9 Space Operas to Read While Playing Mass Effect: Andromeda


Andromeda PIA15416 © NASA/JPL-Caltech

The wait between Mass Effect 3 and Mass Effect: Andromeda felt like it was interminable (and to be fair, five years is not a short amount of time.) Over half a decade, we got hints and clues as to what the new game might be about. We learned that it would not be a direct sequel to the Mass Effect trilogy and wouldn’t feature the same characters (boo, I say. BOO!) Instead, it was to take place in the Andromeda galaxy, where we had ventured in order to find a new home. There would be all new planets to explore, new alien races to discover. The promise of open world gaming seemed limitless.

Finally, the release date of Mass Effect: Andromeda arrived, and… oh boy. The game is good, it really is, but it takes so long to get there (we’re talking 20+ hours of gameplay) that you may need something else to entertain you while you’re waiting for the story to begin. So, of course, we recommend you turn to books to fill the gaps. These space operas should do just the trick.


Saga – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

If you’re not reading any comics but are interesting in delving into the medium, Saga is the place I recommend everyone start. It’s the story of Marko and Alana, whose planets are at war with one another. Against all odds, they’ve fallen in love and now have a baby to protect. Hunted by both sides, they flee across the galaxy in search of a refuge where they can put down roots and keep their family safe. Staples’ drawing and colors are absolutely breathtaking, and Vaughan is the master of the emotional cliffhanger. A warning: This comic can be graphic at times (nudity, sex, and so on), so you probably don’t want to read it at your office desk while you eat lunch.


Leviathan Wakes – James S. A. Corey

If you’re not watching The Expanse on the Syfy Channel, you’re missing out on some of the best storytelling on TV period (not just counting sci-fi shows). The show is based on the series The Expanse by James S. A. Corey, now six books in (with the seventh scheduled for November), and it’s, quite frankly, incredible. The authors have built a solar system in the not-too-distant future where humanity is divided between Earth, Mars, the Belt, and the outer planets. There is still peace, but tensions are high. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, tells two parallel stories of a cop on Ceres looking for a missing girl and the crew of a water hauler that investigates a distress call. The overlapping plots, varied (and awesome) female characters, and attention to detail are just a few of the things that makes this series so good.


Empress of a Thousand Skies – Rhoda Belleza

A sci-fi novel that explores the human cost of war and what it does to civilian populations, Empress of a Thousand Skies focuses on the crown princess Rhee, who’s getting ready to take the throne after the murder of her entire family. But when there’s an attempt on her life before she can take her rightful place, Rhee knows that she must get to the bottom of what’s happening in her empire. It’s an unconventional novel that will surprise you with its character and plot choices (and make you eager for the sequel, whenever it releases!)


Lightless – C.A. Higgins

Althea has never connected with the human members of the crew of her spaceship, but she’s formed a special bond with the ship itself, the Ananke. Althea will learn just how far that bond goes when terrorists board the ship, sabotaging it in order to use it for their own purposes. The story unfolds slowly at the beginning; each detail is important, but it takes the reader time to learn why. Higgins builds an interesting world in her novel, the first in a trilogy (the final installment of which releases in May), and readers will become absorbed as they try to put together the many pieces of this intricate puzzle.


Lost Stars – Claudia Gray

Yes, this is a Star Wars novel, but you don’t have to be a die hard fan of (or even know a lot about) the franchise to appreciate this story. Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell are born on the same planet on the same day, the day the Republic became the Empire. They grow up in the shadow of the Empire, best friends from opposite sides of the tracks, and both attend the Imperial Academy together. But their paths begin to diverge, as they work towards different goals, and they soon find themselves on opposite sides of the galaxy-spanning conflict. Will they be able to find their way back to one another, or is their love—and friendship—doomed? This isn’t a great Star Wars novel, it’s a great story, period.


Ascension – Jaqueline Koyanagi

Alana Quick is a sky surgeon; ships are the love of her life, even if she’s never actually flown into space. But on impulse, she decides to stow away on one, hoping to find the opportunity to earn a place on the crew. It so happens that the ship is searching for Alana’s sister, and she knows she’ll be valuable even without her sky surgeon skills. But when things go awry and everyone on board is branded a criminal, they must figure out what happened and how they can clear their name. This book has been billed as a queer Star Wars with a black female lead—and it lives up to that promise.


Star’s End – Cassandra Rose Clarke

Esme has known she was going to take over the family company, managing their small corporate-owned solar system, from her father for years, but she didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Her father is dying, and his wish is for Esme to reunite her three estranged sisters on their home planet one final time. It’s easier said than done, though: her sisters believe that Esme chose their father over protecting them, and they aren’t on speaking terms. What is the truth of what happened all those years ago, and what can Esme do now to make it right? This is a family drama disguised as a space opera; Esme isn’t perfect, but her desire to do right by her sisters is admirable, and readers will tear through the pages to discover the truth of past secrets.


Behind the Throne – K.B Wagers

Hail Bristol left home, and she hasn’t looked back in 20 years. But now, someone’s been sent to drag her back: It turns out that Hail is the heir to the Indranan Empire, and her sisters are dead. There’s no one left but Hail to take the crown. Reluctantly, she returns to begin taking over ruling duties from her mother. But there are snakes everywhere Hail turns, and everyone has their own agenda. She’s not sure who she can trust, but she knows she must rely on her own strengths, skills, and intuition to figure out what happened to her sisters and how to best serve her people. The addition of a matriarchal society based on Indian culture only serves to enhance a gripping and entertaining story with an appealing main character.


These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

Tarver Merendsen is serving on the Icarus, a giant spaceship, when disaster strikes and the spaceship gets pulled into the gravity of a planet. He manages to escape with Lilac LaRoux, the very rich daughter of the Icarus’s owner, and they crash land on the planet. At first they cannot stand one another, but as they realize how alone they are and how strange the planet is, they begin to work together to uncover the mysteries of what happened to the Icarus and just what is going on around them. It’s a love story, but also a story of courage and fortitude.