"She is the one named..." wait who?
February 5, 2014 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Are there are hard sci-fi novels with basically a messiah, an "oh my god, he's THE ONE, the Kwisatz Haderach, the one from the Prophecy... except he is a she?

So we just finished watching Ender's Game, and I plan on reading it, obviously, since I can tell that's a pretty awesome story. But I find that I absolutely love "chosen one" stories... I grew up on David Lynch's "Dune", loved "The Matrix", and loved Ender's (and look forward to the book). This is kind of important...right? Really important.

Brainstorming all I've been able to come up with is "The Diamond Age" and honestly maybe I'm been watching too much Sailormoon but, Sailor Moon. Not just a messiah figure but literally the Messiah. (I know not even remotely hard sci-fi.)

I've fallen into a black hole for the rest of the week at the wiki for Monomyth and would love to read "The Hero with a Thousand Faces," but my need is more immediate and specific. You, eclectically well-read crowds of MeFi, help me here! What are your suggestions for "oh my god, she's the ONE, as foretold!"-type reading.

Aw man, I just remembered Harry Potter, too, gah. Prove me wrong that it's not all just men! (I'd like to shoot for sci-fi.)
posted by Sayuri. to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Octavia Butler's Mind of My Mind works, I think.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 6:43 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you gone through TV Tropes Messianic Archetype?
posted by zamboni at 6:43 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


One could maybe make an argument for the Terminator series, depending on the extent to which you consider Sarah Conner to exist purely for the purposes of creating John Connor.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:44 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also The Chosen One.
posted by zamboni at 6:45 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dan Simmons' Hyperion series? (I'm not sure if that counts as hard though)
posted by mittens at 6:47 PM on February 5, 2014

Oh.. if you haven't seen the movie, you could read the book! Or, I suppose, read the book even if you did see the movie..

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
posted by valoius at 6:48 PM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, just came up with Buffy simultaneously. I've never seen the show but loved the prophecy aspect of the movie. Also not sci-fi but a good example.
That's interesting about Sarah Conner, but John is the chosen one, she's just the Mary figure. (As much as there can be a chosen one when the context is time travel.)

We thought of a great example in Leeloo in "The Fifth Element," another favorite, but, as the SO puts it, "she's kind of there just to be activated by Bruce Willis." Harsh but kind of true; her/their love IS the fifth element.
posted by Sayuri. at 6:50 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

My husband suggests Peter Watts' Rifters trilogy, starting with Starfish, saying it's the most deliciously evil, cynical, world-weary take on the science-fiction messiah thing, and those elements don't really come into play until book 2 of the trilogy.
posted by shirobara at 6:57 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Since we seem to be including TV shows:

Rose Tyler in Doctor Who - the Bad Wolf.

Also Donna Noble, as the prophesied Donna-Doctor.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:05 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman?
The storyline is kind of Messianic (or anti-Messianic, actually) but the protagonist is a young girl.
posted by Mallenroh at 7:05 PM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nausicaä in "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" is pretty close.

Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica (the new one) fits pretty well.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:05 PM on February 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

Korra in Avatar: Legend of Korra, even though she makes terrible decisions and is really annoying.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:07 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Possibly Daenarys Targaryen in A Song of Ice and Fire (books) and Game of Thrones (TV), depending on which Azor Ahai theory you subscribe to.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:17 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is a bit weak as answers go, but Zoe Perry, the adopted daughter of the protagonists of John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" series, is deified by an alien race called the Obin because her late father built a machine that made the Obin conscious or sentient, something like that. The book "The Last Colony" tells the story of the family's settlement on a new planet, and then the YA sequel "Zoe's Tale" is a retelling of the same events with Zoe as protagonist. Mostly she tries to be a regular kid, but life is complicated by her menacing Obin bodyguards and the events that pivot around their colony's unsteady political footing. No prophesy, just a teenaged queen of a race she doesn't understand.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:19 PM on February 5, 2014

Here's another possibility:

Arcadia Darell from "Second Foundation" by Asimov isn't exactly a messiah, but she is (1) forseen by Seldon (2) special in a nearly supernatural way, (3) supposed to help bring about a monumental change to galactic civilization, and (4) initially unrecognized by those around her. All are elements of the messiah.

She isn't quite prominent enough in the trilogy to really qualify as a messiah, and also she is the instrument of the Second Foundation, which appears to be fairly sinister for much of the book, so kind of an evil messiah, if any kind at all.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:23 PM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Actually, Battlestar Galactica kind of has two female messiahs - President Laura Roslin is also arguably a messiah in that series.

Come to think of it, that series is filthy with messiahs.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:25 PM on February 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

The three highest mystics (Creb, Mamut, Zelandoni) in each of their respective cultures (Clan, Mamutoi, Zelandonii) all had some prophetic dreams/visions about Ayla's importance and future in the Earth's Children series, but those prophetic revelations might have been more on the personal level than on the "The Prophecy" level you seem to be looking for.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:26 PM on February 5, 2014

A great pile of novels by David Weber are hard military SF, a retelling of the Napoleonic wars featuring Honor Harrington, a Naval officer who is modeled on Horatio Nelson. After a few costly victories, she acquires the nickname "Salamander" because of that creature's mythological birth in fire. She might fit the prophesied fate because a reader goes in knowing that even when she's boarding her first ship as a Lieutenant, she is a nascent Nelson.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:26 PM on February 5, 2014

You might take a look at Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow. It's not exactly hard sci-fi, but it's a sci-fi-ish satire about the miraculous birth and life of Jesus' half-sister (they share one parent) in the present day.
posted by Bromius at 7:28 PM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's fantasy and not scifi, but both Evanjalin and Quintana in Melina Marchetta's Chronicles of Lumatere series fit this. Neither one is the Messiah, but they're both Chosen Ones.
posted by yasaman at 7:29 PM on February 5, 2014

You could count Eowyn in Lord of the Rings if you decide to interpret the prophecy about the Witch King not falling to the hand of a man to be less about the Witch King himself and more about the person who slays him. There was certainly a prophecy and she certainly fulfilled it!
posted by Jacqueline at 7:32 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kind of, Sheeana in Heretics of Dune.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:39 PM on February 5, 2014

I just realized that none of my examples fit your "hard sci-fi" criteria, sorry, but since you mentioned Harry Potter and Buffy yourself I figured that fantasy examples were welcome too.

I don't know if it's accurate to label *any* stories containing a prophecy as "hard" sci-fi, since prophecy is inherently a fantasy element.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:40 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Joan Vinge's Snow Queen [spoilers] fulfills the criteria better than anything else I can think of, and it's a great story, too.

It won the Hugo in 1981, and I'll never forget the little kitchen with orange and green fleur de lys patterned linoleum where I finished it with tears streaming down my face.
posted by jamjam at 7:43 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Christopher Pike, mostly known for YA novels, wrote a book called Sati, in which the title character is a pretty young blonde chick who claims to be, and maybe is, God.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:45 PM on February 5, 2014

Ari Emory in C.J. Cherryh's Cyteen?
posted by N-stoff at 7:47 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Candidia Maria Smith-Foster in Emergence.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:02 PM on February 5, 2014

Since you mentioned movies, I caught part of Babylon AD this morning and it seemed to be about a (young, pretty, blonde) chosen one although reading the summary on IMDb now, I missed quite a bit of the plot. But hey, Michelle Yeoh!
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:17 PM on February 5, 2014

Katherine Kerr, Snare. There are legends about a Third (I think) Prophet who turns out to be female. The character in question isn't a protagonist, though: this is more of a cool plot twist.
posted by yarntheory at 8:21 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Might be more fantasy than sci-fi, but Vin in the Mistborn series fits the bill.
posted by Verdandi at 8:24 PM on February 5, 2014

Since we have some fantasy novels mentioned so far The Sorcery Code a sorcery creates a female magical construct who is the magic equivalent to the singularity. Her character is often perceived by other characters as a messiah like figure.

In the Acacia series Queen whatsherface is given magical powers in a world without much magic at all. She does all sorts of messianic stuff like make dry wells suddenly full and brings her brother back to life.

I don't think either series is particularly good but the writing is good enough. And despite the powerful female character and a female coauthor the misogyny that runs deep in fantasy is in every but of the first book.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:29 PM on February 5, 2014

Hmm, hard sci-fi with a female messiah? Aenea from the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, maybe, but I've never read them, so I can't say for sure.

Jaenelle Angelline from the Black Jewels Trilogy fits, but it's definitely not sci-fi.
posted by xyzzy at 9:45 PM on February 5, 2014

I got one! Moon in the Winter Queen/Summer Queen series by Joan D. Vinge!
posted by spunweb at 9:52 PM on February 5, 2014

Speaking of Octavia E. Butler, her books Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents tell the story of a female messiah who founds a religion called Earthseed.
posted by sam_harms at 10:19 PM on February 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Don't know how you feel about David Mitchell, but one of the story threads in Cloud Atlas centers around a female that sort of fits the bill: Somni-451.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:46 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alastair Reynolds' Absolution Gap fits, more or less, but it's really a disappointment after the first two books in the series (Revelation Space and Redemption Ark).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:14 AM on February 6, 2014

Robin McKinley's writing is more in the fantasy camp but her books The Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown feature female 'chosen ones'.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:18 AM on February 6, 2014

Believe it or not Dogma. Whether it's sci-fi or comedy or something a bit in between is I suppos has arguments on both sides.
posted by zizzle at 4:13 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Potentially the sanctus trilogy by simon toyne.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:42 AM on February 6, 2014

Another fantasy recommendation, and it's young adult as well, but China Mieville's Un Lun Dun fits this very well (and is a really great book too, even for not-so-young adults).

From Wikipedia:

"In conversation he realises that Zanna is the "Shwazzy," a prophesied chosen one who is destined to save UnLondon from the Smog – an evil, sentient cloud of pollution."
posted by KatlaDragon at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2014

Both these series are fantasy YA Fiction and not really sci-fi, but...
The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson totally fits the "female chosen one" thing you're going for, and the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo does as well. Additionally, the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix might work for you, specifically book 2, Lirael.
posted by meggan at 12:13 PM on February 6, 2014

I do love Robin McKinley (rereading Rose Daughter right now; skirt full of hedgehogs!), but was just thinking about how male-dominated sci-fi is and how Ender's would have looked with a runty supersmart girl as a protag, instead of having a goddamned token girl for folks to fight over.

Sheeana is a great example... I had read those Dune sequels and completely forgotten that she was pretty much a main character at one point.

More protags! Particularly if there are spaceships involved.

These are awesome; how am I supposed to pick best answers.
posted by Sayuri. at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2014

The Passage trilogy (not finished) was a direct result of the author's daughter asking him to write a book about a little girl who saves the world. Since the series is not yet finished, it remains to be seen whether or not she is the Messiah, but she is certainly and explicitly being set up that way.

I have no idea if it would be categorized as hard sci fi, but I suspect not.
posted by lunasol at 5:39 AM on February 7, 2014

Another fantasy series, alas, but the trilogy that starts with The Briar King is, despite its title, about a young noble lady who is destined to become a queen and savior of humankind in the face of rousing ancient malevolent powers. I had trouble getting through the later books in the series but the first one went well enough!
posted by foxfirefey at 9:29 AM on February 7, 2014

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