Looking for a read that’s out of this world? You’re in luck. May 4th is Star Wars Day (May the fourth… get it?) and we’re celebrating by recommending some stellar space operas that will send you into orbit. Get ready to explore the cosmos one story at a time. We hear that bringing a towel might be useful, too.
Perfect for: Readers who are looking for a space opera that tackles themes surrounding identity in thoughtful and fascinating ways
In An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon takes readers into the life of a woman named Aster who is traveling on the HSS Matilda. The Matilda is a spaceship carrying people away from Earth and towards an uncertain future elsewhere. Those aboard the ship are kept rigidly segregated, and Aster inhabits the lower decks. There, she is mistreated by those on the decks above: They force her to work for their benefit and engage in abusive behavior. Readers will root for Aster as she looks for a way to upend the brutal and racist social order on the Matilda.
Perfect for: Genre veterans (and Eurovision superfans) who have read the classics and are itching for a new release
Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera tells the story of the galaxy after a massive and deadly conflict known as the Sentience Wars. The wars left the cosmos in such disrepair that a contest was organized, the Metagalactic Grand Prix, in order to bring disparate species together in a celebration of music and culture. The catch? If you come in last, your species is destroyed. This year, humans are entering the Metagalactic Grand Prix, and the representatives they have chosen, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeros, must make a good impression.
Perfect for: Readers who love reading about high-stakes journeys
Sixteen-year-old Binti’s life changes the day she gets into the mega-prestigious Oomza University. She’s the first member of the Himba to be accepted there, and it’s a fantastic opportunity. But if Binti decides to go, she’ll have to leave home and travel through the middle of a longstanding interstellar conflict. Binti will encounter cultural differences, personal challenges, and grapple with the nature of her own identity in this gripping novella that won both a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award.
Perfect for: Newcomers to the genre or anyone looking to pick up a beloved classic
This genre staple by Douglas Adams is perhaps one of the most famous novels ever written in the space opera genre. In it, Arthur Dent narrowly escapes destruction when his buddy Ford Prefect rescues him from Earth. Prefect has a job that many sci-fi nerds would be jealous of: He’s conducting research for a new edition of a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The two set off on a romp through the cosmos, using their trusty book and making friends along the way. Don’t forget your towel.