Holy shirt, do we miss The Good Place. As we wait for the third season of this sitcom of screwball antics in the afterlife, we’re itching to find sci-fi and fantasy readalikes offering the same blend of goofy and earnestness that makes Michael’s neighborhood the only spot to spend eternity.
While nothing can fill the Janet-shaped hole in our lives completely, these 8 SFF books each showcase one or another of the qualities that make The Good Place so forking wonderful.
Warning: Show spoilers ahead. (And you don’t want to spoil this show for yourself.)
Reincarnation Blues, by Michael Poore
In this enchanting take on the afterlife, every human being gets 10,000 reincarnations—10,000 chances to reach “perfection” and merge with the “Oversoul.” If you don’t, you wind up in the void (and not the cozy Derek-and-Janet kind). Milo is running out chances as he hits his 9,995th life, but he’s far more interested in finding love with Suzie, the literal embodiment of Death, than in finding perfection. Sound like any characters we know?
The Postmortal, by Drew Magary
There is a strong argument to be made that the alternate Earth Magary sketches out is actually the Bad Place. It certainly feels like it: in the near future, humanity has discovered the cure for aging—and stumbled into a political and ethical maelstrom that comes with it. In solving one problem, we created thousands more, including religious cults, government-sponsored euthanasia programs, and environmental strains. The story is told with wit and humor, but the very real debates it wages would both fascinate and paralyze Chidi.
Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett’s prodigious Discworld series is known for its humor, but his novels starring Death are simultaneously the hands-down funniest, and the most emotionally involved. Here, Death takes the standard skeletal Grim Reaper form, but he’s as fascinated by humans and their eccentricities as Michael is. In Hogfather, Death gets a chance to save these remarkable little creatures—or at least their holiday spirits—when he swoops in to take the place of Discworld’s Santa Claus analogue.
All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
While there are any number of “best” things about The Good Place, Good and Bad Janets certainly are near the top of the list. Murderbot is a slightly different AI than Janet, but one who struggles with the same robot-person identity issues. Murderbot was your average security bot until it hacked its governor module and gained a new form of sentience. Now, it spends its free time binge-watching trash TV and trying to figure its relationship with the humans it’s charged to protect.
Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero
If zany ensemble casts really hit the spot for you, give Cantero’s Blyton Summer Detective Club a shot. More than a decade after their final Scooby Doo-esque case, the formerly teen detectives have grown up, separately and to varying degrees of success. There are plenty of real, nutso monsters in this story, but the biggest baddies are the inner torments of its main characters. A perfect blend of nightmares and laughs, just like The Good Place.
Food of the Gods, by Cassandra Khaw
Much like Eleanor Shellstrop, Rupert Wong knows a thing or two about karma coming back to bite you in the ash. In a madcap romp through Kuala Lumpur and beyond, we find Rupert hustling to pay off spiritual debt with two jobs: one as a gruesome cannibal chef for ghouls and the other as a bookkeeper for Diyu, the 10-level Chinese hell. His adventures are as raucous, if far, far gorier, than the hijinks of Eleanor and the crew.
It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
If there’s any town that might understand the issues (fro-yo-related and otherwise) of Michael’s fake Good Place, it’s Night Vale. The second novel set in this bizarro desert town probes the relationship between science and religion in a way that is characteristically odd, dark, and funny, but also poignant and remarkable. Much as they did in The Good Place’s first season, mysterious sinkholes begin to dot Night Vale, consuming homes, business, schools, and the oddball locals inside them. Rather than Eleanor, however, the destruction seems tied to the mysterious Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God.
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity, by A. Lee Martinez
One topic The Good Place explores fairly frequently is the idea of fate. Michael’s subversive season-ending plan to see, given a few nudges, if his human charges could change their ways on Earth toys with predestination in a way that fits well with Constance Verity, seemingly fated to be an adventurer forever. That is, until Constance takes things into her own hands and comes up with a plan: kill the fairy godmother who cursed her with extraordinariness and hit the reset button on life.
What books would you send to the Good Place?