8 of the Best Sci-Fi Novellas To Read In One Sitting

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For too long, the tyranny of standard page counts has kept published stories to a set length. There was one category for short stories and one for novels, with nary a middle ground in sight. But as ebooks became more popular, the humble novella took its rightful spot in the literary ecosystem. No more will we pad a story to reach the minimum word count! Stories can be whatever length suits them best, from 900-page epics to tiny flash stories, and they all have a place in our reading landscape!

One of the publishers leading the way in championing novellas is Reactor (formerly Tor.com). On top of their many popular standalone SFF novellas, they also publish several fan-favorite novella series, including the Wayward Children and Murderbot series. They’re far from the only publisher publishing sci-fi novellas, though!

This surge in popularity for genre novellas is why task #5 of the 2024 Read Harder Challenge is “Read a sci-fi novella.” This format is popular in many genres, including romance and fantasy, but it seems to be just starting to take off (rocket pun!) in sci-fi, which means now is the perfect time to get on board. Here are a few options to start with, but be sure to head to the comments section afterward, where we can trade more recommendations!

Cover of All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

I had to start with the reigning monarch of sci-fi novellas: Murderbot. This has won the biggest awards in SFF, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus. All Systems Red is the first book in the series, and it follows a security android who has reprogramed themselves and mostly just wants to be left alone to watch TV — relatable. Unfortunately, Murderbot keeps getting pulled into human conflicts, and now they’re reluctantly trying to find out what went wrong in a neighboring mission.

Cover of And What Can We Offer You Tonight

And What Can We Offer You Tonight by Premee Mohamed

Here’s another Nebula winner! I first heard about this one in Lyndsie Manusos’s article about Neon Hemlock Press, which publishes a ton of great queer speculative fiction. This 80-page novella takes place in a dystopian future, where Jewel works as a courtesan. When her friend is murdered by a client — and then somehow comes back to life — she’s determined to get revenge.

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