We talk about how the fantasy genre is dominated by European-inspired medieval castles and knights and princesses, but I think we take it for granted that most of the science fiction genre is very Euro-centric and focused on the western world. Although science fiction is growing to be more inclusive and include people of color, a lot of the times the setting and culture is still very much a reflection of America or Europe. I have found a few gems that are inspired by other cultures, though, and I wanted to share them! I'll also have some honorable mentions for the books that include characters of multiple cultures even if the overall setting is still western.
1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Jemisin's Fifth season draws a lot of its cultural inspiration from Africa. Skin tones of people vary from dark brown to alabaster, but the majority of the characters are people of color. The villages in this book are described in such a way that the village of my great grandparents in India came to mind, instead of the usual quaint European village tucked away in the hills complete with a milk maid and a baker. This book sort of straddles the line between fantasy and science fiction, but I like to think of it as science fiction because it seems like it could be a future version of our own world after some sort of post-apocalyptic natural disaster. The non-linear story telling is a treat, and putting the puzzle pieces together makes this book very rewarding!
2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
If you haven't heard of Cinder, you've been living under a rock! Cinder mostly takes place in New Beijing, a futuristic re-imagining of the capital of the Asian Commonwealth. Besides being an awesome and entertaining story featuring a cyborg mechanic and an evil alien queen, it has a lot of little cultural details and flourishes that make the reading experience even more immersive.
3. The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu
This book was a lot of fun, featuring a half-Indian main character and set in a futuristic version of India. It's so rare to see India represented in science fiction, since people usually associate India with ancient palaces and magic, not futuristic technology.
4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of my favorite books, but I don't think I could survive reading it a second time! This book is brutal and dark, and you can't help but feel devastated when bad things inevitably happen to the characters you've come to love. This book is set in Thailand, and genetic engineering/bioengineering is a huge focus, but it's definitely more about the characters and the state of humanity in crisis than anything else.
5. Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
Feudal Japan, but steampunk! If that doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what to tell you. Rest assured that this book is full of blood and magic and pain, incredible friends, family with complicated relationships, and manipulative bastards.
1. Partials by Dan Wells
Set in post-apocalyptic America, but for once the survivors actually represent the cultural and ethnic diversity of our country!
2. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
When the moon breaks apart and people panic, the whole world is involved in the effort to save humanity. Thankfully that's reflected in the diversity of the cast, although later on in the book society becomes mostly Russian and English-speaking. Let's be real, take a hint from Firefly...we all know it would actually be Chinese and English!
That's all for now, I really wish I could share more with you but it's so hard to find non-western science fiction!! If you have any recommendations that I missed, please let me know :)