5. The Adventures of Deacon Coombs, by Ambit Welder: Audaciously fusing science fiction and mystery à la classics like Bester’s The Demolished Man (1953) and Asimov’s The Caves of Steel (1954), Welder’s debut about a renowned human detective tasked with saving an entire interplanetary alliance is a storytelling tour de force—virtually unputdownable. Read BlueInk review.

6. American Neolithic, by Terence Hawkins: This powerful work of speculative fiction—set in a near-future America where the existence of a Neanderthal threatens a government that has devolved into a “trailer park theocracy” and tyrannizes its own people with Homeland Security forces that resemble the Gestapo—is equal parts political satire, legal thriller, and cautionary tale. A towering work of speculative fiction that will have readers rethinking what it means to be human.

7. Dystopia Now, by Harvey Hiestand: Hiestand’s aptly entitled debut novel is not only a disturbingly plausible vision of a future America on the verge of economic collapse and political upheaval but also a satirical gem replete with subtle social commentary in the vein of Philip K. Dick. This novel is timely and timeless — an emotionally powerful and thematically profound novel that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished.

8. Pact I: The Taste of Fear, by Duncan Shelley: Set in the near future, this thrilling fusion of science fiction and mystery is an utterly readable novel with an audacious premise. A group of humanoid alien entrepreneurs approaches the members of a powerful secret society with a business proposition: they’re looking to purchase mass quantities of lean human meat for consumption—59-1/2 million pounds per year! Faced with the decision to put the entire human race in jeopardy or become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, well, I think you know where this is going…Read BlueInk review.

9. Usher’s Harbour, by Barry and Darls Epstein: This impressive debut novel from husband-and-wife writing team Barry and Darls Epstein, a murder mystery set largely in the 23rd century, will surely appeal to mystery and science fiction fans alike. This futuristic whodunit is a winner — thought provoking and deeply satisfying. Read BlueInk review.

10. The Themis Files, by Sylvain Neuvel: This stellar debut novel—revolving around a top-secret project to find and piece together body parts of a giant humanoid relic that have been left buried throughout the world by aliens thousands of years ago— masterfully blends elements of science fiction, political thriller, and apocalyptic fiction, and is extraordinary both in terms of content and innovative presentation. A page-turner of the highest order.

In the last 20 years, Paul Goat Allen has reviewed more than 8,000 genre fiction titles for companies such as The Chicago Tribune, Publisher’s Weekly,, and BlueInk Review and is an adjunct faculty member in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. He has published one novel and two collections of poetry and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Readers of this blog are offered a $75 discount on a BlueInk review by using the discount code D7G2. (This in no way guarantees a review by Allen.) If you are interested in receiving more blogs like this, sign up for our monthly newsletter!








One thought on “Ten must-read self-published science fiction novels

  1. Mike Todd says:

    Where can I buy hard copy editions of the books listed above?

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