15 Sci-Fi Books With Badass Female Protagonists
If you're searching for sci-fi books with badass female protagonists, look no further. I've got 15 fantastic books and series you can pick up today to read all about powerful women warriors and girl super-geniuses, so get those spines a-crackin', readers.
The Mary Sues of the female protagonist world have given the rest of the lot a bad name. Accepting heroines on the condition that they excel in every possible way makes it incredibly difficult for us, as consumers of entertainment media, to see average women as potential world-savers.
Pushing back against this, the 15 sci-fi books and series on the list below feature female protagonists who are flawed badasses. They screw up. They aren't always charming or pretty. They have bigger problems than choosing between the two attractive-but-inept guys who like them. And, in my humble opinion, they're all the more relatable for it.
In composing this list, I have tried to choose books that first appeared on shelves in the last few years. With that being said, a few of the entries below have been overlooked and underappreciated, or are classics that deserve to be brought to the modern-day reader's attention.
Check out my recommendations for sci-fi books with badass female protagonists, and share your favorite genre fiction books:
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy centers on Essun, one of the marginalized people known as orogenes — people who can control seismic activity — who must travel across the continent to save her daughter after the girl's father kidnaps her and sets off in search of a "cure" for her orogeny.
The Machineries of Empire Trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee
In the first Machineries of Empire book, Ninefox Gambit, a disgraced soldier named Kel Cheris fights to retake a seized structure, the Fortress of Scattered Needles, with only the ghost of a murderous military leader to help her.
The Quantum Gravity Series by Justina Robson
Before she died, Lila lived a completely different life. Now she's a cyborg bodyguard protecting the life of an elven rock star, who might have just pissed off every sentient being in the known universe, Lila included.
'A Study in Honor' by Claire O'Dell
This Sherlock Holmes retelling focuses on Janet Watson and Sara Holmes, two queer black women living in the aftermath of the New Civil War, who discover that many of the returned veterans have begun to mysteriously disappear.
'Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach' by Kelly Robson
Coming from a ruined planet, river restorer Minh has the opportunity to travel backward in time more than 4,000 years, to an era when the Tigris and Euphrates were untainted. But the people who sent her there have ulterior motives, as she soon learns.
The Archivist Wasp Saga by Nicole Kornher-Stace
As an Archivist, Wasp hunts down ghosts to find out what they know about times and places lost to the present-day living. When she fears losing her position, Wasp makes a deal with a vengeful spirit: she'll help him hunt down the ghost of his former partner, in exchange for everything he knows about life before an apocalyptic event.
'Kushiel's Dart' by Jacqueline Carey
Courtesan Phèdre takes center stage in Kushiel's Dart, in which her work as a spy uncovers a plot that could devastate the near-utopic world in which she lives.
'The Poppy War' by R.F. Kuang
Born in a poor corner of her country, Rin was the last person anyone expected to earn her place at the elite military college known as Sinegard. Now that she's there, however, she'll have to find a way to survive both the prejudices of her classmates and the war that lies on their doorstep.
'Phasma' by Delilah S. Dawson
First introduced in Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma is a terrifying badass of the First Order. Read her origin story in Delilah S. Dawson's tie-in novel, Phasma.
'Black Panther: World of Wakanda' by Roxane Gay
Black Panther is cool and all, but let's not forget that he's protected at almost all times by the Dora Milaje: elite warriors from across Wakanda's tribes. In Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Roxane Gay centers on Ayo and Aneka, A.K.A. The Midnight Angels, who are in a relationship with one another.
'Trail of Lightning' by Rebecca Roanhorse
In this Navajo-centric sci-fi novel, the gods and monsters of Native American legend return to walk the Earth after a climate catastrophe. Heroine Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter for hire, who teams up with Kai Arviso, a medicine man, to battle the evil that has been brought back into the world.
'An Unkindness of Ghosts' by Rivers Solomon
Born and raised in the slums of the HSS Matilda — a caste-separated ship designed to carry humanity to the Promised Land — neuroatypical Aster has never been fully accepted by her community. When the death of the ship's leader reveals a decades-old link to Aster's mother's suicide, she musters all she's got to examine her mother's life and find a way out of the Matilda's hold.
'God's War' by Kameron Hurley
Mercenary Nyx has made her living hunting down military deserters, but she shifts gears to teamwork when a covert operation sends her deep into the heart of a neighboring country, with the purpose of ending a long and grueling war.
'Company Town' by Madeline Ashby
This sci-fi mystery centers on Hwa, a woman whose Sturge-Weber Syndrome made her ineligible — in her mother's view — to receive the cybernetic enhancements that have become so common in New Arcadia, Canada. Instead of bio-engineering, Hwa uses good old fashioned martial arts in her job as a bodyguard for local sex workers, and her training comes in handy when her charges begin to turn up dead.
'Radiance' by Catherynne M. Valente
This decopunk novel is a bit different from the other books on this list, namely because it centers on an intellectual badass. Set in an alternate version of 1986 in which talking movies are rare, but space travel is common, Radiance follows Severin Unck to Venus, where she intends to document the disappearance of a diving colony.