Speculative fiction is a huge genre with many diverse titles. It’s not just dragons and spaceships, but includes dystopia, magical realism and imagined futures. Whether you want to escape to another world, or learn more about the one we’re in, there’s a speculative fiction book for you.

Here are some of our favourites.

Terra Nullius – Claire G. ColemanTerra Nullius

The Natives of the Colony are restless. The settlers are eager to have a nation of peace and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart and re-education is enforced. But this rich land will provide for all – Jacky, who escapes from the household he has been ordered to serve, Sister Bagra whose duty is to teach the natives, outlaw Johnny Star, Sergeant Rohan who hates everything about this land and Esperance who wants to survive.

Shortlisted for the Stella Prize, this eerie imaging of Australia is somehow both new and familiar in this story of past and future. An emotional and insightful read from Coleman, a proud Noongar woman, who has also written The Old Lie.

Neverwhere – Neil GaimanNeverwhere

There’s a secret world under the streets a London – full of monsters and saints, where the Angel Islington is not a just a station and people roam beneath the streets. An act of kindness pulls Richard out of his predictable life and into a bizarre world with a girl named Door, an Angel called Islington, a Beast in a labyrinth, and many dangers and wonders…

Gaiman is a master at creating fictional worlds within the real world and this was his first novel – a must-read.

Dyschronia – Jennifer MillsDyschronia

One morning, the residents of a small coastal town somewhere in Australia wake to discover the sea has disappeared. Sam, who has grown up in this town, has been experiencing troubling visions of disaster for year. Is she a prophet, or just experiencing time differently? Or is she a gifted and compulsive liar?

Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, this dystopian novel is an eye-opener and raises questions about climate and the future.

Oryx and Crake –Margaret AtwoodOryx & Crake

The pigs here might not fly but they are strangely altered. So, for that matter, are wolves and racoons. A man lives in a tree, wrapped in old bedsheets. He was once known as Jimmy but now calls himself Snowman and is haunted by the voice of Oryx, a woman he once knew. And the green-eyed Children of Crake are, for some reason, his responsibility.

Perhaps best known for The Handmaid’s Tale [B1189], Atwood creates an equally disturbing dystopian world here. While not direct sequels, the same characters are also featured in The Year of the Flood [B2079] and MaddAddam.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna ClarkeJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

In 1806, England believes magic is long dead, until Mr Norrell appears and thrills with his talents. Promising young magician Jonathan Strange appears, wanting to learn from him. They join forces in the war against France, but Strange’s ambition may be the greatest threat of all.

A hefty read but a brilliant one, recently made into a TV series. This Hugo Award-winning reimaging of the Napoleonic wars with quirky magicians is a joy.

Parable of the Sower – Octavia E. Butler

Parable of the SowerIn 2024, the world has been wracked by disaster. Lauren lives in a gated community where future is uncertain. Natural resources are limited and corporations are beginning to take control of society. When the community falls, she is forced to join other survivors and a new religion emerges.

Butler was an award-winning African-American writer of fantasy, and created worlds that are seemingly less and less dystopian in today’s climate. Parable of the Sower was followed by Parable of the Talents.

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin [B1064]

The Left Hand of DarknessAmbassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by outsiders who have experienced its harsh climate, believing it will be a straightforward mission. Instead he finds himself wildly unprepared when he encounters a society with a rich, ancient culture – a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither. This lack of fixed gender, and the resulting lack of gender-based discrimination, is the very cornerstone of Gethen life. But unless Genly can overcome his ingrained prejudices, he may destroy both his mission and himself.

It’s hard to choose just one Le Guin novel with her stunning array of work, but this Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novel is a masterpiece.

Do you have a favourite speculative novel? Get in touch on bookgroups@cae.edu.au