While I’m predominantly a horror writer, science fiction is a genre that has always been close to my heart. I’m especially fond of cyberpunk and space operas. Over the course of the years, I’ve read countless science fiction novels. That’s why I put together a list of the, in my opinion, best science fiction books of all time.
I wholeheartedly recommend any of the books on this list, and any science fiction fan should check them out. If you’re looking for more science-fiction recommendations, make sure to check out my list of books like Dune and my list of Dystopian books.
Table of Contents
- The Foundation Trilogy
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
- Rendezvous with Rama
- A Scanner Darkly
- The Forever War
- Starship Troopers
- Hardboiled-Wonderland and the End of the World
- Brave New World
As I mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of space operas. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov is as good as it gets. It’s one of the most popular and one of the best science fiction books of all time.
However, the books aren’t so much novels, but collections of short stories. These short stories detail the fall of the Galactic Empire and chronicle the rise of the Foundation by the help of the so-called Seldon Plan.
What I found most interesting was that the stories in the Foundation Trilogy focused more on clover plots by characters and the aftermath of space battles than actual action.
While some of the stories can be a bit on the weaker side, the longer stories in book two and three more than make up for it. The Mule might be my favorite science fiction story of all time.
If you enjoy science fiction, I highly recommend you check out the Foundation Trilogy. These books are without science fiction classics and amongst the best science fiction books out there.
As I mentioned, cyberpunk is another sub-genre of science fiction I enjoy immensely. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick is regarded as one of the first cyberpunk novels ever written.
The novel is set in a dark, post-apocalyptic future. In the novel, the titular androids, called replicants, are banned on Earth and used as cheap labor on Mars. The story focuses on a man named Rick Deckard, a bounty-hunter tasked with finding and killing six replicants who fled Mars.
The novel discusses several philosophical topics, such as what it means to be human. It also paints a very grim picture of our future.
It’s a fantastic read, and in my opinion not only Philip K. Dick best work but also one of the best science fiction books of all time.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the proto science fiction novel. The book differs from its depiction in popular media. It focuses in huge parts on the story of Victor Frankenstein. It’s interesting to learn more about the character, and the novel paints him in a much more sympathetic light and doesn’t depict him as a mad scientist. I also came to enjoy many of the pseudo-scientific talk during the early parts of the novel and found them quite intriguing.
The weaker parts of the book are the ones which focus on the creature, its reasoning, and how it learns more about our world and the people inhabiting it. While those parts were interesting, they dragged on a bit too much for my liking. This, however, is the only criticism I have of Frankenstein.
Overall, Frankenstein is a fantastic read and considered a classic for a reason. I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in the true story of Frankenstein, and people who are interested in the earlier days of science fiction.
Frank Miller’s Dune is not only one of the best science fiction books of all time but also one of the most popular. I first got interested in the world of Dune and science fiction when I watched David Lynch’s adaption of the novel.
Years later, I read Frank Herbert’s novel, and I thought it was fantastic. The greatest part about a novel is without a doubt the world building. I was drawn in by the galactic power structures, the different houses and the religious background so prevalent in the novel.
There were also some interesting ideas discussed in the book, especially considering ecological topics.
Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, whose family accepts stewardship of the planet Arrakis, the only source of spice in the entire universe. The plot of the novel explores various topics, but focuses on a power struggle between different factions over control of Arrakis and its spice.
While I enjoyed the novel’s plot, it wasn’t extraordinary. What stuck out to me though was the fantastic world building.
Overall, Dune is a book that’s popular for a reason and while I found the plot somewhat lacking, it’s still amongst the best science fiction books I read.
Rendezvous with Rama was the first novel by Arthur C. Clarke, I read. The book differed completely from what I’d expected and was strange, but in a good way. There’s not a lot of action, and it’s not your typical space novel.
The story begins when a cylindrical alien starship enters the Solar System. The story is then told from the point of view of a group of human explorers who enter the ship to uncover its mysteries.
Rendezvous with Rama is a book that mostly focuses on conveying interesting ideas and deeper themes. While it’s a quick read, it’s also a very interesting read.
While this book might not be for everyone, I still recommend it to those who are looking for a different science fiction book, not focused on action.
A Scanner Darkly is another novel written by Philip K. Dick. It’s a book I like to describe as a light science fiction novel focusing heavily on drug usage and drug culture.
The story itself deals with two characters. One is Bob Actor, a junky and drug dealer who’s using and selling the mind altering substance D. Fred, on the other hand, is a law enforcement agent, working undercover and tasked with bringing down Bob. What appears to be a simple case becomes rather complicated since Bob Actor and Fred are the same person.
A Scanner Darkly explores and focuses heavily on drug culture, drug usage, and the resulting problems such as paranoia and the alteration of the human mind.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s dark, grim and depressing, but explores a lot of interesting topics. While it’s not as heavy on science fiction as the other novels on this list, I still consider it one of the best science fiction books out there.
William Gibson’s Neuromancer is one of the most popular, if not the most popular cyberpunk novel of all time. It tells the story of Case, a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer for one last job.
Neuromancer is fantastic. It has everything you’d want from a cyberpunk novel. There are weird characters, sprawling cities, cyberspace, virtual reality and much, much more. Gibson’s world building and the entire atmosphere of the book are both great. It’s a dark, gritty and rather dystopian world, but one that feels entirely unique.
The same is true for many of the characters populating the world. They are all interesting in their own way, but also very weird.
I think Neuromancer is a book that anyone one interested in science fiction and cyberpunk should read. Especially nowadays, when many of the themes discussed in the book such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality aren’t as futuristic anymore.
Overall Neuromancer is the cyberpunk book. It presents a dark, yet interesting outlook into our future. It’s without a doubt one of the best science fiction books ever written.
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman was an extremely interesting book. It started out as your typical, run-of-the-mill science fiction book. Humans met aliens, conflict emerged, and war started.
The beginning of the book was, at least to me, its weakest part. Many of the earlier chapters were spent on military training and featured the first battle against the alien antagonist.
After this relatively weak beginning, the book became far better and explored a variety of complex themes. I will spoil nothing, but I’m going to say that getting through the first part of the book was more than worth it. So much so, that rest made it one of the best science fiction books of all time. I was honestly floored by how good a book it was.
While the Forever War is a space opera, I considered the battles one of its weaker elements. While they were much more realistic than those depicted in other novels, they were also not as exciting as I’d wished.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to people who are interested in space operas and those interested in military fiction.
I was a big fan of the movie Starship Troopers ever since I was a teenager. When I finally got around to read Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, it turned out vastly different from what I’d expected.
I’d thought it would be an action-packed science fiction novel, but it was a much deeper and more complex book. Many parts in the book were devoted to discuss Heinlein’s future society, military doctrine and training. While the book had its scenes of brutal action, they weren’t the focus.
Still, I believe Starship Troopers is one of the best science fiction books out there, even if some of Heinlein’s ideas can be questionable. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes science fiction, military fiction, and fans of the movie.
Haruki Murakami’s novels are a mixed bag to me. While I enjoyed some of them, I came to dislike others. Hardboiled-Wonderland and the End of the World, however, is fantastic.
The book’s split between two narratives, both weird and bizarre in their own right.
One of them is set in the future. Our protagonist is a ‘Calcutec,’ a human who can encrypt data without a computer, by using his brain. The story starts out with him being sent down into the Tokyo sewers. The second narrative is more bizarre and set in a strange, isolated town in a fantastical world.
There’s not much more I can say about this book without giving too much away. Hardboiled-Wonderland and the End of the World is as weird as you’d expect it to be, but it’s also one of the best science fiction books I’ve ever read.
If you’re a fan of science fiction and weird literature, I highly recommend giving this book a try.
I read the Otherland series by Tad Williams as a teenager, and I absolutely loved it. It’s a series that got me interested in virtual reality, virtual worlds, and anything related to it.
The series is set in the future at the end of the twenty-first century. Large chunks of the novel are set in virtual reality.
The story’s protagonist is a young woman named Irene Sulaweyo who’s working as a VR programming instructor. When her brother Stephen falls into a coma after visiting a forbidden club in the Net, she and her friend !Xabbu decide to investigate.
During her investigations she discovers strange goings-on in the Net, including an evil hypnotic entity and the constant reappearance of a mysterious golden city.
This sets in motion events spanning four books, including countless characters and various narratives. Because of the virtual reality nature of the book, our characters visit a vast array of settings, all equally interesting.
I absolutely loved the virtual worlds depicted in the series and the sprawling, complex plot. It’s one of my favorite book series of all time, and the books are definitely amongst the best science fiction books of all time.
I highly recommend this series to anyone who’s looking for a long, complex science fiction series and those who are interested in virtual reality and virtual worlds.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is one of the most popular dystopian novels and always compared to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four. In my opinion, however, Brave New world is the superior of the two.
The novel details a society in which people are not born, but engineered through artificial wombs. Each person goes through childhood indoctrination before they are put into predetermined casts based on intelligence and labor.
Our protagonist, Bernard Marx, is a member of the higher caste who disapproves of society and its methods. The plot, however, only truly starts when Bernard and a woman named Lenina Crowne visit a Savage Reservation. It’s there that they meet John, a young man who born naturally and who grew up at the reservation.
What makes Brave New World so interesting is that the depicted society might be called a Utopia. People are happy, live peacefully, and there’s no war. However, it all comes at a cost.
While Nineteen Eighty-Four depicts an omnipresent police state that keeps its citizens in check via mass surveillance, Brave New World outlines an entirely different scenario. It is one I personally find much more realistic and thus more terrifying.
The novel itself is fantastically written, ripe with scientific background and populated by interesting characters. It’s without a doubt one of the greatest dystopian novels and one of the best science fiction books of all time.