I consider myself a fantasy-lover who dabbles in other genres. Usually, I find science fiction to be a little too dense, a little too heavy, to really enjoy. Then I fell into a subgenre I hadn't ever heard of, one that's just getting started: cozy science fiction. These books do tend to take place in space or high-technology futures and certainly have some science and weird tech in them, but that's not what they are about. Those features are just the background to the deeply personal and human stories that they are telling. Cozy sci-fi is just what I needed this spring and maybe you need it, too.
The Wayfarers Series
The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet
This series is interesting in that it doesn't follow a specific characters. Rather, all of the stories take place in the same universe with related but different characters. Each book builds on what you learned and pieced together in the previous one to craft a fully fleshed world to dive into. Becky Chambers explores what it means to be human by showing us what it means to be alien and it's fascinating.
The Murderbot Diaries
Now, this series title really doesn't sound like it could be classified as cozy, but it totally is! This series of novellas focuses on an android built by an insurance corporation that is designed to protect humans while they survey planets. Murderbot (self-named) breaks it's programming so that it can spend it's downtime watching human media. Not that it gets a lot of downtime; humans need a lot of saving.
With a protagonist who's ashamed of her past as a mercenary outlaw trying to find a way forward that doesn't involve so much death, this book initially sounds like it could be a western or something. It firmly takes place in space, all over the galaxy, and on alien planets and Eva's ship is crewed by humans, aliens, and psychic cats (the cats are not supposed to be there). Eva was raised in a Spanish-speaking household, so her dialog is in a mix of English and Spanish (the Spanish is mostly swearing; I learned lots reading this book), which is interesting and different. The second book in the series keeps things moving right along.
This is a stand alone book, so just one and done. This one does take place in a distant galaxy and has a lot more of the political intrigue generally associated with traditional science fiction, but it's also an altar-diplomacy romance with a real slow burn. If you've got a thing for idiots in love but oblivious to each other, man is this book for you! I would say that this one is a little less thought-provoking and more cuddly than the previous books on this list.
Another novella, this quick read is sci-fi in that the characters hop the multiverse, but it is really much more about caring for yourself and how that effects caring for others. Recently broken up Ava and Jules have to dive into the multiverse to save a random shopper, not by choice, but by dint of being the newest hires. What will they discover on their journey? The sequel is same universe, but clones?
Aliens are coming to destroy the human race because they think we’re kinda jerks! Hold up, it’s cool. They’re only going to destroy us if we can’t outperform them in a galactic Eurovision. We’ve got this, right? Also, Clippy makes an appearance, which sold me on this book.