I first “met” passionate reader, Anna M., in an SFR readers group on Goodreads. Clicking through her shelves, reviews and recommendations was a trip into a universe that I had no idea was so vast. She is a master at tracking down science fiction stories with heavy doses of romance and I don’t think I know of anyone who has read more SFR than she. Anna has kindly compiled for us her ten favorite SFR stories, describing it as: “a list of SFRs that I will reread periodically until the day I die.” You can follow Anna’s reviews on Goodreads.
1. Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro.
This story isn’t very “romantic” being heavy on the SF, but it sets up a wonderful romance that underlies the entire Skolian Empire series. Soz and Jaibriol are on opposite sides of an interstellar cold war, each the child of rulers. They meet and fall in love, but circumstances keep them apart. Soz is one of my favorite heroines of all time. She’s smart, strong, and sassy. She feels deeply and takes care of business but isn’t rude or cruel. The worldbuilding in this story, this entire series is magnificent. This was my first introduction to the Skolian Empire and I have since read every book in the series so that I could find out what happened to Soz and Jaibriol.
The characters and romance in this story are so powerful that I think of them often. This is a book I’ll reread until I die. Cordelia and Aral grew up in societies that are, in many ways, opposites. Yet from almost the beginning they understand each other and can communicate with a glance. The romance is very important and changes the course of civilizations by the way it changes the characters. This is a precursor to the Miles Vorkosigan series, which is wonderful. I love the world building, the societies and tech but mostly, the characters compel me. Yes, I bought the entire Miles series after reading this, but this is still my favorite.
3. The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald.
The Outback Stars is unique. The plot is heavy with Australian mythos, which I found really interesting. Lt. Jodenny Scott is strong and smart, but not sassy. She falls in love unexpectedly, just trying to do right by people. I love that in this lightly military, not warfare, SF she actually outranks the man she falls in love with. So often the man is the officer and the woman a civilian that this was refreshing. She outranks him and it does cause some conflict, but the main conflict was so off-the-wall it captivated me. I will reread this book until I die. It’s a standalone, but also the first book in a trilogy. My standing warning about the series is that the second book is a downer but the third rocks. So if you continue past this book, have the third to start immediately after finishing the second. You will want to.
4. Finder’s Keepers by Linnea Sinclair.
You can’t go wrong with Linnea’s books. They’re all good. This was my first introduction to her stories and I loved it. It was fast and fun. Trilby Elliot made a believable everywoman independent contractor space pilot and Rhis is tall dark, handsome and powerful. This story reminded me of Andromeda, with all the fun and epic scope with romance thrown in. The larger universe feels complete. The politics and universe are well thought out. I’m a sucker for characters and Trilby is a fun, smart and self-sufficient heroine.
5. Body Electric by Susan Squires.
I read this SFR before I’d even heard of SFR. It has many elements I love: great characters, tech, action and AI. Published in 2002 this was one of the early stories about a computer genius trying to create an AI on a computer system only to get much more than they bargained for. I’ve read several with the same type of plot in the years since, but this is different, better. The computer prodigy, Vic, is a woman for one. She’s smart, strong and independent without being rude or obnoxious—anyone see a trend in my choices here? The story has lots of action, twists, and sat me on the emotional roller coaster. I read this story a decade ago and I can still remember it. That’s the mark of success.
6. 7% and Rising by Kim Knox.
Time travel, mutants, monsters, long-lost love, what’s not to like about this story. It’s short and fast. The writing was vivid. My recurrent thought throughout was, “This would make an awesome movie. Why isn’t this a movie?” Parts are a little gruesome but they don’t last long. The love story was understated but the characters have a history so it’s believable. The worldbuilding was excellent and the entire story made me want to know more. This is very fast-paced.
7. Mako’s Bounty by Diane Dooley.
Hot, fast and short. This story is part of Decadent Publishing’s 1 Night Stand series. There is a lot of worldbuilding in an amazingly short space. Bounty hunter, Makiko “Mako” is sassy, strong and smart. Her prey, the infamous pirate The Saint is suave and sexy. The characters play well off each other and the sex in this story is hot.
This is the first book in the fantastic Apocalypse Babes series. To me, the “series” is a single continuous book, an awesome kitchen-sink, full-circle, sigh happily at the end, story. Seriously, it feels like everything is in this series, and everything in the series isn’t what it first seems. Don’t let the zombies put you off. Don’t let the “valley girl” talk at the beginning put you off. Everything changes. This story made me laugh, cry, cheer, and have warm fuzzies. It’s truly unique. Seffy is a strong, unique and unlikely heroine. I love her.
9. Song of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy.
I was captivated by the world. Scarabaeus itself is almost a character, with personality. The SF and world building are brilliant. Edie and Finn, the main characters are both oppressed but have the banked embers deep inside their personalities so that you just know they’ll do what has to be done. The romance is very slow to build and realistic. They don’t lust at first sight. They do learn to work together despite truly overwhelming odds. The government is corrupt; there are kidnappers and freedom fighters, oppression, and the wonder that is Scarabeaus. I really liked the characters, but oh my, the SF! I love the SF.
10. Darkship Thieves by Sarah Hoyt.
The romance between Kit and Athena is fun and unusual. The worldbuilding is different and really cool. Earth of the far future has seen genetic modifications welcomed and ostracized. Huge revolutions have come and gone. Space has been colonized. Earth’s entirety is powered by a giant Powertree that grows in space and has pods that explode if you bump them too hard, yet one has to touch them to harvest the power. Athena is the daughter of a rich and powerful man who runs from a mutiny and gets stuck among the pods. But things aren’t quite as they seem, are much more than they seem. Kit lives in a completely different society. As the pilot of a Darkship, he must choose between anonymity and love, safety and helping another person. I loved the complexity of the plot and the fun of the romance.
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Thanks so much to Anna for taking the time to compile her list. I promise I did not bribe her to include one of mine! *grin* As this post goes live the SFR Holiday Blitz has just begun in which four great blogs are giving away bundles of SFR books. Start at The Galaxy Express and click through to the other participating blogs for chances to win a variety of wonderful SFR stories. You may just be spending the holidays falling in love with stories about the beauty of our universe and meeting the remarkable characters who travel the stars, falling in love as they go. Giveaway closes 12 Midnight PST on Friday December 28th, 2012. Good luck!