100 of the best science fiction novels of all time

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September 22, 2020
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100 of the best science fiction novels of all time

In 2018, while making an appearance on the "Geek's Guide to the Galaxy" podcast, Yuval Noah Harari, author of "Sapiens" and "Homo Deus," said that he believes science fiction to be the most important artistic genre in today's world. He went on to argue that sci-fi writing, which has long been seen as nothing more than a little bit of lighthearted fun, will shape society's understanding of things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology more than any other sort of writing. Reading science fiction, and grappling with issues like AI replacing entire classes of workers, is an excellent way to help us determine how we really feel before we deal with the same issues in real life.

Fiction can be a powerful tool for helping individuals navigate the real world. Sci-fi is no different. In light of that, Stacker has rounded up 100 of the best science fiction novels of all time.

Using sources like Goodreads, Amazon, and The New York Times Best Seller list, we've identified 100 books that had a powerful impact on readers. We've included books that fall under the hard sci-fi, cyberpunk, space opera, aliens, and utopia/dystopia categories while steering clear of books that are strictly fantasy (think "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter"). We've also made sure to highlight books from authors of color, female authors, LGBTQIA+ authors, and authors from various countries and backgrounds, dispelling the myth that science fiction is only written for and by cis white males.

From comical takes on the genre like "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to controversial titles like "Starship Troopers" to classics like H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds," dark tales like "Who Fears Death," and new titles like "How Long 'til Black Future Month?" there's sure to be something on this list for every taste.

Read on for 100 of the best science fiction novels of all time.

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1 / 100
Goodreads

Dune

- Author: Frank Herbert
- Date published: 1965

One of the most beloved sci-fi epics of all time, Frank Herbert's "Dune" is set to receive a theatrical release in the final months of 2020. It won't be the first time the coming-of-age story about a young man named Paul Atreides who must fight for his own life as well as the existence of his planet, Arrakis, after his family is betrayed, hits the big screen. But with a star-studded cast, this adaptation is almost guaranteed to be a box office hit.

2 / 100
Goodreads

The Martian

- Author: Andy Weir
- Date published: 2014

Andy Weir first began publishing chapters of his novel "The Martian" on his personal blog in 2009. In 2011, he self-published his story, about an astronaut who gets separated from his crew during a major dust storm and ends up stranded on Mars, on Amazon. Then, in 2014, Random House reached out to Weir offering to give the book a wide release, and Hollywood optioned the rights to the tale, all within the same week. The book eventually made its debut at #12 on The New York Times Best Seller List.

3 / 100
Goodreads

Neuromancer

- Author: William Gibson
- Date published: 1984

A multi-award winner, "Neuromancer" is a cyberpunk classic. It follows Henry Dorsett Case, a damaged computer hacker, as he undertakes one last job in the matrix, encountering some incredibly powerful artificial intelligence and shady characters along the way.

4 / 100
Goodreads

The War of the Worlds

- Author: H.G. Wells
- Date published: 1898

The father of science fiction, H.G. Wells, wrote a host of early sci-fi novels including "The War of the Worlds." In this alien novel, a group of Martians invades Earth, decimating everything in their path and terrorizing humans who are forced to reckon with the fact that the world may truly be ending. When the novel was first turned into a radio broadcast in 1938, it was so thrilling and realistic; it actually caused public panic as many listeners didn't realize it was fiction.

5 / 100
Goodreads

Ancillary Justice

- Author: Ann Leckie
- Date published: 2013

The first installation in a space opera trilogy, "Ancillary Justice," is told from the perspective of the artificial consciousness of a starship, the only survivor of a treacherous attack, who has set out in search of vengeance. Ann Leckie's work is groundbreaking both in its content and in the fact that every single character in her trilogy is given female pronouns or is genderless—there's not a single male in the book's more than 400 pages.

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6 / 100
Goodreads

The Giver

- Author: Lois Lowry
- Date published: 1993

Arguably the most widely read science fiction novel on this list, Lois Lowry's "The Giver," has become assigned reading in many schools across the country. Set in a seemingly utopian society, the story follows a young man named Jonas, who is set to become the Receiver of Memory within his society. As his training gets underway, he begins to realize that the utopia he's been handed may not be all that perfect or desirable after all.

7 / 100
Goodreads

The Fifth Season

- Author: N.K. Jemisin
- Date published: 2015

One of sci-fi's most beloved modern writers, N.K. Jemisin has turned out some of the most enthralling, original work in the genre. In "The Fifth Season," the world begins to end on the same day Essun's life falls apart. In the midst of a war for survival, Essun sets out to find her daughter, and her plight, along with Jemisin's masterful world-building and beautiful prose, will keep you drawn in for all 450-plus pages.

8 / 100
Goodreads

Ender’s Game

- Author: Orson Scott Card
- Date published: 1985

Set an unidentified period of time in the future, "Ender's Game" is a military science fiction novel about humanity's fight against an alien race that's determined to annihilate Earth. The book, whose protagonist is a 10-year-old prodigy, is the first in a series, with four direct sequels that tell the rest of Andrew "Ender" Wiggins' story.

9 / 100
Goodreads

The Three-Body Problem

- Author: Liu Cixin
- Date published: 2006

Liu Cixin is one of China's most beloved science fiction authors, and his 2006 book "The Three-Body Problem" marks English-speaking readers' first opportunity to engage with his work. In the book, which is set during China's Cultural Revolution, the government has established contact with a group of aliens who plan to take advantage of the chaos and invade Earth. Back on Earth, humans are splitting into various groups, some who plan to side with the aliens and others who plan to resist invasion.

10 / 100
Goodreads

The Martian Chronicles

- Author: Ray Bradbury
- Date published: 1984

An episodic novel, "The Martian Chronicles" is often considered some of Ray Bradbury's best work. The short work tells the story of the colonization of Mars by humans who are fleeing an Earth that is headed for destruction.

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11 / 100
Goodreads

Starship Troopers

- Author: Robert A. Heinlein
- Date published: 1959

A military sci-fi novel, and one of Heinlein's most controversial works, "Starship Troopers" was written in response to the United States' decision to halt their nuclear tests. Overtly glorifying the military, the book follows a group of men as they endure the most difficult training in the universe before setting off to fight a species of aliens in the Bug War. While readers may not agree with all of the viewpoints presented in the novel's 300 pages, it's still an important read in the science fiction canon.

12 / 100
Goodreads

The Blazing World

- Author: Margaret Cavendish
- Date published: 1666

Considered by some to be the first science fiction book ever written, Margaret Cavendish published "The Blazing World" in 1666. The bizarre tale follows a young woman who falls into another world populated with talking animals, half-men, half-fish, and other strange creatures. After becoming their empress, she leads them on an invasion of her homeworld in an effort to create a more utopian society.

13 / 100
Goodreads

The Simoqin Prophecies

- Author: Samit Basu
- Date published: 2004

"The Simoqin Prophecies" is a blend of classic science fiction and sci-fi spoof, described as Monty Python meets "The Lord of the Rings" meets "Ramayana." In this world, created by Samit Basu, two world-changing prophecies were made centuries ago. As the day of their fulfillment draws closer, two young men begin journeys that will change them just as much as they will change the world around them.

14 / 100
Goodreads

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

- Author: Haruki Murakami
- Date published: 1994

A bizarre tome of a novel, HM's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" is, in short, about a Japanese man who treks into the netherworld to save his wife and her cat. In turns comic and dramatic, this acclaimed story bridges the gap between true sci-fi and urban fantasy, dabbling in historical criticism along the way.

15 / 100
Goodreads

Recursion

- Author: Blake Crouch
- Date published: 2019

In Blake Crouch's "Recursion," an epidemic is sweeping the nation, one that replaces people's real memories with memories of things that never happened. A detective and a neuroscientist must team up to uncover the dark force behind the epidemic, traveling through time to do so, in this dark sci-fi thriller mystery.

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16 / 100
Goodreads

Hyperion

- Author: Dan Simmons
- Date published: 1989

In 1990, Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" won the Hugo Award for best novel. The book, which is similar in structure to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," follows a group of pilgrims on their journey to the Shrike, a legendary creature who guards time and can answer the riddles of each of their lives. Set in the midst of an intergalactic war and on the eve of Armageddon, each of the pilgrims has their own motive for making the journey, including, possibly, saving all of humanity.

17 / 100
Goodreads

The Fall of Hyperion

- Author: Dan Simmons
- Date published: 1990

It's not often that a sequel can hold up as well as the original, but that's certainly the case for Dan Simmons' "The Fall of Hyperion." In this second book, the time caves the Shrike had been tasked with guarding begin to open up, releasing secrets that will alter the world forever. Simmons' outstanding sequel won and was nominated for several of the genre's most prestigious awards.

18 / 100
Goodreads

Out of the Silent Planet

- Author: C.S. Lewis
- Date published: 1938

C.S. Lewis is best known for his fantasy and Christian writing, but his foray into science fiction in "Out of the Silent Planet" is also notable. In the book, the first in a trilogy, a Cambridge academic, Dr. Ransom, is kidnapped by aliens and taken to Mars, where he learns he is to be offered as a sacrifice. As with most of Lewis' other writings, the novel is allegorical and, at times, satirical.

19 / 100
Goodreads

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

- Author: H.P. Lovecraft
- Date published: 1943

While it may not be considered strictly science fiction today, there's no denying that the genre itself wouldn't exist without the pioneering work of H.P. Lovecraft. His novella "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" is a prime example of Lovecraft's alien and alternate reality-heavy writing. In this particular work, Lovecraft's main character Randolph Carter has had repeated dreams about a mysterious city he's dying to visit—the problem is, gods from another planet are determined to keep him from it.

20 / 100
Goodreads

I, Robot

- Author: Isaac Asimov
- Date published: 1950

This collection of nine interrelated short stories, "I, Robot," crafts a fictional history of robots. The stories dive into the morality of creating and including robots in our universe, and it looks closely at the tension between humanity and technology. Readers have called the short book stunning, addictive, and easily accessible for even the most casual sci-fi readers.

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21 / 100
Goodreads

Leviathan Wakes

- Author: James S.A. Corey
- Date published: 2011

In "Leviathan Wakes," Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the authors behind the pen name James S.A. Corey, have spun a tale about two men, Jim Holden and Detective Miller, who stumble upon a derelict spaceship floating in outer space. Each man seeks to solve his own mystery in regards to the ship, but as they begin to pull at the threads, they realize they must team up to unravel the whole story before someone else beats them to it.

22 / 100
Goodreads

Lord of Light

- Author: Roger Zelazny
- Date published: 1967

In "Lord of Light," Earth has vanished. A small group of survivors has colonized another planet where they've managed to upload their consciousnesses into technology, essentially turning themselves into gods. These "gods" adhere to the Hindu pantheon and practices, except for one, Sam, who prefers a Buddhist approach to life and religion. What follows is a battle for control over the planet and a revolution against the powers that be.

23 / 100
Goodreads

Ready Player One

- Author: Ernest Cline
- Date published: 2011

Part ode to the '80s, part dystopian sci-fi story, "Ready Player One" follows Wade Watts, a teenager who lives in the slums, as he attempts to solve a puzzle buried inside the world's biggest video game, OASIS, by its creator. The action-driven tale is a super fun read, especially for pop-culture aficionados and those who prefer the lighter side of science fiction.

24 / 100
Goodreads

How Long 'til Black Future Month?

- Author: N.K. Jemisin
- Date published: 2018

Another offering from N.K. Jemisin, "How Long 'til Black Future Month?" is a collection of short stories, including the Hugo-nominated "The City Born Great." As is usual in Jemisin's writing, the individual stories are beautifully written, containing fleshed-out worlds and characters, and tackling difficult topics like racism and gender.

25 / 100
Goodreads

The Stars My Destination

- Author: Alfred Bester
- Date published: 1955

A revenge tale based on "The Count of Monte Cristo," "The Stars My Destination," is about a teleporter named Gully, who is hell-bent on revenge. It all begins when Gully is marooned in space and ignored by a passing ship after signaling for help. The next decades of his life are all shaped by his desire for vengeance against this clan who ignored him, but eventually, Gully comes to learn that revenge isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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26 / 100
Goodreads

Slaughterhouse-Five

- Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
- Date published: 1969

"Slaughterhouse-Five" is a unique sci-fi book, in that it's equal parts anti-war manifesto and time travel tale. Perhaps Kurt Vonnegut's best-known work, the book has been banned and burned, all the while selling more than 800,000 copies in the U.S.

27 / 100
Goodreads

Gateway

- Author: Frederik Pohl
- Date published: 1977

Winning almost every science fiction award out there, "Gateway" is truly the best of what the genre has to offer. The title alludes to a space station left behind by a long-vanished alien race. Only the most daring humans, including Rob Broadhead, dare to experiment with the technology that was left behind, but when they get it right, it can lead to unimaginable riches.

28 / 100
Goodreads

Contact

- Author: Carl Sagan
- Date published: 1985

"Contact" is science fiction written by a real-life scientist. Carl Sagan's 1985 novel is about what happens when humanity makes contact with an extraterrestrial race that's far more advanced. After receiving a radio signal that tells them how to build a spacecraft that can travel through wormholes, a group of explorers sets out to meet those who sent the message in hopes of understanding more of the universe than we ever could otherwise.

29 / 100
Goodreads

Strange Bodies

- Author: Marcel Theroux
- Date published: 2013

When Nicky Slopen comes back from the dead, it becomes clear very quickly that something's not right. As he tells his story from a secure unit of a mental hospital, Nicky begins to unveil a metaphysical conspiracy that goes far beyond the hold of death. "Strange Bodies" is a sci-fi explanation of what makes a person a person, and allows us all to be individuals.

30 / 100
Goodreads

The Tomorrow People

- Author: Judith Merril
- Date published: 1960

Judith Merril's "The Tomorrow People" is light, campy fun, and one of the first examples of a sci-fi mystery story. In the book, Merril spins a story about Johnny Wendt, the only person to have ever been to Mars and lived to tell the tale. The only problem is, he remembers very little of what happened there, including what, exactly, killed all the other members of his crew.

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31 / 100
Goodreads

Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta

- Author: Doris Lessing
- Date published: 1979

Unique in its composition, "Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta" is a collection of documents, reports, speeches, letters, and journal entries that together make up a study of the planet Shikasta (a thinly veiled Earth). Complied by a higher race, the Canopeans, the book demonstrates how they've been traveling to Shikasta for millennia, warning its inhabitants against evil, predicting World War III, or the Apocalypse.

32 / 100
Goodreads

2001: A Space Odyssey

- Author: Arthur C. Clarke
- Date published: 1968

The "2001: A Space Odyssey" novel was written concurrently with the 1968 film version directed by Stanley Kubrick. A bizarre tale, the book follows an astronaut who embarks on a mysterious, dangerous mission that takes him far into outer space, and eventually brings him into contact with an alien race. Written before man ever set foot on the Moon, the book explores what this kind of advancement could mean for humankind and the implications it could have on our future.

33 / 100
Goodreads

Childhood’s End

- Author: Arthur C. Clarke
- Date published: 1953

Another novel by Arthur C. Clarke, "Childhood's End" was actually the author's first popular release. In this tale, an apparently benevolent alien race has taken over the universe, turning it into a utopia, but as things progress, it becomes clear that this new arrangement may not be that utopic after all. Dealing with the themes of identity, culture, and freedom, the work is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

34 / 100
Goodreads

All Systems Red

- Author: Martha Wells
- Date published: 2017

The first in the "Murderbot Diaries" series, "All Systems Red" by Martha Wells, is about an artificial construct that has figured out how to disable his governor unit, thereby becoming completely independent. The titular Murderbot works as a security unit on exploratory missions, and when a job he's assigned goes wrong, he finds himself empathizing with the humans he's supposed to be protecting in a way he's entirely uncomfortable with.

35 / 100
Goodreads

Frankenstein

- Author: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
- Date published: 1818

A true classic, "Frankenstein" tells the story of a young scientist who creates a sapient being that turns into a monster after being rejected by society. Told from alternating perspectives, the novel laid the groundwork for many science fiction tropes still used today.

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36 / 100
Goodreads

Glory Road

- Author: Robert A. Heinlein
- Date published: 1963

Robert A. Heinlein's one attempt at science fantasy, "Glory Road," instantly became a classic of the genre. The story follows E.C. Gordon, who answers a classified ad that leads him to Star, the Empress of Twenty Universes, who sends him on a quest for the Egg of the Phoenix. Romantic, fun, and adventure-filled, the novel is a great antidote to many of the heavier works on this list.

37 / 100
Goodreads

A Wrinkle in Time

- Author: Madeleine L'Engle
- Date published: 1962

In the first installation in Madeleine L'Engle's "Time Quintet," "A Wrinkle in Time," three children set out to find a missing father, reckon with evil, and save the world. A Newbery Medal winner, the book is often considered a classic in children's sci-fi literature.

38 / 100
Goodreads

A Canticle for Leibowitz

- Author: Walter M. Miller Jr.
- Date published: 1959

A post-apocalyptic novel set in a Catholic monastery in the United States, "A Canticle for Leibowitz" covers centuries of history as humanity rebuilds itself following a nuclear war. In this world, it's the church, rather than the state, that's ultimately in control– and a group of monks is tasked with protecting what remains of man's scientific knowledge, deciding if, or when, civilization is ready for it.

39 / 100
Sherurcij // Wikimedia Commons

A Journey to the Center of the Earth

- Author: Jules Verne
- Date published: 1864

At one point in time, science fiction centered more around what lies under our feet than what could possibly be above our heads. Jules Verne's "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" is just one classic example of this subterranean science fiction. The story follows professor Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their guide Hans, as they travel down through an Icelandic volcano, encountering several strange creatures along the way.

40 / 100
Goodreads

Annihilation

- Author: Jeff VanderMeer
- Date published: 2014

The first novel in Jeff VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" trilogy, "Annihilation," follows the four women who make up the 12th expedition into Area X, a region of the world that has been closed off for decades for unspecified reasons. Strange things have happened to the previous teams who've explored the region, and when the women arrive, they quickly learn that the stories they've heard are just the tip of the iceberg.

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41 / 100
Goodreads

Stranger in a Strange Land

- Author: Robert A. Heinlein
- Date published: 1961

There is some dispute over which version of "Stranger in a Strange Land" is better: the one published in 1961 or the original, unedited manuscript published in 1991 after author Robert A. Heinlein's death. Both books tell the same story, one of a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who returns to Earth as an adult and must readjust to life on this planet. Science fiction purists should seek out the 1991 version, which was the author's favorite, as he thought the overall style of the original was more "graceful and readable."

42 / 100
Goodreads

Downbelow Station

- Author: C.J. Cherryh
- Date published: 1981

Although it was written as a part of C.J. Cherryh's "Company Wars" stories, the epic space opera "Downbelow Station" works as a standalone novel as well. Set on a space station orbiting a universe nicknamed Downbelow, the story follows a cast of characters tasked with exploring new star systems and creating new colonies. A long read, the book feels like a historical epic from a time that has yet to pass.

43 / 100
Goodreads

Solaris

- Author: Stanislaw Lem
- Date published: 1961

Translated from its original Polish, Stanislaw Lem's "Solaris" opens with scientist Kris Kelvin arriving on the titular planet to study its expansive ocean. He and his team quickly realize they aren't dealing with a body of water but a sentient being, one who is determined to bring out the worst in them without revealing anything of itself.

44 / 100
Goodreads

Gideon the Ninth

- Author: Tamsyn Muir
- Date published: 2019

"Gideon the Ninth" is New Zealand author Tamsyn Muir's debut novel. Set in a galactic empire composed of nine planets, the Y.A. novel is about lesbian necromancers, a deadly trial of wits and skill, and a culture locked in political turmoil. Dubbed one of the best books of 2019, this certainly isn't one to miss.

45 / 100
Goodreads

A Fire Upon the Deep

- Author: Vernor Vinge
- Date published: 1992

Vernor Vinge's space opera "A Fire Upon the Deep" takes place in a world where one's location in space determines their intelligence. When a dangerous power is unleashed during an intergalactic war, two children are kidnapped, and a group of beings of all types and levels of intelligence sets out to save them and restore order to their collective world.

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46 / 100
Goodreads

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

- Author: Douglas Adams
- Date published: 1979

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is a comedy sci-fi novel that was adapted from a BBC radio broadcast. It follows a human named Arthur Dent, who is rescued from Earth by his travel-writer, alien-in-disguise buddy, Ford Prefect, moments before the planet is destroyed. Truly an international phenomenon, the book, the first in a series, has sold millions of copies around the world.

47 / 100
Goodreads

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

- Author: Douglas Adams
- Date published: 1987

While none of Douglas Adams' other works quite measure up to "Hitchhiker's Guide," "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" comes awfully close. In this comic sci-fi mystery tale, Dirk Gently, a self-styled private investigator, who knows more about eating pizza than solving crimes, sets out to prove the interconnectedness of all things by unraveling a murder.

48 / 100
Goodreads

The Handmaid's Tale

- Author: Margaret Atwood
- Date published: 1985

In a near-future version of New England, a totalitarian state called Gilead has overthrown the government, and women have become second-class citizens. Offred, a Handmaid in Gilead whose sole job is to get pregnant and provide offspring to a strange man, loathes her current life, mourns her old one, and serves as a dire warning to readers about the dangers of total government control. Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" became a cultural phenomenon all over again in 2017 when Hulu released a TV show based on the novel.

49 / 100
Goodreads

The Caves of Steel

- Author: Isaac Asimov
- Date published: 1954

A science fiction version of a hardboiled detective story, "The Caves of Steel" is about a human detective, Elijah Baley, and his robot assistant, R. Daneel Olivaw, who are tasked with solving the murder of a prominent spacer, aka a wealthy individual who has fled an overcrowded Earth for a new planet. Following the success of this first book, Isaac Asimov wrote a series of other stories for these two detectives where they solved all sorts of futuristic crimes.

50 / 100
Goodreads

The Hunger Games

- Author: Suzanne Collins
- Date published: 2008

In the early '00s, "The Hunger Games" trilogy sold 100 million copies and spent 260 consecutive weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. In the first Y.A. dystopian novel in the series, a young woman named Katniss Everdeen steps up to take her sister's place in a government-sponsored death game, accidentally becoming the face of a revolution along the way.

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51 / 100
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Never Let Me Go

- Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
- Date published: 2005

A shining example of a dystopian, sci-fi, literary novel, "Never Let Me Go" follows a trio of school friends through their education at a boarding school, Hailsham, and into adulthood, where they uncover their real purpose in society. A love story, a mystery, and a sharp reminder that we are only as good as the way we treat others, the book is an emotional, horrific ride.

52 / 100
Goodreads

Double Star

- Author: Robert A. Heinlein
- Date published: 1956

In "Double Star," a down-on-his-luck actor agrees to impersonate a kidnapped politician in an effort to avoid interplanetary war. When things go amiss, he realizes he may be stuck in the role for life. A commentary on politics and doing what's right, the book is among Robert A. Heinlein's first and another Hugo award winner.

53 / 100
Goodreads

Roadside Picnic

- Author: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
- Date published: 1972

When "Roadside Picnic," written by brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, was first published in their native Soviet Union, it was heavily censored and significantly different from the serialized version that had been published in magazines in the '70s. The novel follows a "stalker" who illegally ventures into a former alien zone to collect items left behind by the extraterrestrial beings. When one of these missions goes awry, the stalker commits to continuing these expeditions until everything is righted, even if it costs him his life.

54 / 100
Goodreads

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

- Author: Philip K. Dick
- Date published: 1968

This classic sci-fi novel, written by Philip K. Dick, served as the basis for the 1982 blockbuster "Blade Runner." Set in San Francisco, after a global nuclear war has essentially ended life as we know it, a bounty hunter named Rick Deckard is tasked with finding and eliminating six escaped androids who have no interest in being found. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" set the stage for many of the cyberpunk novels that have been published in the last 50 years.

55 / 100
Goodreads

This Is How You Lose the Time War

- Author: Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone
- Date published: 2019

Told in an epistolary fashion, "This Is How You Lose the Time War" is about two agents from warring factions who travel back and forth through time, altering history for their own group's purposes. Throughout their travels, the men begin leaving notes for each other, and gradually fall in love along the way. The winner of multiple awards, including a Nebula and Hugo, this certainly qualifies as one of the best sci-fi books of the past decade.

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56 / 100
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China Mountain Zhang

- Author: Maureen F. McHugh
- Date published: 1992

A selection of loosely interconnected stories, "China Mountain Zhang" is set in a 22nd-century world where China is the leading global power, everything is socialist, Mars is being colonized, and the Cleansing Winds Campaign has just been completed. The folks in these stories are coping with everyday issues in a world that's almost, but not quite, like our own. It's a tale of ordinary people in an extraordinary setting, just trying to get by the same way we are in the here and now.

57 / 100
Goodreads

Dhalgren

- Author: Samuel R. Delany
- Date published: 1975

When Bellona, a city in the American Midwest, is hit by an unknown catastrophe, things begin changing, and everything seems off-kilter: there are suddenly two moons in the sky, landmarks keep disappearing all over town, buildings burn for days with no signs of damage, etc. Many former residents leave, but some, like the Kid, are drawn to the city looking for answers they can't find anywhere else. More than 1 million copies of "Dhalgren" have sold, marking this book as a true sci-fi classic.

58 / 100
Goodreads

Who Fears Death

- Author: Nnedi Okorafor
- Date published: 2010

A brutal read, Nnedi Okorafor's "Who Fears Death" should come with a host of content warnings, and will not be a good fit for the faint of heart. Set in post-apocalyptic Africa, the books follow a young woman named Onyesonwu, who is destined to end the genocide of her people and unlock the secrets of the universe. An exploration of power in all its forms, this novel is well on its way to becoming a modern classic.

59 / 100
Goodreads

The Forever War

- Author: Joe Haldeman
- Date published: 1974

After being conscripted by an elite military unit, physicist William Mandella is drawn into a war against an alien race. On top of fighting an almost unbeatable enemy, Mandella finds himself fighting against time, as this new galaxy causes him to grow older much slower than those he left behind. The first in a series, "The Forever War," has won several awards and inspired a host of time dilation stories.

60 / 100
Goodreads

The Outside

- Author: Ada Hoffman
- Date published: 2019

While "The Outside" by Ada Hoffman is a new release, it's well on its way to becoming one of the best science fiction novels of all time. When an autistic scientist's new invention malfunctions, warping time and destroying everyone on her spaceship, the AI gods of her universe give her a choice: be sentenced to death or track down her vanished mentor who poses a huge threat to the existence of their world. Readers have described the book as being "Lovecraftian."

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61 / 100
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Altered Carbon

- Author: Richard K. Morgan
- Date published: 2002

The events of "Altered Carbon" take place 400 years into the future, when mankind is spread out all over the galaxy, and interstellar travel happens through the transfer of consciousness between bodies. When an ex-envoy wakes up in the body of an ex-convict, he finds himself contracted to hunt down a billionaire's killer and uncovers a massive, interstellar conspiracy along the way.

62 / 100
Goodreads

Chasm City

- Author: Alastair Reynolds
- Date published: 2001

In "Chasm City," the titular society, once the most advanced in all the galaxy, has been hit with an alien plague that's corrupted the once utopian world. When Tanner Mirabel, a security expert, arrives on the planet to avenge the death of his client's wife, he also sets out to unwind the mystery behind the virus, aided by his own illness-induced symptoms.

63 / 100
Goodreads

The Glass Bead Game

- Author: Hermann Hesse
- Date published: 1943

Hermann Hesse’s final novel, "The Glass Bead Game," is a unique work of science fiction in that there's very little technology involved. Instead, the book is set in a monastery-like village in a post-apocalyptic future, where scholars devote all their time and energy to mastering the mysterious glass bead game. The book serves up a deeper message about the difference between scholarship and wisdom, but even a light reading is sure to be entertaining and absorbing.

64 / 100
Goodreads

1984

- Author: George Orwell
- Date published: 1949

Regarded as one of the most defining works of the 20th century, it's eerie how prophetic George Orwell's sci-fi novel "1984" has proven to be. Satiric in tone, the book is about life under a totalitarian government. In the weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, the 70-year-old book saw a 9,500% increase in sales.

65 / 100
Goodreads

A Memory Called Empire

- Author: Arkady Martine
- Date published: 2019

Arkady Martine's debut novel, "A Memory Called Empire," follows an ambassador from a small space station as she sets out for the center of the empire to investigate the murder of her predecessor. Swept up in the empire's mysterious alien culture, the ambassador is also hiding secrets of her own, more than one of which could lead to the destruction of her space station and the end of life as she knows it. The book won the 2020 Hugo Award for best novel.

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66 / 100
Goodreads

The Road to Mars

- Author: Eric Idle
- Date published: 1990

Written by a former member of the comedy group Monty Python, "The Road to Mars" is a bizarre, side-splittingly hilarious book about a comedy team who's taking their act on the interplanetary road. When the duo and their robot assistant unwittingly land themselves in the middle of a terrorist plot, they must act fast in order to get out alive and find their way back to the stage.

67 / 100
Goodreads

Doomsday Book

- Author: Connie Willis
- Date published: 1992

The first in a series about time-traveling historians, "Doomsday Book," follows a young woman named Kirvin Engle as she travels back to 14th-century Oxford. Although she gets stranded some 700 years in the past, scared and alone, she becomes a beacon of hope to a community ravaged by disease.

68 / 100
Goodreads

The Left Hand of Darkness

- Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
- Date published: 1969

Regarded as one of the most famous science fiction books ever written, "The Left Hand of Darkness" follows a human emissary, Genly Ai, who's sent to negotiate a planet's entry into a confederation. Things get complicated when Ai fails to grasp the culture on this planet, beginning with the fact that all individuals are ambisexual. An intellectual read, this book will have you thinking long after you turn the last page.

69 / 100
Goodreads

Flowers for Algernon

- Author: Daniel Keyes
- Date published: 1966

In "Flowers for Algernon," a mentally disabled man, Charlie Gordon, undergoes a procedure that is supposed to increase his IQ. Things go swimmingly at first, until a mouse, who underwent the procedure first begins to unexpectedly deteriorate. As Charlie journals the changes in his mental and emotional state, he makes sobering points about the way our society treats the disabled and those we perceive to be different from us.

70 / 100
Goodreads

Rosewater

- Author: Tade Thompson
- Date published: 2018

Set in Nigeria, "Rosewater" is about a community that has sprung up around the perimeter of an alien biodome. When a mysterious force begins killing people in the community, Kaaro, a government agent who has insider knowledge of the dome, begins to seek answers, even as everything in him is telling him to stay away.

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71 / 100
Goodreads

The Time Machine

- Author: H.G. Wells
- Date published: 1895

The first novel to popularize the concept of time travel, H. G. Wells' "The Time Machine" celebrated its 125th birthday this year. Set in Victorian England, the novel follows a scientist who develops a machine that can move him forwards and backward in time. Traveling to 802,701 A.D., the scientist encounters two bizarre races, the Eloi and the Morlocks, who represent the future of humanity, and embarks on a host of adventures.

72 / 100
Goodreads

Old Man's War

- Author: John Scalzi
- Date published: 2005

In "Old Man's War," humanity has finally made it into space, but, late to the game, they are forced to fight for any new holds they wish to claim. As a result, they've created the Colonial Defense Force, an army of retirement-aged people who can use the knowledge they've earned through decades of living to win and colonize new outposts. On his 75th birthday, John Perry joins the CDP and finds, in good ways and bad, that it's more than he ever imagined it would be.

73 / 100
Goodreads

The Dispossessed

- Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
- Date published: 1974

Set in the same universe as "The Left Hand of Darkness," "The Dispossessed" is about a physicist named Shevek who sets out to shake up life on the utopian mother planet, Urras, in hopes that these actions will tear down the walls of hate surrounding his own planet. Although the book is first in the chronology of Ursula K. Le Guin's "Hainish Cycle," it was the fifth one published.

74 / 100
Goodreads

Red Mars

- Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
- Date published: 1992

In "Red Mars," the first in an epic saga trilogy, the year is 2026, and the first group of humans is set to begin colonizing Mars. Featuring incredible world-building and legitimate science, this chunker of a book (it closes in on 600 pages) is certainly worth the time investment.

75 / 100
Goodreads

Dawn

- Author: Octavia E. Butler
- Date published: 1987

Lilith Iyapo, the main character in "Dawn," opens her eyes after centuries asleep to find herself trapped in the bowls of an alien spaceship. Many moons ago, these aliens managed to save Lilith and a few other humans before Earth was uninhabitable. Now that they've managed to restore the planet, they want to bring humans home, with one condition: they must agree to interbreed, and Lilith must convince her fellow man to allow this plan to happen.

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76 / 100
Goodreads

Rendezvous with Rama

- Author: Arthur C. Clarke
- Date published: 1973

"Rendezvous with Rama" is about mankind's first encounter with alien life. When an object scientists have dubbed Rama is revealed to be an interstellar spacecraft, a group of explorers is sent to intercept the ship and determine whether or not it's friendly before it touches down on Earth. The traditional sci-fi book would make a great starting place for those who are new to the genre.

77 / 100
Goodreads

Time Enough for Love

- Author: Robert A. Heinlein
- Date published: 1973

Lazarus Long, the oldest living human, has been alive for more than 2,000 years. With so much life under his belt, he's beginning to tire of this planet and begins to tell some of his best stories in hopes of falling in love with life all over again. A series of interconnected novellas, "Time Enough for Love," is one of Robert A. Heinlein's most acclaimed works.

78 / 100
Goodreads

The Intuitionist

- Author: Colson Whitehead
- Date published: 1999

Teetering on the edge of science fiction and speculative fiction, Colson Whitehead's "The Intuitionist" earned itself a place on this list thanks to its fresh, and often funny, take on politics and race. Set in an alternate universe where two parties of elevator inspectors, the Empiricists & the Intuitionists, are at war, the book begins with an elevator crash. A young woman named Lila Mae sets out to clear her and her party's name and uncovers some wild, futuristic secrets along the way.

79 / 100
Goodreads

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

- Author: Becky Chambers
- Date published: 2014

A lighthearted space opera, Becky Chambers' "The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet," sees Rosemary Harper join the motley, multi-species crew of a dated spaceship called the Wayfarer. As the group travels through galaxies completing missions, encountering aliens, and occasionally risking life and limb, readers get to watch them grow and develop a close kinship with each other.

80 / 100
Goodreads

Fahrenheit 451

- Author: Ray Bradbury
- Date published: 1953

In the dystopian world presented in Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" books are outlawed, censorship runs wild, and Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a fireman tasked with burning books and destroying knowledge. Modern-day readers will find that the book's commentary on the control and distillation of knowledge, as well as our duty to protect it, still rings true some 65 years later.

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81 / 100
Goodreads

Infomocracy

- Author: Malka Ann Older
- Date published: 2016

The first installation in a cyberpunk political thriller series, "Infomocracy," is set in a world where a global democracy is run by corporations. With an election on the horizon, three separate political figures have to reckon with their places in this political experiment, all while the stakes get increasingly higher. "Infomocracy" would make a great election year read and leave you thinking deeply about our own democracy's paradoxes.

82 / 100
Goodreads

The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

- Author: Neal Stephenson
- Date published: 1995

"The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" is a coming of age story that follows a young girl named Nell, who lives in a futuristic world where nanotechnology controls all aspects of life. Nell receives an illegal interactive book that is supposed to teach her how to adhere to the status quo but instead leads her down another path, one that might change the future of humanity.

83 / 100
Goodreads

The Man in the High Castle

- Author: Philip K. Dick
- Date published: 1962

Philip K. Dick's alternate history novel "The Man in the High Castle" takes place in a world where the Axis powers beat the Allies, and the world now lives under totalitarian rule. A Hugo Award winner, the book was turned into a TV series produced by Amazon.

84 / 100
Goodreads

The Sparrow

- Author: Mary Doria Russell
- Date published: 1996

Set in 2019, "The Sparrow" is about a Jesuit priest who is the lone survivor of a mission meant to establish contact with the first extraterrestrial race humans have ever made contact with. The meeting nearly destroys him physically and spiritually, highlighting the fact that humans are far too arrogant in our assumption that we can ever really understand others—extraterrestrial or not.

85 / 100
Goodreads

Ringworld

- Author: Larry Niven
- Date published: 1970

A classic of sci-fi literature, "Ringworld" follows a ragtag group of explorers, headed by 200-year-old human Louis Wu, who set out to explore a 600 million miles long alien spaceship floating in outer space and end up crash landing. The first in a series, the book is lighthearted, imaginative, and truly mind-blowing.

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86 / 100
Goodreads

Ammonite

- Author: Nicola Griffith
- Date published: 1992

"Ammonite" is a novel that pushes the reader's understanding of gender, and does it well. The winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the James Tiptree Jr. Award, the book takes place on a planet called Jeep, which is inhabited only by women after a pandemic wiped out all the men. In the book, an anthropologist travels to Jeep to study the women and to bring a vaccine that may allow men to once again flourish on the planet but finds she's adapting to their way of life and may not want to complete her mission after all.

87 / 100
Goodreads

Leila

- Author: Prayaag Akbar
- Date published: 2017

A dystopian novel set in India in the 2040s, "Leila" follows a mother, Shalini, who's desperately searching for her disappeared daughter, Leila, as the world crumbles under a totalitarian regime. A story of love and loss, the book was turned into a Netflix series that premiered in 2019.

88 / 100
Goodreads

Station Eleven

- Author: Emily St. John Mandel
- Date published: 2014

In "Station Eleven," a pandemic essentially causes the end of the world, and the few survivors must come together to save the best parts of humanity. Things get even more complicated when a strange prophet and his creepy cult of followers begin to stage a takeover. Told through the alternating perspectives of a few loosely connected characters, this book was a bestseller upon its release in 2014.

89 / 100
Goodreads

The Stars are Legion

- Author: Kameron Hurley
- Date published: 2017

Kameron Hurley's "The Stars are Legion" reimagines women's roles in science fiction. While men are often the stars of these adventure stories, in this 2017 tale, a woman, in a world filled only with women, is the hero. When Zan awakes on a spaceship with no memories of her own, she must determine if what she's being told about herself is true before her actions lead to the genocide of an entire group of people.

90 / 100
Goodreads

The City & The City

- Author:
- Date published:

While "The City & The City" has all the regular elements of a police procedural and murder mystery, it's far from the standard offerings of either genre. When a young woman is murdered in Borlu, a hardened police inspector sets out to solve the case, soliciting the help of the police force in the Borlu's "twin city" Ul Qoma. Along the way, he finds that something sinister might be at work, hiding in the gaps between these two cities.

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91 / 100
Goodreads

Broken Stars

- Author: Ken Liu (editor)
- Date published: 2019

An anthology of Chinese science fiction short stories and novellas, "Broken Stars" is thrilling, absorbing, and imaginative. Including work from authors like Xia Jia and Liu Cixin, almost every story in the book, from the cyberpunk to the space operas to the hard sci-fi, has been published in the last decade. No science fiction reader can consider themselves truly well-read until they've read at least a selection of stories from this collection.

92 / 100
Goodreads

Every Heart a Doorway

- Author: Seanan McGuire
- Date published: 2016

"Every Heart a Doorway" is set in a home for children who, at one time or another, managed to slip into a magical world, and have now returned to our ordinary land, changed and unsatisfied with all this place has to offer. After a newcomer named Nancy arrives at the home and a string of murders begins, the children must unravel the mystery of who or what wants them dead. A mix of fantasy and sci-fi, this book is a fun read for both Y.A. fans and adults alike.

93 / 100
Goodreads

Parable of the Sower

- Author: Octavia E. Butler
- Date published: 1993

One of the most legendary science fiction writers of all time, Octavia E. Butler made The New York Times Best Seller list for the first time in September 2020, with her 1993 book "Parable of the Sower." Many readers liken the events in the story, which take place in 2025 on an Earth that has been ravaged by war, disease, a lack of clean water, and drugs, to our current circumstances. The young, orphaned protagonist, Lauren Oya Olamina, struggles with a condition called hyperempathy but comes to find that this sensitivity may be the key to saving humanity.

94 / 100
Goodreads

Foundation

- Author: Isaac Asimov
- Date published: 1951

A collection of five interrelated stories, Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" is about a psychohistorian's attempt to save the best parts of humanity when his galaxy is faced with total destruction. Described as ambitious and highly imaginative, the book certainly appeals to a specific sort of reader, but those who are able to get into the story always rank it among their favorite sci-fi books of all time.

95 / 100
Goodreads

An Unkindness of Ghosts

- Author: Rivers Solomon
- Date published: 2017

In "An Unkindness of Ghosts," Rivers Solomon explores what systematic racism could look like on a generational starship, centuries in the future. The story follows Aster, a young woman whose dark skin has kept her relegated to the bottom decks of the starship Matilda for her entire life. As she unwittingly begins to uncover family secrets, Aster finds that there may be a way to put an end to the legacy of racism she's trapped under once and for all.

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96 / 100
Goodreads

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

- Author: Robert A. Heinlein
- Date published: 1966

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is one part political treatise (it heavily discusses libertarian ideals), one part sci-fi tale of a human colony on the moon revolting against their absentee earthly rulers. Originally serialized in "If," a science fiction magazine, the book got a full release in 1966 and won the Hugo Award in 1967.

97 / 100
Goodreads

Jurassic Park

- Author: Michael Crichton
- Date published: 1990

Most folks are familiar with "Jurassic Park," the bio sci-fi story about an island amusement park filled with manufactured dinosaurs. However, far fewer people have actually read the Michael Crichton book, as most just opt to watch the Steven Spielberg movie instead. We're here to tell you that the book is well worth a read, especially for die-hard sci-fi fans.

98 / 100
Goodreads

Snow Crash

- Author: Neal Stephenson
- Date published: 1992

The main character in "Snow Crash," Hiro Protagonist, is a delivery man by day and a computer hacker by night. When a terrifying computer virus begins knocking out tech wizards all over the world, Hiro Protagonist embarks on a race against time to unmask the mastermind behind the virus and put an end to the whole thing before this futuristic version of America finds itself in an info apocalypse.

99 / 100
Goodreads

The Female Man

- Author: Joanna Russ
- Date published: 1975

This classic feminist sci-fi novel follows four women who cross over into each other's realities. After crossing over, each of them finds their existing notions of gender challenged and must reevaluate their lives upon returning to their own worlds. "The Female Man" is a must-read for all science fiction lovers.

100 / 100
Goodreads

Brave New World

- Author: Aldous Huxley
- Date published: 1932

Written almost 100 years ago, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" is set in a dystopian universe, where a World State rules, determining every aspect of its citizens' lives. In similar fashion to George Orwell's "1984," only one man challenges this sort of totalitarian rule and attempts to bring humanity back to the individuality that makes it so special.

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