8 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books We Wish Weren’t Standalones

I think we can all agree that not all science fiction stories need to span multiple volumes, and not all fantasy series need to be as long as they end up being. That said, there are times when an author creates a fascinating world you want to visit over and over again in book after book. Unfortunately, some of those times, it’s a one and done, leaving readers wanting more.

Here are eight sci-fi and fantasy books I’d love to read sequels to—what would be on your list?

Embedded, by Dan Abnett
When the military gets involved in a war on a distant world, a journalist named Lex Falk goes to desperate lengths to get the inside story of how it is being waged: he embeds his consciousness into the mind of a soldier on the front lines. When that grunt is taken out in a fight, Lex is left stranded, and desperate to figure out a way to return to his own body. Dan Abnett is probably best known for his comics and his novels in the world of Warhammer 40K, but Embedded is an original standalone—and too bad it is: the book presents an intriguing world and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

A Darkling Sea, by James L. Cambias
James L. Cambias’s 2014 debut novel feels like it’s a forgotten classic from the 1970s—it’s a hard science fiction yarn set on an ice-covered planet called Ilmatar. There, humans have come into contact with an alien species called the Sholen, who allow them to explore Ilmatar, provided they don’t disturb the natural habitat—and the native Ilmatarians who live under the ice. The book is an excellent example of a first-contact thriller; when humans do come into contact with the Ilmatarians, tensions explode, potentially leading to war between the species. Unfortunately, Cambias hasn’t followed up the novel with a successor. It would be really fascinating to follow up with the conflict, explore more of Ilmatar, and witness humanity’s ongoing efforts at space exploration.

Famous Men Who Never Lived, by K. Chess
Alternate history novels are fun to pick apart to discover the little differences between our timeline and that of our doppelgängers. K. Chess’s debut Famous Men who Never Lived is all about the differences in worlds: when a nuclear holocaust destroys an alternative civilization, a small number of refugees are able to escape into the world we know, where they settle uneasily alongside us, haunted by their divergent histories—which extends to the literary output of a Philip K. Dick-like author who was never born in our version of the past. Chess’s book is a solid standalone, and she’s a disciplined writer, never overdoing it on infodumping about the differences between the two worlds. But that also means that we’re left with a ton of intriguing questions—the alternate world sets up is fascinating one, and I hope that she’ll explore more of it sometime in our future.

Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey
Magical school novels are ripe for sequels—look no further than Harry Potter or The Magicians. Sarah Gailey’s first novel Magic for Liars fiddles with a lot of the tropes of the form in the story of Ivy Gamble, a non-magical private investigator investigating a murder at the magical school where her estranged, supernaturally gifted twin sister is a teacher. (Also ripe for the series treatment: detective novels.) Magic for Liars stands nicely on its own, and Gailey ties off the mystery without leaving clues for a sequel. They do leave some lingering emotional plot points dangling, and that alone makes a second installment a must-have, but there is also much more to learn about the way these magical schools slot into the wider world.

The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
Karin Lowachee’s 2010 fantasy novel is set in the high arctic, following the conflict between a tribe known as the Aniw, and the Ciracusan army. Sjenn is a spirit walker who is captured by the Army, an finds an unlikely ally in Jarrett Fawle, a captain in the military. The book was apparently set up as the first of a trilogy, but Orbit never picked up the following two books. That’s a shame: Lowachee sets up a fascinating steampunk-like world, and makes clear this is but the opening salvo in a larger conflict between indigenous and colonizing forces.

The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata
Linda Nagata’s The Red trilogy is one of the best examples of modern military science fiction. She followed it up with another near-future military thriller, The Last Good Man, plays with some other ideas that feel ripped from tomorrow’s headlines: the focus is on the ways private contractors and technology firms aid in the business of warfare. This is a particularly fast-moving field: militaries around the world are investing in all types of technologies, and private security firms are playing a bigger role on the battlefield. Nagata’s book portrays a future of global conflict as it is very likely to unfold in the coming decades, and I’d love for a sequel to give a fuller picture of her vision the future of war.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
I’d already long enjoyed Annalee Newitz’s work as a journalist and commentator before she turned to fiction, and her debut novel Autonomous lived up to my expectations. (Disclaimer: I used to work for her at io9.) The book feels a bit like a manifestation of what that website is: a conglomeration of zany science fiction themes mashed up with some novel ideas around data and tech—in this case, pharmaceutical piracy, emerging artificial intelligence, and the moral quandaries surrounding both. The world is a vibrant one: an altered North America a century hence, populated with pirates on submarines, crowded cities full of sentient robots, and any number of high-tech gadgets. Newitz has stuffed the book full of almost too many ideas and locations, and I’d love it if she had a chance to return, spread out a bit more, and show us more of the scenery.

The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn’s The Icarus Hunt found me at the perfect time: I was in high school, and finishing up the enormous pile of books that was the Star Wars expanded universe. It’s just what I wanted: a thrilling space opera set in an original world that follows a smuggler named Jordan McKell who is hired to ferry a very particular ship across the galaxy. He assembles a crew and soon becomes the target of an intergalactic manhunt as the Patth, an alien civilization with a monopoly on interstellar shipping, goes after their mysterious cargo. Zahn sets up an intriguing world that’ll be familiar to anyone who enjoys a good space opera romp. It’s a fascinating place, packed with rowdy space ports, political intrigue, and enough space battles to warrant another adventure or two.

What stories do you wish hadn’t stopped at one book?

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