Lists

The 100 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time

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A while ago, we came up with a list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time (and our friends at Signature followed suit with 100 Best Thrillers of All Time). Now we’re doing the same with science fiction! We asked our staffers for their top sci-fi recommendations, and they certainly delivered. Some of these are classic tales you will surely know, but others are excellent works of science fiction that may have been flying under the radar. So, dear readers, as you make your way down the list, congratulate yourselves on the books you’ve read, add the unfamiliar ones to your TBR list, and make your own suggestions in the comments!

Note: This list is organized alphabetically.


  • 1.–10.

  • The cover of the book 1984

    1984

    Our favorite science fiction tends to use the future to illuminate and discuss issues in our present. 1984 is a prime example of this, a dystopian novel where our culture has become the victim of government surveillance and public manipulation. An important read for any age.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book All the Birds in the Sky

    All the Birds in the Sky

    This book has it all: witches, mad scientists, a doomsday device, and a school of magic. The world is falling apart, and two friends, Patricia and Laurence, have joined opposing sides in a war of magic vs. science in an attempt to save it. But the choices they make may have dire consequences.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Altered Carbon (Netflix Series Tie-in Edition)

    Altered Carbon (Netflix Series Tie-in Edition)

    Set in a future where interstellar travel is done by “sleeving” one’s consciousness into new bodies, the story follows a private investigator whose past collides with his present as he attempts to solve a rich man’s murder. A dark and gritty cyberpunk experience. Now a Netflix series!

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Amatka

    Amatka

    Vanja is an information assistant in a world where language literally controls reality. After being sent to the ice colony Amatka to gather intelligence for her government, she falls in love with her housemate and decides to extend her mission. She begins to realize, though, that there is something deeply amiss in this colony.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Ammonite

    Ammonite

    Ammonite, Griffith’s first novel, won the Lambda Award and the James Tiptree Jr Award. A human expedition to the planet Jeep is nearly wiped out by a virus that kills all the men and most of the women. Some centuries later, an anthropologist, Marghe, is sent to test a vaccine on the descendents of the original expedition, themselves all women. As she lives and moves among them, Marghe finds herself changed in profound and unexpected ways.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Anathem

    Anathem

    Anathem focuses on a man named Erasmus, who lives in a cloistered community of intellectuals dedicating themselves to knowledge and learning. When Erasmus’ teacher discovers an alien spacecraft orbiting the planet, Erasmus is thrust into a journey he never thought possible. Joining philosophy and speculative science, Anathem is at once an adventure, a physics and logic course, and a philosophical and ethical conundrum.

    Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Ancillary Justice

    Ancillary Justice

    Leckie’s debut novel about a former space station AI trapped in a humanoid (and very mortal) body was the first novel to win the Nebula, Hugo, and Arthur C. Clarke awards in a single year. The most compelling part of the story isn’t Breq’s adventure, but the people she encounters as she moves through the empire she’s now trying to destroy.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book The Best of All Possible Worlds

    The Best of All Possible Worlds

    A Novel

    After their homeworld is destroyed, the surviving members of the Sadiri must find a way for their people to continue, despite the fact that most of the survivors are male. To do so, they make their way across the colony planet of Cygnus Beta under the guidance of a woman from the planet’s Central Government, encountering all kinds of people and cultures in their mission to save their vanishing race.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book The Big Book of Science Fiction

    The Big Book of Science Fiction

    Anthologies rarely make “Best Of” lists, but this one belongs on here — because it contains stories by many of the great science fiction writers we are discussing in our list. Le Guin, Asimov, Doctorow, Liu, Wells, Clarke, Butler, Vonnegut, and the list goes on and on! A wonderful primer for science fiction readers.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Binti

    Binti

    The titular character is the first of the Himba to be offered a spot at the most prestigious university in the galaxy, placing her among classmates who don’t respect her people’s way of life in exchange for access to the world’s greatest stores of knowledge. But when the transporter to the university is attacked, Binti is the only one with a chance to save them all.

    — Feliza

     
  • 11.–20.

  • The cover of the book The Blazing World and Other Writings

    The Blazing World and Other Writings

    An early work of feminist Utopian fiction and proto-science fiction, The Blazing World tells the story of a woman from our earth who travels to another world via a portal at the North Pole, where she becomes empress of a society made up of fantastical half-animal half-human species. The book, published in 1666, reflects Enlightenment-era theoretical science, with Cavendish imagining submarines, boats with engines, and a universe without end.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Brave New World

    Brave New World

    Often cited by critics of genetic engineering despite being written before the discovery of DNA, Brave New World imagines a future where people are divided into castes chosen before birth and kept docile through the use of drugs. Heavily relying on references to Shakespeare, it offers scathing criticisms of capitalism, utopian ideals and conformity.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book A Canticle for Leibowitz

    A Canticle for Leibowitz

    Nuclear war razed the Earth, plunging its survivors into a new dark age in which science is reviled and books are destroyed on sight. A small order of Catholic monks dedicated to a legendary miracle worker hold back the wave of ignorance as best that it can as barbarism swells at its gates. A Canticle for Leibowitz is a bittersweet tale that might make you worry about our future as a species.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book The Children of Men

    The Children of Men

    Building a premise that feels all too plausible, British author P.D. James crafted a modern classic that continues to feel disturbingly relevant with each passing year. Inspired by the real issue of declining birthrates around the world, James imagines a world where that birth rate declined to zero, and an England under the thumb of an autocratic government. Within this narrative framework James explores themes of human frailty, the societal necessity of procreation, love, and hopelessness. It is a powerful novel lifted by James’ gift for deft, sharp characterization and steadily rising tension.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book The Chronoliths

    The Chronoliths

    A thoughtful examination of the effect time travel could have on history, Wilson’s Hugo-nominated novel imagines a world where the technology is used to send monuments back in time to announce future military victories. Delving into the paradoxes inherent in the genre, The Chronoliths’ characters must learn if the outcomes of those battles are inevitable or the product of self-fulfilling prophecy, along with what it means to change your own past.

    — Samantha

     

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  • The cover of the book Cinder

    Cinder

    What if Cinderella was a cyborg? That’s the premise of the first book in Meyer’s YA series The Lunar Chronicles, which reimagines classic fairy tales through the lens of dystopian science fiction. Packed with romance and intrigue, the book uses its whimsical presence to delve into deeper issues of class, politics and feminism.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book The City & The City

    The City & The City

    A Novel

    Combining his fantastic weird fiction with a police procedural, Miéville delivers a tightly-knit story that won the Hugo Award. The novel takes Inspector Tyador Borlú, of the Extreme Crime Squad, through two very different worlds on the hunt for a murderer. Astounding storytelling by one of the best writers working today.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book A Clockwork Orange

    A Clockwork Orange

    While Anthony Burgess may have built his violent masterpiece on Cold War era fears of insidious totalitarian regimes, technological anxiety, and the loss of free will, its central themes remain depressingly relevant. It is an ever-controversial work that is nonetheless a thought-provoking examination of the relationship between free will and personal responsibility. What truly sets A Clockwork Orange apart is the crackling linguistic energy of Burgess’s Nadsat slang.

    — Keith

     

     
  • The cover of the book Contact

    Contact

    Carl Sagan was both one of the great minds and great science communicators of the latter twentieth century. His fascination, both professional and personal, with the concept of intelligent extraterrestrial life lent a fascinating authority to Sagan’s only foray into the world of fiction, Contact. The result is an engrossing page-turner centering on the first contact between and an extraterrestrial intelligence lifted by Sagan’s own research, theories, and understanding of the subject.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book Darwin's Radio

    Darwin's Radio

    A Novel

    Bear envisions a world where the next leap in human evolution is not superhero mutations but rather a small step that changes the world. Great characters fighting against bigotry amidst scientific upheaval and government control. Winner of the Nebula Award.

    — Shawn

     
  • 21.–30.

  • The cover of the book Dawn

    Dawn

    In one of Octavia Butler’s most well-known works, an alien race plucks survivors from a nuclear-ravaged Earth to save them – with a condition: the humans released back on the newly rehabilitated Earth must carry the alien genetic material with them and interbreed with the aliens. Butler’s works are classic speculative fiction explorations of race, class, and power, and Dawn – the first of the Xenogenesis series – is an enduring example.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Death's End

    Death's End

    Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy is incredible overall, but Death’s End is its conclusion, its pinnacle, and an absolute masterwork. It opens on Earth at the height of prosperity as a woman who’s been held in cryo awakens after hundreds of years. Exploring advanced technology, theoretical hyperspeed space travel, and the birth and collapse of universes, Death’s End will leave readers thinking long after the last page has turned.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Dhalgren

    Dhalgren

    The city of Bellona is not what it once was — most people have fled, leaving behind only the madmen, the criminals, and the desperate. And a young man, a poet known as the Kid. This dense and intricate tale winds its way through issues of race, gender, and sexuality in a near-future, devastated landscape, in a way that simply cannot be missed.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book The Dispossessed

    The Dispossessed

    Le Guin’s most thematically powerful science fiction novel is also the one with the most compelling story, and yes, it’s The Dispossessed. The narrative is split in alternating chapters on twinned worlds (each of which considers the other its moon): Urras, a capitalistic world of great wealth, innovation, and inequality; and Annares, home to an anarcho-syndicalist society, self-exiled from Urras centuries before. Caught between these worlds is Shevek, a brilliant physicist who unwittingly sparks a revolution — while on the verge of the most meaningful discovery the galaxy may ever know.

    — Jaime

     
  • The cover of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

    The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

    War and pollution have taken their toll on Earth, leaving it very nearly uninhabitable. Those who can afford to do so have fled off-world, leaving what’s left to the not so fortunate, like Rick Deckard. Rick, who makes his living eliminating renegade androids, is prompted to question his work, and even his own identity, during a particularly challenging assignment. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an amazing novel, and perhaps one of the most approachable of Dick’s many works.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book The Doomsday Book

    The Doomsday Book

    A Novel

    Time travel is a reality, and, finally, historians can observe the past as it happened. At Oxford College, a trip to 14th century England has gone awry, stranding a young historian in the midst of the bubonic plague. As a team in the present era works to bring her back home, a new and deadly form of the flu begins to spread through London. Is there a connection between the two epidemics? If you like medical mysteries and historical fiction, you’ll love this book.

    — Matt

     

  • Want more like this?  It’s Not a Cold: 5 Apocalyptic Stories Featuring Killer Influenza


  • The cover of the book Downbelow Station

    Downbelow Station

    C.J. Cherryh’s body of work is so expansive that if you asked twenty different people for her best book, you’d get twenty different answers. But it’s hard to argue with a Hugo Award and a Locus shortlist, so for my money, Downbelow Station is the place to start. Set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Union Universe, Downbelow Station is a story of corporate space exploration gone awry as humankind expands outwards among the stars.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Dragonflight

    Dragonflight

    The story of a young woman being recruited to telepathically bond with a queen dragon to lead her people and battle Thread on the planet of Pern has been a beloved favorite among all ages of readers for decades. McCaffrey was the first woman to win the Hugo and Nebula Awards — and with great reason.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Dune

    Dune

    The first rule of Dune is: do not read the whole series. As much as I promise that things really go off the rails after book two or three, Dune itself is so mindblowingly good that I can’t blame you for not believing me. Frank Herbert’s hypnotic vision of a feudal far future shaped by the mind-altering powers of a substance called spice, centered on the planet, Arrakis, where the spice is mined, is a classic that still feels groundbreaking today.

    — Jaime

     
  • The cover of the book Dust

    Dust

    A Novel

    This is generation ship fiction like you’ve never read before. Artificial intelligence, angels, and humans all coexist (albeit not entirely peacefully) on the Jacob’s Ladder, which has been stuck in orbit for centuries. The story follows a noblewoman, a serving girl, and an angel as they journey through the crumbling ship in an attempt to stop a war between their houses — and in the process, change the order of their world.

    — Haley

     
  • 31.–40.

  • The cover of the book Ender's Game

    Ender's Game

    It’s somewhat rare for an author’s debut novel to prove to be both a genre standard and the defining novel of the author’s career. Ender’s Game is one such novel. The Hugo and Nebula award-winner centers on six-year-old Ender Wiggin, a new Battle School recruit who quickly rises through the ranks and may be humanity’s only hope in a coming war with a ruthless alien race. Ender’s Game remains an influential and timeless classic.

    — Keith

     

     
  • The cover of the book Everfair

    Everfair

    This gorgeously woven tale imagines an alternate history in which native Africans developed steam power before colonial oppression took hold. The land of “Everfair” was purchased from King Leopold II, and transformed into a safe haven for Africans and escaped slaves from the United States. But building a utopian society is no easy feat, and those who founded it must navigate their complex, sometimes opposing visions, as well as outside threats, to protect and further the society they have created.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Exo

    Exo

    After a century of peace, the colonized humans are beginning to be integrated into the society of influential, technologically-advanced aliens – which puts one of those integrated humans at risk when he’s captured by rebels. What makes Exo such an incredible title is the way it presents issues and questions about imperialism – and those under imperial rule – in a way that’s easy for younger readers to understand.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Fahrenheit 451

    Fahrenheit 451

    One of the great dystopian novels, Bradbury explores government censorship and destruction of knowledge by removing books from a populace under absolute control. The story of Montag and his evoluation from book-burning fireman to resistance fighter is widely considered one of the best SF novels. A must read.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Feed

    Feed

    Mira Grant’s Feed follows a team of bloggers following the Republican presidential primary and election campaign decades following the apocalypse, where they unearth a conspiracy of epic proportions. With incredible action writing and twisting plot turns, Feed is a work of zombie science fiction you shouldn’t miss.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book The Female Man

    The Female Man

    Jeannine, Joanna, Janet, and Jael – four women from four alternate realities, one an altered past where the Great Depression never ended, one a mirror of our own world, one a utopian all-female earth, and one where men and women live in separate, warring enclaves. When these four women meet and visit each other’s realities, their notions of womanhood clash and change, and they must reexamine everything they know.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book The Fifth Season

    The Fifth Season

    This book is devastatingly good fiction. Straddling the line between science fiction and fantasy, it depicts a world ripped apart by the earth itself, as the aftermath of a terrible earthquake begins the Fifth Season of extinction for those who have not prepared. Told from three perspectives, it is an intimate look at the dynamics of power, privilege, and disaster.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Flowers for Algernon

    Flowers for Algernon

    Originally conceived and written as a novella, Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon won a Hugo award in 1959 and the expanded novel length version took home a Nebula in 1966. Told in epistolary fashion through a series of diary entries written by a mentally disabled man named Charlie, the novel is an engrossing and bittersweet exploration of intellect and emotion.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book The Fold

    The Fold

    A Novel

    When DARPA researchers stumble upon a way to fold dimensions, enabling humans to travel long distances in a matter of seconds, they’re certain their discovery will change the course of human history. But Mike Erikson isn’t so sure. The researchers who test the doorway are coming back… off. And it’s up to Mike to unravel the science and save his team – and everything else. The Fold is an intricate yet fast-paced sci-fi thriller you can devour in a single sitting.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book The Forever War

    The Forever War

    A young man with a promising life ahead of him is drafted to fight in a war a galaxy away. Opportunities for leave are few and far between, and years pass on Earth during the months he is away. With the planet he left behind becoming ever more unrecognizable, the military becomes the only place he can call home. The Forever War is an anti-war novel for the Vietnam era and beyond, and a rollicking piece of science fiction in its own right.

    — Matt

     
  • 41.–50.

  • The cover of the book Foundation

    Foundation

    One of the seminal works of hard science fiction, Foundation reimagines the fall of the Roman Empire as taking place on a galactic scale and an effort on a remote planet to protect humanity from a 30,000-year-long dark age. Jumping decades within the narrative and focused on economics and history, Asimov’s most famous book can be a tough read but it’s well worth the investment.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book Frankenstein

    Frankenstein

    Although it is an unquestioned Gothic classic, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is among the earliest and purest examples of the science fiction genre. It would be difficult to overstate the influence of Frankenstein and its enormous impact on both literature and pop culture. In the 200 years since its initial publication, the narrative DNA of the tale of Victor Frankenstein and his creature can be found in the countless stories that have followed in its considerable wake.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book The Girl with All the Gifts

    The Girl with All the Gifts

    Carey’s chilling take on the zombie apocalypse genre follows a mysterious child with a brilliant mind and a thirst for human flesh. Studied by researchers hoping to find a cure for the plague that has turned huge portions of the world into mindless monsters, the titular girl comes up with her own plan for humanity’s future.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book The Giver

    The Giver

    More than a decade before The Hunger Games made YA dystopias into a thriving genre, The Giver was regularly assigned reading for middle school kids who could relate to its themes of struggling against a prescribed path and coping with intense emotions. Set in a seemingly perfect society, the Newberry Medal-winning book explores the importance of history and questioning the status quo.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book The Gone World

    The Gone World

    When a Navy SEAL murders his family and disappears, an NCIS agent is tasked with determining whether or not the crime is connected with the Terminus: a mysterious world-destroying event encountered by a top secret team of government time travelers. This dark work of science fiction may be new, but it is on my personal list of all-time great reads.

    — Matt

     

  • Want more like this?  So You Want to Read Time Travel Fiction: Here’s Where to Start


  • The cover of the book The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in)

    The Handmaid's Tale (Movie Tie-in)

    America has fallen, leaving in its place the Republic of Gilead, a theocratic state with a fatal weakness: a low birth rate. Fearful of what the future will bring, the exclusively male leadership of Gilead has enslaved fertile women to bear their young. Offred is one of these women: a handmaid. This is her story. The Handmaid’s Tale is a perennial classic of feminist literature, and the basis for the Hulu series of the same name.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

    Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

    No list of great science fiction would be anywhere near complete without James Tiptree Jr., the pen name for Alice Sheldon. For the first decade of her career, Sheldon built her reputation in the realm of short stories, moving into full-length novels in the late 1970s, after her identity had been publicly discovered. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is a posthumous omnibus of Sheldon’s best stories and novellas, including “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” “The Screwfly Solution,” “Love Is The Plan The Plan Is Death,” and “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?,” among others.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    For sheer absurdist audacity, imagination, bombast, and pure fun, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is tough to beat. It’s an utterly irreverent and wildly imaginative adventure that simultaneously skewers and builds on the tropes and confines of traditional sci-fi. It’s biting satire and pure absurdist humor, all shot through with a vein of cynicism and a surprisingly firm internal logic. Basically, there’s nothing quite like The Hitchhiker’s Guide and you really should read it.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

    How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

    A Novel

    Charles Yu is searching for his father through quantum space-time, while also performing his job as a time travel technician – helping to save people from themselves after time traveling trips gone awry. Assisted by a nonexistent dog and an operating system with self-esteem issues, his journey to find his missing father is at times hilarious, thought-provoking, and truly poignant.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book The Hunger Games

    The Hunger Games

    While there’s been a boom in dystopian fiction over the last several years, particularly in the young adult genre, few have captured the public’s imagination in the way The Hunger Games did. Almost in spite of its deceptively simple premise – young adults forced to compete in violent conflict by a corrupt government – Suzanne Collins built a richly imagined world buoyed by one of literature’s great recent heroines. Perhaps more importantly, it is an unapologetically bleak examination of the deleterious impact of violence, post-traumatic stress, and man’s capacity for savagery.

    — Keith

     
  • 51.–60.

  • The cover of the book Hyperion

    Hyperion

    A crew of pilgrims swap stories of love, horror, and religious devotion during a long journey to the home of the Shrike: a spike-covered metal horror worshiped like a god. This science fiction take on The Canterbury Tales is an unforgettable, imaginative work of cross-genre fusion.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book I Am Legend

    I Am Legend

    Robert Neville is the only survivor of a pandemic that transformed the rest of humankind into bloodthirsty vampires. He spends his days destroying them in their sleep, and his nights a prisoner in his fortified home. Neville hopes to develop a cure for the disease. Is it too late? Matheson’s novel is patient zero for the zombie craze in popular culture. Read it, and you’ll know why.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Illuminae

    Illuminae

    Following a pair of teens evacuating Earth during an invasion, Illuminae is a masterwork of young adult sci-fi, a story winding its way through a dossier of hacked documents: emails, chatrooms, classified military files, and more that the protagonists discover during their search for the truth behind the invasion.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Infomocracy

    Infomocracy

    In Malka Older’s Infomocracy, advanced technology makes the balance of political power more turbulent than ever. Infomocracy follows three operatives, all working the upcoming election from different angles. Published in 2016 at the height of timeliness, Infomocracy is a high-concept political thriller with terrifying implications for the American political and cultural environment.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park

    A Novel

    The power of science and its role in discovery is oft at the heart of great science fiction. At its heart, Jurassic Park questions how humanity wields the power of science while creating an action-packed story filled with characters just trying to survive science gone wrong.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book The Last Policeman

    The Last Policeman

    A Novel

    Hank Palace may be the world’s last policeman: as humanity waits for an impending asteroid impact to destroy them all, Palace begins an investigation of what looks to outside eyes like a commonplace suicide. The Last Policeman is a sci-fi murder mystery that explores one question we hopefully will never need to ask ourselves: why bother solving a murder if everyone’s going to die anyway?

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book The Left Hand of Darkness

    The Left Hand of Darkness

    Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Le Guin’s novel explores the effect of gender and sex on an alien culture where an individual can be ambisexual, and how one Terran man’s rigid ideas on those topics are confronted. Labeled as one of the most important feminist stories of all time, it is a powerhouse tale written with Le Guin’s wonderful prose.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Legend

    Legend

    This dystopian tale of two teenagers is so much more than meets the eye. June is a member of the ruling Republic (formerly the western United States), and on the hunt to find the nation’s most wanted criminal, Day. He’s the prime suspect in her sister’s killing, and she’s determined to get her revenge. But a darker truth has brought them together, and together they begin to realize just what the country is willing to do to protect its secrets.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

    The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

    Space opera has been enjoying a resurgence recently thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, and Chambers’ debut novel makes for a great gateway for anyone looking to learn more about the genre. Following a crew of humans and aliens traveling the galaxy, it’s a light, character-driven book that also explores the complexity of romance and gender.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book The Martian

    The Martian

    A Novel

    Andy Weir’s The Martian is the sort of novel that grips a reader from its very sentence – after all, “I’m pretty much fucked” is a pretty great opening line. With his debut novel, Weir deftly balanced a truly thrilling story of survival with laugh-out-loud doses of black humor and real, cutting edge science. It has a surprising ring of authenticity, but more importantly is an ultimately inspiring testament to humanity’s ingenuity, spirit of adventure, and our better angels.

    — Keith

     
  • 61.–70.

  • The cover of the book The Martian Chronicles

    The Martian Chronicles

    A group of colonists from Earth attempt to form a colony on Mars, only to find themselves at war with its native inhabitants. Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is the story of a decades-long conflict that leaves both sides devastated. Bradbury was a master storyteller, and The Martian Chronicles is one you shouldn’t miss.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Midnight Robber

    Midnight Robber

    This lyrical tale blends hard sci-fi with the magical folklore of the Caribbean. Young Tan-Tan is living on the technologically advanced planet of Toussaint when her scheming father commits an act of terrible violence. Fleeing justice, her father drags Tan-Tan with him, and instead of escaping they find themselves in the strange and violent world of New Half-Way Tree. There, Tan-Tan must embark on a journey of transformation to survive, taking on the aspects of the fabled Midnight Robber.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Neuromancer

    Neuromancer

    One of the seminal works of cyberpunk, Neuromancer taps into the counterculture movements and excitement about computers found in the 1980s to tell a story of a world where hackers and cyborgs work together to perform daring heists against massive corporations. It’s a must-read for fans of everything from “The Matrix” to Ready Player One.

    — Samantha

     

  • Want more like this? So You Want to Read Cyberpunk: Here’s Where to Start


  • The cover of the book Ninefox Gambit

    Ninefox Gambit

    A beautifully complex work of military science fiction, Ninefox Gambit plays with the ideas of reality, madness, and power. Disgraced hexarchate captain Kel Cheris is given a chance at redemption in a mission to reclaim the heretic-controlled Fortress of Scattered Needles, but her only hope at succeeding is to partner with the former general Shuos Jedao. The problem with this? He went mad in his former life and slaughtered two armies, one his own.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Oryx and Crake

    Oryx and Crake

    The works of Margaret Atwood rarely, if ever, fit neatly into the confines of any particular genre. Oryx and Crake, the first volume in the MaddAddam Trilogy, is the closest she’s come to pure sci-fi. Taking issues of inequality, climate change, and corporate power to bleak and terrifying conclusions, Atwood creates a powerfully imaginative and disconcertingly plausible dystopia that is as thought-provoking as it is difficult to put down.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book Otherland: City of Golden Shadow

    Otherland: City of Golden Shadow

    Virtual reality existed long before Ready Player One and one of its best examples is Otherland, a four-book epic SF tale examining corporate control, greed, and an individual’s wish to become someone else. Williams weaves great SF and fantasy settings into his virtual world, making it a fun read for the well-read!

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Pandora's Star

    Pandora's Star

    The first in Hamilton’s excellent duology about a future where humans are practically immortal and have used wormholes to colonize hundreds of planets, Pandora’s Star is perhaps most notable for its extremely alien extraterrestrials from the genocidal Prime to the fey Silfen. Combining aspects of a detective novel with hard science fiction, Hamilton explores the perils and pleasures possible in humanity’s future.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book Planetfall

    Planetfall

    When Lee Suh-Mi offered a chance to escape the over-populated, polluted planet of Earth, Renata Ghali followed her into the unknown, along with hundreds of other hopeful colonists. Years later, however, Lee Suh-Mi has disappeared into a mysterious alien structure, and Ren is harboring a secret that may tear the colony apart.

    — Haley

     

     
  • The cover of the book The Plot Against America

    The Plot Against America

    You won’t find The Plot Against America in the science fiction section of your local bookstore, but rest assured, this is a work of alternative history. In Roth’s book, aviation hero Charles Lindbergh becomes President of the United States. When Lindberg starts a cozy relationship with Adolf Hitler, Young Philip Roth and his family watch as the America they thought they knew swiftly descends into fascism and anti-Semitism. This is a sobering look at the politics of fear and hatred, and a warning of the dangers of demagoguery.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Probability Moon

    Probability Moon

    In this stunningly good opening to an equally great trilogy, a scientific mission to an alien planet is an unwitting front for a military operation. You get space anthropologists trying to understand an alien culture and aliens trying to understand them back, military machinations and sweeping space battles, a vividly imagined alien world and an equally imaginative future for humanity — all held together by propulsive page-turner of a plot.

    — Jaime

     
  • 71.–80.

  • The cover of the book The Real Story

    The Real Story

    The Gap into Conflict

    While best known for his Thomas Covenant epic fantasy, Donaldson has also written one of the best science fiction stories. The Real Story and its four sequels are riveting. Nothing is quite what it seems and the gritty, complex characters drive a narrative where anything is possible.

    — Shawn

     
  • The cover of the book Red Rising

    Red Rising

    Book 1 of the Red Rising Saga

    A breakout author in recent years! The story of slave Darrow rising above his status to take on his overlords is new and fresh and is filled with amazingly-wrought characters and action-packed sequences. An instant classic.

    — Shawn

     

     
  • The cover of the book Redshirts

    Redshirts

    Redshirts takes its name from the easily-killed background characters of a certain popular sci-fi show – and that’s exactly what the novel’s about: Andrew joins a prestigious starship crew only to learn that on every Away Mission, something goes terribly wrong, and a low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Self-aware and incredibly funny, Redshirts is the award-winning metafiction you didn’t know you needed.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Ringworld

    Ringworld

    A Novel

    The 1970 classic about a crew of humans and aliens investigating a massive ring built around a sunlike star is so influential that theoretical alien megastructures have come to be called Niven rings. Beyond its ideas about how advanced societies might colonize space, it’s also an entertaining adventure story with compelling views about humanity’s place in the universe.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book Roadside Picnic

    Roadside Picnic

    The aliens came and went without a word, leaving bits and pieces of their technology scattered where they landed. Now, two decades later, trespassing into these zones is strictly forbidden: a precaution against dangerous artifacts getting into the wrong hands. Red is a stalker: a thief who makes a living sneaking alien tech — “swag” — out of a nearby zone. The authorities are on to Red, but when a tip about an especially valuable piece of swag falls into his lap, he decides to take his chances on one more trip into the zone. Stalker is unlike anything else: gangsters versus secret police, mutants, “hell slime” and other dangers… you’ve just got to read it.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Scythe

    Scythe

    Citra and Rowan live in a world without disease, war, or even death. When they become apprentices to a scythe, a person who ends human life to keep the human population under control, they learn that the utopian world they live in has a steep price in this award-winning young adult sci-fi.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book Shards of Honor

    Shards of Honor

    Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga is revered in the science fiction community – it’s a monster of a world, spanning twenty plus books, thirty years, five Hugo Awards, and a remarkably inclusive cast of characters. Opinions vary as to where you should start if you’re new to the world, as the order in which the books were published doesn’t match with the internal chronology of the story, but Shards of Honor is the first book to feature a member of the Vorkosigan clan, Cordelia Naismith, and makes for a wonderful entry point.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Shikasta

    Shikasta

    Re, Colonised Planet 5

    In the course of Doris Lessing’s long Nobel Prize-winning career, she wrote more than fifty books in many genres. Shikasta is the first in her Canopus in Argos series, a sequence of five science fiction novels examining the ways in which societies evolve. Shikasta is written as an archival history of a thinly-veiled Earth and its development through the influences of three advanced alien civilizations, especially the Canopus, who try to steer humanity away from mass destruction and a third World War. The series was strongly influenced by Lessing’s interest in Sufism in the 1970s, and eventually inspired its own religious cult.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Ship Breaker

    Ship Breaker

    Like much of great science fiction, Paolo Bacigalupi builds his richly imagined dystopian world on depressingly plausible extensions of present day problems – climate change, extreme poverty, and class stratification. Ship Breaker imagines a world not far removed from the brink of calamity, one where wealth inequality has created a two class society made of the extraordinarily impoverished and the extraordinarily rich all set against a backdrop of catastrophic climate change and increasingly deadly weather events. What truly makes Ship Breaker so fascinating is Bacigalupi’s deft characterization and diverse cast of memorable and complex characters.

    — Keith

     

  • Want more like this? So You Want to Read Climate Fiction: Here’s Where to Start


  • The cover of the book Six Wakes

    Six Wakes

    Six people wake up in their new cloned bodies to discover their old ones horribly mutilated, nearly all of their memories from those previous bodies completely gone. Six Wakes takes the locked room mystery to a whole separate level: the murderer doesn’t even know they’ve done it. As the characters try to discover who killed them the last time to prevent it happening again, they explore the limits and ethics of cloning and human life.

    — Feliza

     
  • 81.–90.

  • The cover of the book Slaughterhouse-Five

    Slaughterhouse-Five

    A Novel

    Kurt Vonnegut weaved together the disparate strands of science fiction and his personal experiences as a World War II prisoner of war to create Slaughterhouse-Five’s Billy Pilgrim: a soldier who has become “unstuck in time.” We witness the horrors of war and the uncertainties of peacetime as Billy bounces back and forth across the timeline of his birth, life, and eventual death. Gutsy, strange, and sympathetic, Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut at his best.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Sleeping Giants

    Sleeping Giants

    The first book in The Themis Files trilogy, which was completed this year, examines how the discovery of an ancient alien artifact on earth affects both individuals and the world. It’s true to science fiction’s mission of asking big questions about human nature and the pursuit of knowledge.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book Snow Crash

    Snow Crash

    A Novel

    Both a spoof on cyberpunk tropes and an entertaining story in its own right, Snow Crash follows the adventures of Hiro Protagonist and Yours Truly as they try to uncover the cause of a virus infecting hackers that may be connected to the Tower of Babel. Stephenson combines excellent world building with research into linguistics and history. Check it out soon as an Amazon television show based on the book is in the works.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book The Sparrow

    The Sparrow

    A Novel

    My personal favorite book on this list. The Sparrow is a profoundly empathetic novel about a Jesuit mission to an inhabited planet. Russell demonstrates a preternatural understanding of human behavior while at the same time building an alien civilization with an anthropologist’s eye. Her characters grapple with faith in a way I’ve rarely seen in science fiction. This book moved me to tears.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book The Stand

    The Stand

    Stephen King’s sprawling apocalyptic opus is a long-time favorite among his devoted fans – it’s also one of his finest novels. Beginning with a computer error in a laboratory that releases a global pandemic, King builds an epic story of survival, resilience, and the ultimate struggle of good vs. evil. It melds elements of horror, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic sci-fi into a 1,100 page doorstop of a novel that cemented Stephen King as the pre-eminent horror writer of his generation.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book Station Eleven

    Station Eleven

    A flu pandemic devastates humanity, killing off almost everyone and bringing modern civilization to a grinding halt. Station Eleven explores the first days of the epidemic, as well as the future it created. This oddly optimistic work of apocalyptic literature teaches us that survival alone is insufficient, and that we must have art to give it meaning.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Arrival (Stories of Your Life MTI)

    Arrival (Stories of Your Life MTI)

    Despite his relatively small body of work, Ted Chiang has made a serious impression on the science fiction landscape. The best-known story in this collection is, of course, the titular one, which was the basis for the film “Arrival,” but the other stories here are absolutely not to be missed. Chiang does what the best sci-fi writers do – he doesn’t invent for solely for invention’s sake, but rather uses his remarkable imagination to tell poignantly human stories that cut straight to your heart.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Stranger in a Strange Land

    Stranger in a Strange Land

    A seminal, genre-defining work and a perfect distillation of the ways in which speculative fiction examines what it is to be human. This is the story of a human man raised by Martians, entirely isolated from his own species – and on his return to Earth, he finds he has just as much to learn from humanity as he does to teach them.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book Survival

    Survival

    Species Imperative #1

    Czerneda is a prolific author with a dedicated fanbase it’s hard to choose just one book from her oeuvre. Survival, the first book in the Species Imperative trilogy, is the story of a Mackenzie Connor, a biologist in the Pacific Northwest who finds herself drawn into an interstellar interspecies conflict when an envoy from an alien species who hopes she can help him determine the fate of a mysterious dead zone in space known as the Chasm.

    — Emily

     

     
  • The cover of the book Trading in Danger

    Trading in Danger

    Ky Vatta is the only girl in a family of sons, and the only one to ditch the family business of trade in favor of a military career. When an error in judgment forces her back to Vatta’s Transport Ltd., she decides to make the best of a bad situation and take on a risky trading contract that could bring enormous profit to the business – of course, she’ll have to survive the mission first.

    — Haley

     
  • 91.–100.

  • The cover of the book Valor's Choice

    Valor's Choice

    Humans may have been granted membership to the Confederation, but the price is service as soldiers to protect the more “civilized” races. When Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr and her platoon are pulled from leave for a supposedly easy mission, they have no idea that they are about to walk into a conflict greater than any they had faced before.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Veniss Underground

    Veniss Underground

    A Novel

    Two lovers are separated in a world of mutant meerkats, decadent cities, and underworld labyrinths full of stitched-together monsters in this classic work of unclassifiable but brilliant literature from Southern Reach trilogy Jeff VanderMeer. Veniss Underground is like a nightmarish fever dream, but one you won’t want to wake up from.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book Viriconium

    Viriconium

    Viriconium is the story of a city, or rather, versions of the same city. Reminiscent of the works of Jack Vance and even Michael Moorcock, this classic of the “New Weird” revels in ambiguity, subverting the reader’s expectations of how fantastic settings are supposed to work.

    — Matt

     
  • The cover of the book The War of the Worlds

    The War of the Worlds

    Who can forget this classic tale of alien invasion? As the widely-told story goes, the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds briefly incited panic among millions of American listeners as they believed the nation was truly under attack by alien invaders (although it might not have happened exactly like that). Regardless, the tale now holds a firm place in our pop-cultural history, and has inspired countless adaptations and original works of science fiction throughout the hundred years since it was published.

    — Haley

     
  • The cover of the book Watchers

    Watchers

    Dean Koontz has made a career out of infusing sci-fi and speculative trappings into his particular brand of horror. Watchers came during a stretch in the mid-80’s that made Dean Koontz a perennial bestseller. Featuring a super-intelligent Golden Retriever and relentless genetically engineered monstrosity, Watchers explores themes that would become common in Koontz work going forward – shady government organizations and the ethical quandaries of unchecked scientific advancement. With Watchers, Koontz really began to find his footing as a writer.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book Watchmen

    Watchmen

    Watchmen landed on the world of comics like a bomb. It’s hard to think of any single project that’s had a wider reaching influence. Over the course of a twelve issue series, Alan Moore and artist David Gibbons reinvented and reinvigorated comic book storytelling. Set against themes of power’s corrupting influence and what the introduction of an actual superman into society would mean, Moore’s deconstruction of the concept of the superhero relies on elements of sci-fi and alternate history narratives to tell a story that ushered the modern era of comic book storytelling.

    — Keith

     
  • The cover of the book The Windup Girl

    The Windup Girl

    A particularly striking debut novel, Bacigalupi’s Nebula- and Hugo-winning novel imagines the devastating impacts of climate change and corporate control over the global food supply. What Neuromancer did for cyberpunk, The Windup Girl does for a new subgenre based on the power and perils of bioengineering.

    — Samantha

     
  • The cover of the book Woman on the Edge of Time

    Woman on the Edge of Time

    A Novel

    In the 1970s, Connie Ramos finds herself wrongfully imprisoned in a mental institution, where she is contacted by Luciente, an emissary from a utopian society in the year 2137, who shows her a classless, highly individualistic future focused on social justice and self-actualization. But this is only one possible future – the other potential timeline is a hypercapitalist, class-stratified nightmare, and Connie’s actions alone will decide which eventuality comes to pass.

    — Emily

     
  • The cover of the book World War Z (Movie Tie-In Edition)

    World War Z (Movie Tie-In Edition)

    An Oral History of the Zombie War

    World War Z is a chronicle of the end of the world – or, as its subtitle indicates, an oral history of the zombie apocalypse. The novel’s written style is unlike many zombie stories in that it’s written not as narrative prose, but as a series of recordings of witnesses during the war. The audiobook edition is especially compelling: it’s performed by a full cast, making it an incredibly immersive reader experience.

    — Feliza

     
  • The cover of the book A Wrinkle in Time

    A Wrinkle in Time

    Madeleine L’Engle’s groundbreaking classic is an extraordinary work of imagination. Fusing elements of sci-fi and fantasy, A Wrinkle in Time has been captivating readers for decades. Built on the framework of a coming-of-age tale, L’Engle explores a number of heady concepts and themes ranging from parental infallibility to time-space to fate vs. free will. More than that, L’Engle introduced a complex and deeply real female hero for young readers to identify with and ultimately laid the groundwork for an entire generation of authors.

    — Keith

     

  • Whew! Made it all the way through the list? Before you leave, make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get book recommendations, author essays and more sent right to your inbox.

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