Sci Fi Friday: 30+ SFF Books by Asian and Pacific Islander Authors

May is National Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and while this is a US-national month, I’d like to focus on Asian and Pacific Islander authors from all over the world as well as in the US.

Asian hate crimes and attacks have been on the rise over the past year, particularly attacks on elders and women. Not sure how to help? Here are some resources:

This post is not going to be ground-breaking, and I’m sure I’m missing some fantastic authors (plus, this month is the Asian Readathon). Here are some bloggers who have posted great lists of Asian and Pacific Islander book recs. Check them out!

And some Goodreads Lists: Reading Women Challenge 2021 #22 Fantasy Novel by an Asian Author, Asian-Authored Books in 2020, Asian Authored Books in 2021, Asian Speculative Fiction by Asian Authors

Here are 30ish books with under 10,000 ratings on Goodreads, which is why, even though they are incredible, Liu Cixin, Ken Liu, Kazuo Ishiguro, Charles Yu, Yoko Ogawa, RF Kuang, Fonda Lee, Ling Ma and Ted Chiang are not on this list. Blurbs are from Goodreads. Any errors or misrepresentations are my own.

Science Fiction

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (September 2021)

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six. When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate. But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

Of Wars and Memories and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard (2019)

Come discover the breadth and endless invention of her universes, ranging from a dark Gothic Paris devastated by a magical war; to the multiple award-winning Xuya, a far-future space opera inspired by Vietnamese culture where scholars administrate planets and sentient spaceships are part of families.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (2021)

Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books. Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it. When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other.

Starfang by Joyce Chng (2017)

Is a clan captain going to sacrifice everything for her clan? Tasked to kill Yeung Leung by her parents, powerful rival clan leader of the Amber Eyes, Captain Francesca Min Yue sets out across the galaxy to hunt her prey, only to be thrown into a web of political intrigue spreading across the stars. Is Yeung Leung collaborating with the reptilian shishini and playing a bigger game with the galaxy as a price? Is Francesca’s clan at stake? Welcome to Starfang: Rise of the Clan, where merchants and starship captains are also wolves.

Orbital Cloud by Taiyo Fujii (2017)

In the year 2020, Kazumi Kimura, proprietor of shooting star forecast website Meteor News, notices some orbiting space debris moving suspiciously. Rumors spread online that the debris is actually an orbital weapon targeting the International Space Station. Halfway across the world, at NORAD, Staff Sergeant Darryl Freeman begins his investigation of the debris. At the same time, billionaire entrepreneur Ronnie Smark and his journalist daughter prepare to check in to an orbital hotel as part of a stunt promoting private space tourism. Then Kazumi receives highly sensitive information from a source claiming to be an Iranian scientist.

Zero Sum Game by SL Huang (2018)

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price. As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang (2020)

In 2096, the war of independence erupts when a colony of people living on Mars rebel against Earth’s rule. The war results in two different and mutually incompatible worlds. In 2196, one hundred years later, Earth and Mars attempt to initiate a dialogue, hoping a reconciliation is on the horizon. Representing Mars, a group of young delegates are sent to Earth to study the history and culture of the rival planet, all while teaching others about life on Mars.

Yukikaze by Chōhei Kambayashi (2010

More than thirty years ago, a hyper-dimensional passageway suddenly appeared over the continent of Antarctica. Fighters from the mysterious alien force known as the JAM poured through the passage, the first wave an attempted terrestrial invasion. Their ferocity was unquestionable, their aim unknown. Humanity, united by a common enemy, managed to repel the invaders, chasing them back through the passageway to the strange planet nicknamed “Fairy.” The task of finishing the battle was given to the newly formed FAF, a combat force created to go to Fairy and eliminate the JAM bases once and for all.

The All-Consuming World by Cassandra Khaw (August 2021)

A diverse team of broken, diminished former criminals get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade… but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir. The highly-evolved AI of the universe have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humans from ever controlling the universe again. This band of dangerous women, half-clone and half-machine, must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all. 

In the Watchful City by S Qiouyi Lu (August 2021)

The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora’s citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm. All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item.

We Have Always Been Here by Linda Nguyen (July 2021)

Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship–all specialists in their own fields–as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility. Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes–and that’s when things begin to fall apart. 

The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories By Vandana Sinhg (2009)

In the title story, a woman tells her husband of her curious discovery: that she is inhabited by small alien creatures. In another, a young girl making her way to college through the streets of Delhi comes across a mysterious tetrahedron. Is it a spaceship? Or a secret weapon? The first Indian female speculative fiction writer, Singh has said that her genre is a “chance to find ourselves part of a larger whole; to step out of the claustrophobia of the exclusively human and discover joy, terror, wonder, and meaning in the greater universe.”

Fantasy

Deadline by Stephanie Ahn (2018)

Disgraced witch Harrietta Lee has made a lot of mistakes in her life; there’s a reason she’s got a sizable burn scar slapped across the side of her neck and a formal letter of excommunication from the international underground magical community. But who has time to dwell on the past when you’re trying to make rent in New York? Things are mostly clean and simple, until her next odd job is brought to her by a representative of a powerful corporate family—a family she once had close personal ties to. As she unwillingly digs through six years’ worth of personal baggage, she’s also got to contend with an inhuman admirer shadowing her in the street.

Upon a Burning Throne by Ashok K Banker (2019)

In a world where demigods and demons walk among mortals, the Emperor of the vast Burnt Empire has died, leaving a turbulent realm without an emperor. Two young princes, Adri and Shvate, are in line to rule, but birthright does not guarantee inheritance: For any successor must sit upon the legendary Burning Throne and pass The Test of Fire. Imbued with dark sorceries, the throne is a crucible—one that incinerates the unworthy. Adri and Shvate pass The Test and are declared heirs to the empire… but there is another with a claim to power, another who also survives: a girl from an outlying kingdom. 

Black Water Sister by Zo Chen (May 2021)

Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it.

The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z Hossain (2019)

When the djinn king Melek Ahmar wakes up after millennia of imprisoned slumber, he finds a world vastly different from what he remembers. Arrogant and bombastic, he comes down the mountain expecting an easy conquest: the wealthy, spectacular city state of Kathmandu, ruled by the all-knowing, all-seeing tyrant AI Karma. To his surprise, he finds that Kathmandu is a cut-price paradise, where citizens want for nothing and even the dregs of society are distinctly unwilling to revolt.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong (2018)

The Song Empire has been invaded by its warlike Jurchen neighbours from the north. Half its territory and its historic capital lie in enemy hands; the peasants toil under the burden of the annual tribute demanded by the victors. Meanwhile, on the Mongolian steppe, a disparate nation of great warriors is about to be united by a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan.

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee (2020)

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint. One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers. But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics. What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin (2017)

In 1842, the gunpowder might of China’s Qing Dynasty fell to Britain’s steam engines. Furious, the Emperor ordered the death of his engineers, eliminating China’s best chance of fighting back. Since her father’s execution eight years ago, Jin Soling has kept her family from falling apart. With her mother addicted to opium and her younger brother in danger of being sent off to the factories, Soling has no choice but to sell off the last of her father’s possessions. To restore her family’s name, Soling must track down the rebel alchemist who holds the key to powering the imperial fleet.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (July 2021)

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected. When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice.

Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (2020)

The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands. Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognize her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (June 2021)

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin. Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides. But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled.

Vampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor (2020)

When Marcella Leones relocates her family of aswang vampires from the Philippines to Portland, Oregon, she raises her grandchildren under strict rules so humans will not expose them. Her only wish is to give them a peaceful life, far away from the hunters and the Filipino government that attempted to exterminate them. Before she dies, she passes on the power to her eldest grandchild, Percival. He vows to uphold the rules set forth by Leones, allowing his family to roam freely without notice. However, when the aswang covenant is broken, the murder rate in Portland rises drastically.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso (2020)

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father’s rival heralds peaceful days to come. But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair. Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It’s meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo (June 2020)

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (February 2021)

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap’s debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, ‘A Spell for Foolish Hearts’ to the terrifying tension of the urban legend ‘Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez’.

The Black Tides of Heavy by Neon Yang (2017)

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate. A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state.

Folklorn by Angelia Mi Young Hur (April 2021)

Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she’s put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she’s run from all her life. But it isn’t long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last. Years ago, Elsa’s now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her.

Young Adult

I originally compiled about 30 recommendations (there are so many more, so I definitely missed a lot), and my mind broke a little bit about all of the formatting. So, here are four new release recommendations broken down by general sub-genre, with 27 additional titles listed underneath if you want to explore further.

These all have under 10,000 GR reviews category, which is why you aren’t seeing Marie Lu, Renée Ahdieh, Roshani Chokshi, Julie Kagawa, Tahereh Mafi, Samira Ahmed, Natasha Ngan, or Rin Chupeco, on this list.

Dystopian/Near Future

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He (May 2021)

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay. Determined to find her, Cee devotes her days to building a boat from junk parts scavenged inland, doing everything in her power to survive until the day she gets off the island and reunites with her sister. In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara is also living a life of isolation. The eco-city she calls home is one of eight levitating around the world, built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. 

  • The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman (April 2021)
  • Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana (2016)
  • Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee (2016)
  • Adaptation by Malinda Lo (2012)
  • Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh (2017)
  • I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi (2019)
  • The Light at the Bottom of the World by London Shah (2019)
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by FC Yee (2017)

Retellings

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim (July 2021)

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother. Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die. Six Swans.

  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao (2017) Snow White
  • The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din (March 2021) pre-Islamic Arabian mythology (Indo-Persian setting)
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani (2020) The Goose Girl
  • A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna (2018) The Mahabharata 
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh (2013) Korean Mythology
  • Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim (2019) The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar (2020) Hindu Mythology

Epic Fantasy

Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan (October 2021)

In an empire on the brink of war . . . Ahn is no one, with no past and no family. Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child. When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities. But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

  • For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig (2018)
  • Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (2018)
  • Forest of Souls by Lori M Lee (2020)
  • Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier (November 2021)
  • The Tiger at Midnight by Swati Teerdhala (2019)
  • The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda Hall (2020)
  • The Girl King by Mimi Yu (2019)

Science Fiction

Iron Widow by Ziran Jay Zhao (September 2021)

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (2017)
  • Mirage by Somaiya Daud (2018)
  • Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
  • Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (2018)
  • Want by Cindy Pon (2017)

Have you read any of these?

8 thoughts on “Sci Fi Friday: 30+ SFF Books by Asian and Pacific Islander Authors

Leave a Reply to laurel • the suspected bibliophile Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s