From the author of the Poppy War trilogy, Babel is a towering work of fantasy with 1830s Oxford as its center. Robin Swift, orphaned by a cholera outbreak in Canton and brought to England as the ward of the severe Professor Lovell, grapples with the extractive cruelty of the British Empire even as he falls in love with the study of translation and the arcane magic of silver-working. Robin is forced to choose between assisting the underground Hermes Society and its goal of redistributing the wealth of empire and preserving his life and friendships at Oxford. This is a deeply felt and tightly plotted exploration of the interpersonal and global trauma of colonialism that takes its strength from both its true-to-life relationships and the ingenious mechanics of its fantastical elements.
The objects found on the planet New Discovery are at once fleshily repellent and strangely magnetic, and they are driving those aboard the Six-Thousand Ship slowly insane. Told in darkly funny and sometimes dreamlike statements from the fracturing crew, The Employees melds outer space psychological horror with perceptive commentary on the future of work. Like all great speculative fiction, Ravn's narrative asks us to consider what it is to be human and demonstrates what we might lose in the process of definition.
If you are a young person who feels as if they are living at the end of things or a not-so-young person wondering about the world you will leave behind: read this book. Doerr expertly weaves together five perspectives linked by a fantastical ancient Greek text, each of his protagonists finding new meaning in the story of a young man searching for a utopia in the sky. The characters almost seem to reach out to each other from across time and space, binding together 15th-century Constantinople, a town in present-day Idaho under siege from developers, and a lonely girl on the interstellar ship Argos. Themes of environmental and historical disaster dominate the narrative but don't drag it under, leaving the reader with an oddly hopeful message: yes, this is the end of everything, and yes, there will be more ends to come.