A Top 20 Of The Best Science Fiction Books Ever

A top 10 of the best science fiction books ever written. Sciencefiction books are less popular than they used to be, but you can still find some real gems if you know where to look. Written with as much creativity and fantasy as the best fantasy books out there.

A top ten of the science fiction books ever
Book cover from Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos) by Dan Simmons

1 Hyperion Cantos

Hyperion, short for Hyperion Cantos, is a four-part Science Fiction series by Dan Simmons. It is for us the most thorough and intellectual of all the books we at BooksToRead have read in the genre. It is a true masterpiece with many different storylines, an enormous poetic imagination and tension, and sometimes the sweetest emotion. Together with the characters of the book you are going on a real journey through different planets and worlds in a highly original universe. That sense of wonder and exploration you can find in these books,we haven't experienced in any other book the same way. Some of the landscapes and images in the book will remain forever in your memory. A fantastic series with a fantastic ending, we are sure we can recommend to almost any reader. In addition to being the best Science Fiction book ever, Hyperion also is literature of a very high level.

And no, you don't have to be a Keats enthusiast or have read The Canterbury Tales to enjoy this series, even if some critics might want to argue that point. For the average reader the numerous literary references might be a possible obstacle, but honestly, you don't have to recognize them all to fully appreciate this series. Other interesting and similar books of Dan Simmons are The Terror and Ilium.

The four books in the excellent Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons are: Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion.

Book cover from Dune by Frank Herbert

2 Dune by Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert's Dune is one of the most popular science fiction books ever and a book that you can read over and over again. It's a grand, intriguing space opera that has had a huge impact on subsequent science fiction writers. The age of the book (published in the mid-60s) shows itself in some places in the story, but the dreamlike desert of the sandworms and the mystical doings of the Spacing Gild and the Bene Gesserit witches continue to appeal to modern readers. Just like the main character Paul Atreides, who grows up in the story and plays his role as Muad'dib - the Kwisatz Haderach. One of the absolute recommendations in science fiction books, also for people who are not used to read the genre. The first book is the best of this original six book series. But overall it is an excellent science fiction series and for many the best science fiction book series ever.

The story in a nutshell. In a distant future, the Atreides family is forced to leave its planet on an imperial order and has to start a new life on the desert planet Dune. Dune is unique: it is the only place where the spice can be harvested, a substance that allows the pilots of the Spacing Gild to plot their space travels between the stars. Shortly after their arrival, Duke Leto is killed by the Harkonnens, the ancient enemies of the Atreides, and his heir Paul is forced to flee into the desert, where he finds himself at the mercy of the Fremens, the original inhabitants of the planet. With their help he begins the difficult task to reconquer the planet for his family - and for the sake of humanity.

Book cover from Enders Game (The Ender Quintet) by Orson Scott Card

3 Ender's Game

Ender's Game by American writer Orson Scott Card is a true science fiction classic of the late seventies that regained popularity after the movie with Harisson Ford. A science fiction book for young people and adults and the first part in a series of books about the charismatic main character Ender. It tells the adventures of the young Ender, who is enlisted as a student at the Battle School, a training school for young military commanders. Thanks to his superior intelligence, Ender succeeds in winning a lot of victories against other teams as head of his team, Dragon Army. As the training progresses, the exercises become increasingly difficult and dangerous. Many of the exercises also consist of simulated computer strategy battles against an alien race set for an invasion of Earth and its colonies. These computer games against the artificial intelligence of the computer are becoming more and more difficult and eventually almost impossible to win. Yet Ender is always able to get a victory, be it at a high cost to his own forces in the game. Until the ultimate and final mission that will decide whether Ender succeeds in completing his training. The mission is an impossible task, yet Ender takes on the challenge. But then it turns out that the games are more real than he thought and that the necessary sacrifices of armed forces in the games may not be as innocent as they seem.

A very original science fiction story by Orson Scott Card with an excellent plot that reveals itself at the end of the book. It starts off like a boy's adventure, but gradually it turns out that there is more to it than you expect at first sight. A big recommendation for existing science fiction fans, and a great read for young readers as well. One of the best science fiction books for young readers, but equally compelling for adults. A true classic of the sci-fi genre.

Book cover from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

4 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? Why do we spend so much time between wearing digital watches? For all the answers stick your thumb to the stars. And don't forget to bring a towel!

Book cover from Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline

5 Ready Player One

Ready Player One is a fairly recent science fiction book by American author Ernest Cline. It's action, science fiction, an old-fashioned treasure hunt and a nostalgic look back to the 80's, all at once. The story is based on a dystopian future of pollution, overpopulation and poverty where people try to escape the ugly reality of 2044 by spending their time in the virtual world of OASIS. OASIS consists of hundreds of worlds where anyone can be who or what he or she wants, although not everything is for free. When the extremely rich founder of OASIS dies, he leaves behind a very unusual testament. All over OASIS, clues, missions and 3 keys are hidden. Anyone can participate in the search for the so-called 'easter egg'. Whoever finds it becomes the new owner of OASIS. After 5 years of massive interest in the game, the young student Wade, or better: his avatar in OASIS Parzifal, becomes world famous because he finds the first bronze key. Soon he is chased by thousands of other players who participate in the game and who want to win as well, the so called 'grunters'. Wades quest, finding the 'easter egg', suddenly becomes much more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.

A fluent and passionately written science fiction book that will appeal to young people and adults with a young mind alike. A bit of a fresh wind in the science fiction genre where a game-like future is not immediately seen as something negative or threatening, but as a flashy adventure and a world of unlimited possibilities. Very fun to read.

Book cover from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

6 The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a science fiction classic of the famous American author of science fiction stories Robert A. Heinlein. It was written in the high days of American science fiction, the sixties and seventies. The book tells the story of the human colony on the moon that rebelles against the authoritarian government of Earth. The American reader obviously sees the parallel with the United States independence war against England, and it is of course not by chance that the more intelligent and ingenious people on the moon colony will fight a heroic battle against a short sighted totalitarian Earth government. Nevertheless, the book is fun to read as a story that tells of the courageous struggle of a small group of people against the oppression of a larger state. An intelligent book also with a well thought out plot that tells of a space war that is very different from the wars told in other science fiction novels.

Some other excellent science fiction works by the productive Robert A. Heinlein are Starship Troopers, Time Enough for Love and Stranger in a Strange Country.

Book cover from Shadow & Claw: The First Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe

7 The Book of the New Sun

The Book Of The New Sun is a unique two-piece science fiction book series by American writer Gene Wolfe. The first book of The Book of The New Sun, Shadow And Claw, begins millions of years in the future with the story of a young torturer Severian, a member of a remote guild, far from the bigger world. He commits a cardinal sin by falling in love with one of his victims, and is banned from his guild and cast out to the world, a world where he is very familiar with.

Many people love this series because Gene Wolfe mixes different genres into a convincing and original whole. You can also call this book series "scientific" fantasy rather than science fiction. That also explains how these books could win both the British Science Fiction and World Fantasy Awards in the same year. No matter which genre you put these books in, they are especially fun to read, even though these books are not for everyone. However, they are highly recommended to try out, and it's worth hanging on when you start reading. They are books that are so beautifully written that sometimes they are practically poetry. Wolfe proves that science fiction writers can also write beautiful prose. These are books where many underlying meanings can be discovered, but even without the many references, you can read the books simply for the fascinating plot and their exploration of the main character Severian.

The second book in this fantastic series has the title Sword and Citadel. Gene Wolfe also wrote a sequel The Urth of the New Sun.

Book cover from Infected: A Novel (The Infected) by Scott Sigler

8 Infected

Infected is the high tempo first science fiction and horror book by American author Scott Sigler from the Infected Trilogy. The other two books are Contagious and Pandemic. A thriller, SF and horror book on steroids, just like the main character Perry Dawsey, who in his very own way fights against the alien organism that tries to take over his body and psyche. An organism that is planning an invasion of earth. A roller coaster of a novel with a crazy tempo, that sometimes leaves you breathless.

A hypnotic reading experience that few other books offer and for that reason alone worth reading. Sigler can describe as no-one else the panic and fear of someone who is prey to physical changes and hallucinations but who ultimately decides to fight back. A must read and a unique book within the science fiction genre.

Book cover from The Mote in Gods Eye by Larry Niven

9 The Mote in God's Eye

In the year 3016, the Second Empire of Man spans hundreds of star systems, thanks to the faster-than-light Alderson Drive. No other intelligent beings have ever been encountered, not until a light sail probe enters a human system carrying a dead alien. The probe is traced to the Mote, an isolated star in a thick dust cloud, and an expedition is dispatched.

In the Mote the humans find an ancient civilization--at least one million years old--that has always been bottled up in their cloistered solar system for lack of a star drive. The Moties are welcoming and kind, yet rather evasive about certain aspects of their society. It seems the Moties have a dark problem, one they've been unable to solve in over a million years.

This is the first collaboration between Niven and Pournelle, two masters of hard science fiction, and it combines Pournelle's interest in the military and sociology with Niven's talent for creating interesting, believable aliens. The novel meticulously examines every aspect of First Contact, from the Moties' biology, society, and art, to the effects of the meeting on humanity's economics, politics, and religions. And all the while suspense builds as we watch the humans struggle toward the truth.

Book cover from A Fire Upon The Deep (Zones of Thought) by Vernor Vinge

10 A Fire Upon The Deep

A Fire Upon the Deep is the big, breakout book that fulfills the promise of Vernor Vinge's career to date: a gripping tale of galactic war told on a cosmic scale.

Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these "regions of thought," but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.

Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.

Book cover from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 by Philip K. Dick

11 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

As is generally known Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by the enigmatic science fiction author Philip K. Dick served as the source of inspiration for the SF movie Blade Runner with Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer. But inspiration is the right term here because there are some big differences between the story of the film and the story of the book. The story of Philip K. Dick is not about the "human" robot at all, on the contrary. Philip K. Dick's android's mind is fundamentally different from humans and is inhuman in a world where people themselves are also lost emotionally. Emphasis on empathy as the big difference between man and robot culminates in the funny urge of man to have a real living pet, also as a status symbol. In a world where animals are almost extinct and people are often forced to take a mechanical pet because they do not have money for a real live one, the relationship of man with his pet is a requirement for humans to be emotionally stable. Other interesting science fiction books by Dick include The Man in the High Castle, Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, alongside many others.

By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They've even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and 'retire' them. But when cornered, androids fight back with lethal force.

Book cover from Shades Children by Garth Nix

12 Shade's Children

Shade's Children by Fantasy and Science Fiction author Garth Nix tells a grim and dystopian story, full of mystery and action. A very exciting science fiction book for young readers and highly recommended.

In a futuristic urban wasteland, evil Overlords have decreed that no human shall live a day past their fourteenth birthday. On that Sad Birthday, the children of the Dorms are taken to the Meat Factory, where they will be made into creatures whose sole purpose is to kill.

The mysterious Shade, once a man, but now more like the machines he fights, recruits the few teenagers who escape into a secret resistance force. With luck, cunning, and skill, four of Shade's children come closer than any to discovering the source of the Overlords' power, and the key to their downfall. But the closer they get, the more ruthless Shade seems to become...

Book cover from Lucifers Hammer by Larry Niven

13 Lucifer's Hammer

Lucifer's Hammer by the famous American science fiction author Larry Niven is an exciting science fiction book about the pieces of a comet that slams into the Earth. In the book, the amateur astronomer Tim Hamner discovers a comet, which therefore also carries his name: the comet Hamner-Brown. First, it is thought that the comet will pass the Earth by, but then people are informed of the terrible truth: big pieces of the comet will hit the Earth in a disaster without prior. Science is also powerless to prevent the coming disaster. The fragments eventually hit the Earth and cause heavy earthquakes, mega tsunamis and volcanic eruptions on all fracture lines. Large amounts of sea water evaporate, so that the Earth is forever shrouded. After the disaster, the few survivors will have to find ways to survive on a planet that has completely changed.

An exciting book that makes you think and is still worth reading. It gives a good idea of ??the possible strategies, morally dubious or not, that people could use to survive after such a huge disaster on a devastated Earth.

Book cover from Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

14 Revelation Space

Alastair Reynolds's first novel is "hard" SF on an epic scale, crammed with technological marvels and immensities. Its events take place over a relatively short period, but have roots a billion years old, when the Dawn War ravaged our galaxy.

When human colonists settled the Amarantin homeworld, few of them bothered to question the disappearance of its native population almost a million years before. But in the year 2551, one man, Dan Sylveste, is convinced that solving the riddle of the Amarantin is vital to human survival. As he nears the truth, he learns that someone wants him dead. Because the Amarantin were destroyed for a reason. And if that reason is made public, the universe, and reality itself, could be forever altered. This sprawling operatic novel ranges across vast gulfs of time and space to arrive at a terrifying conclusion.

Alastair Reynolds, who holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy, has written a vivid and action-packed story that will linger in the minds of its readers.

Book cover from Contact by Carl Sagan

15 Contact

Contact is a fun old-fashioned science fiction book by Carl Sagan about the first contact between humanity and a technologically more advanced alien race.A very easy-to-read book that is difficult to put away, and a good introduction to the science fiction genre.

It is December 1999, the dawn of the millennium, and a team of international scientists is poised for the most fantastic adventure in human history. After years of scanning the galaxy for signs of somebody or something else, this team believes they've found a message from an intelligent source--and they travel deep into space to meet it. Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sagan injects Contact, his prophetic adventure story, with scientific details that make it utterly believable. It is a Cold War era novel that parlays the nuclear paranoia of the time into exquisitely wrought tension among the various countries involved. Sagan meditates on science, religion, and government--the elements that define society--and looks to their impact on and role in the future. His ability to pack an exciting read with such rich content is an unusual talent that makes Contact a modern sci-fi classic.

Book cover from The Running Man: A Novel by Stephen King

16 The Running Man

The Running Man is an excellent and exciting science fiction novel by Stephen King about an America in 2025 where the economy has collapsed completely and a totalitarian government appeases the public with television. In one of the shows on tv 'The Running Man', participants are chased by professional killers. The longer you are able to survive, the more money you earn. If you survive the whole show, you become a millionaire. A certain Ben decides to participate so he can buy drugs for his sick daughter, but he soon discovers that the rules of the game are not as fair as people say they are. Therefore he decides to play the game according to his own rules. A very exciting science fiction thriller that was filmed with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. The plot of that movie differs greatly from the book, but both are fun entertainement.

In The Running Man, Stephen King gives the reader a cynical look at a possible society in the near future, through the eyes of a citizen, who simply tries to do his best. The Running Man was originally published under Stephen King's pseudonym: Richard Bachman.

Book cover from Neuromancer by William Gibson

17 Neuromancer

Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer is a cyberpunk, science fiction masterpiece, a classic that ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the twentieth century's most potent visions of the future.

The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus-hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace...

Henry Dorsett Case was the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

The winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer was the first fully-realized glimpse of humankind's digital future, a shocking vision that has challenged our assumptions about our technology and ourselves, reinvented the way we speak and think, and forever altered the landscape of our imaginations.

Book cover from Wool by Hugh Howey

18 Wool, the Silo Trilogy

For suspense-filled, post-apocalyptic thrillers, Wool is more than a self-published ebook phenomenon, it's the new standard in classic science fiction.

In a ruined and toxic future, a community exists in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. There, men and women live in a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them. Sheriff Holston, who has unwaveringly upheld the silo's rules for years, unexpectedly breaks the greatest taboo of all: He asks to go outside.

His fateful decision unleashes a drastic series of events. An unlikely candidate is appointed to replace him: Juliette, a mechanic with no training in law, whose special knack is fixing machines. Now Juliette is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how badly her world is broken. The silo is about to confront what its history has only hinted about and its inhabitants have never dared to whisper. Uprising.

Book cover from 2001: a Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

19 2001: a Space Odyssey

THE CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL THAT CHANGED THE WAY WE LOOKED AT THE STARS AND OURSELVES

From the savannas of Africa at the dawn of mankind to the rings of Saturn as man ventures to the outer rim of our solar system, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey unlike any other.

This allegory about humanity's exploration of their universe, and the universe's reaction to humanity was the basis for director Stanley Kubrick's immortal film, and lives on as a hallmark achievement in storytelling.

Book cover from Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer

20 The Southern Reach Trilogy

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, a combination of Science Fictionand horror, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers. They discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding, but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.

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