When I went to see the first Iron Man film in the theaters, I was far from sold on the concept. But I was living in New York City, it was a sweltering summer, and movie theaters have air conditioning. Besides, everyone kept saying it was cool. So I figured I might as well check it out.
It won’t shock you to learn that I was pleasantly surprised. It started me on a journey of love with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As such, I’m always looking for books that will feed this obsession–even tangentially.
If you’re rooting for Tony in Civil War, if you keep crossing your fingers for an Iron Man 4, and if you simply can’t wait to see what will happen to the sassiest Avenger in Endgame, then I’ve got some books that can keep you company while you wait.
If you think Tony Stark loves his armor, let me introduce you to Devi Morris. Her suit (The Lady Gray) is top of the line, and in this trilogy, it acts like another character. I cringe every time it gets a dent–and let’s be real, with a mercenary telling the story, there are quite a few dents to be had. Devi may not be a billionaire player like Tony, but she’s definitely got Stark-level sass to spare. [Amazon Link]
One of my favorite recent sci fi books is Lock In. It’s near future science fiction combined with police/detective mystery, and it’s set on Earth after a major plague. Many of those who survive end up fully paralyzed and occupying the physical world via robotic extensions known as “threeps” (named for the one and only C3PO).
Lock In tackles a lot in terms of bigotry and ableism, in a subtle and thought-provoking way. And also, it has robotic suits throwing each other around. Score. I listened to the Wil Wheaton audiobook version, which was fantastic. It’s been interesting to discuss the book with people who read the book in print or ebook, or who listened to the other version of the audiobook. The way you experience Lock In can affect various interpretations, and I find that simply fascinating. Good on you, Mr. Scalzi. [Amazon Link]
My favorite character, Orna, has robotic armor named Ranger. It follows her around everywhere when she’s not wearing it. Need I say more? [Amazon Link]
Stretching into cyborg territory here, but robotics enthusiasts will love Austin Grossman’s metallic heroine, Fatale. She’s finding her place on a new team of superheroes, and she’s not to be underestimated. One of my favorite novels, this book is grossly underrated. Expect it to show up on my lists again. [Amazon Link]
OK, so Murderbot isn’t precisely a robot…or a cyborg…or a human in a suit. Murderbot is…well, Murderbot. It’s not sure it cares about much (besides binge-watching favorite series) but Murderbot’s cynicial voice will definitely appeal to Tony Stark devotees, though its fatalistic tendencies and social anxiety belongs to Murderbot alone. I also think anyone interested in the themes of technology and weapons development in Iron Man would be interested in the Murderbot Diaries. This novella series is absolutely one of the best things out there in sci fi right now. [Amazon Link]
For a more introspective take on the life of a robot—or more accurately, an artificial intelligence who’s been removed from her primary function on a spaceship—the second book in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series has you covered. The sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit is a stand-alone, fish-out-of-water tale, in which Sidra tries to learn her way around her new humanoid body while her caretaker, Pepper, grapples with the past. [Amazon Link]
~~GENRE BUST: Steampunk~~
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
If you like YA fantasy, urban fantasy, or steampunk–and if you like attacky fighty robots–Clockwork Angel is a fun diversion. Its clockwork baddies are a definite highlight of the book. [Amazon Link]
If you enjoy superheroes and general bookish shenanigans, you can click here to sign up for my newsletter–which comes along with a free short story collection Spells and Spaceships: Stories. My obsession with superheroes has made its way into the collection, as it does with so much of my life. There are also space racers, magic school rejects, and a day in the life of the last human on Earth. It’s pretty fun stuff, if I may say so myself.