The Best Science Fiction books

Science Fiction is awesome

Although I read books of all sorts, the kind that I love the most is science fiction. The problem is that there just aren't that many good science fiction books out there. Most sci-fi writers are crap--that's all there is to it. I spend a good chunk of time every year trying to find good science fiction books, and have decided to put up a list of some of my favorites in order to hopefully save people some time and effort. A lot of these might seem like obvious choices to avid sci-fi readers, but that's only because they're so good that they're now considered classics.

I'm not going to list these in any order of preference, because it's just too hard to do. Instead I'm just listing some of my favorite picks by author--starting with my favorite sci-fi writer of all time: John Varley.

Best Science Fiction Books

Steel Beach- John Varley

This is the first science fiction book that I read that just blew my mind. I couldn't get over how crazy and cool it was, and I still love it. It's my favorite science fiction book by a long shot, and every single person I've ever lent it to has become a huge fan. It's not for kids, with plenty of sex, violence, and profanity, but the important thing is that the characters are wonderful, the plot is perfectly paced, and John Varley is a phenomenal writer.

Steel Beach- John Varley

Top Science Fiction Books

The Golden Globe- John Varley

The Golden Globe is second to Steel Beach some days, and tied for first other days. I really, really love it, and it has some of the same characters as in Steel Beach. It is pretty different than Steel Beach plot-wise, but what it lacks (slightly) in action, it more than makes up for in wonderful characters and character development. There are so many memorable 'scenes' from this book it's hard to think about without just picking it up to re-read. Truly one of the best sci-fi books ever written.

The Golden Globe- John Varley

Best Sci-fi Books

The John Varley Reader

The John Varley Reader is a great introduction to Varley's writing style for those who are unfamiliar with his work. It compiles many of his best short stories from his entire career, as well as many very interesting memories from Varley about what his life was like while he wrote them, where his ideas came from, and other interesting tidbits. I've gone to the trouble of tracking down all of his short story books separately, but if you don't want to go to all that trouble, buying the John Varley reader will let you get your feet wet without having to become a collector.

The John Varley Reader

Best Science Fiction Books

Neuromancer- William Gibson

What can be said about Neuromancer that hasn't already been said countless times already? It's possibly the most famous science fiction book of all time, and for good reason. William Gibson basically invented cyberpunk and coined the term 'cyberspace' long before the dawn of the internet age. Ahead of its time like all the best science fiction, this book foresaw many things that are taking place now. A great adventure story with tons of great characters and action. If you haven't read it and you like science fiction, you are seriously short-changing yourself.

William Gibson- Neuromancer

Best Sci-fi Books

William Gibson- Pattern Recognition

There were plenty of novels in-between Neuromancer and this one, of varying quality. But this is the William Gibson book I think of when his name comes up. His writing quality is through the roof in Pattern Recognition, and even though it's far more character-driven than any of his previous books--and sci-fi in general--it is an absolutely stunning book that should be in every sci-fi fan's library. Gibson has really outdone himself with this one; I love it to death.

Pattern Recognition- William Gibson

Best Science Fiction Books

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick

I know I said that Neuromancer is possibly the most famous sci-fi book of all time, but actually I know that this one is. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was WAY ahead of its time when published, and still to this day looked at with reverence and pride by the sci-fi community. This book was the basis for the movie Blade Runner, arguably the best sci-fi movie of all time, and definitely one of the most popular. Don't claim to like sci-fi if you haven't read this classic.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Top Science Fiction Books

Snow Crash- Neal Stephenson

For most people, this book is a home run. For me, it's still a classic, but I have a strong dislike for much of the second half of this book's plot. In fact, I found myself often skipping over large portions of pseudo-biblical gibberish while reading this book, and yet it still had so many great characters and memorable 'scenes' that it made it on my list. You have to read it if you like sci-fi; it's a legend of the genre.

Best Science Fiction Books

Frequencies- Joshua Ortega

I don't run across many people who've heard of this little book by Joshua Ortega, and that's really too bad. It is a little hard to get into the writing style at first, but once you do you'll be rewarded. There are plenty of great things here about capitalism, marketing, consumerism, and technology, but there are also great cars, cool weapons, great action, and good characters.

Frequencies- Joshua Ortega

Best Science Fiction Books

Dune- Frank Herbert

No science fiction book list is complete without this masterpiece. I think Frank Herbert was an absolute hack of a writer, with little to no talent, but this book was his one-hit wonder. It's so good I could read it twice in a row without losing interest. Unfortunately, all of the sequels are terrible, as are most of Frank Herbert's other books. The good news is: Dune is one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time, and stands on its own without the need to ever read the crap sequels.

Best Science Fiction Books

Stranger in a Strange Land- Robert Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land is definitely a classic sci-fi book. Lots of things from this book have become mainstream phrases. Heinlein is considered by many to be the greatest sci-fi writer of all time, and this is one of his best books. My parents read it before me, then I read it, and my kids will read it too. Due to its huge popuarity, it's one of the science fiction books most likely to be in a non-science fiction lover's library.

Stranger in a Strange Land- Robert Heinlein

Top Science Fiction Books

Starship Troopers- Robert Heinlein

This book was made into a movie that some love, and some hate. I love the book AND the movie. It's got sex, violence, alien bugs, plenty of action, and quite a few interesting and memorable 'scenes.' If you're looking for a great fun adventure book with plenty of action, then look no further. This book has been one of my favorites to read every winter--I never get sick of it! 

Starship Troopers- Robert Heinlein

The Ultimate Science Fiction Books

Tunnel in the Sky- Robert Heinlein

This is a Heinlein gem that no one really talks about. It's about a group of school kids in a survival class that end up abandoned with no way home from a hostile planet. Part Lord of the Flies, and part cub scout adventure, this book is hard to put down--especially if you're a fan of survival adventures. I find myself reading this book every single winter and I never get tired of it. It's not a big grandiose epic; just a nice comfortable and extremely fun adventure book. Some people may not like the 50s style dialog, but that's when it was written, so it shouldn't be too big of a surprise. I find it endearing, myself.

Tunnel in the Sky- Robert Heinlein

Best Science Fiction Novels

Altered Carbon- Richard K. Morgan

A buddy of mine recently recommended this to me, and I'm really glad he did. Death is almost entirely a thing of the past in the world of Altered Carbon--instead of dying, people are just 're-sleeved' in new bodies. This has a strong detective element to it, and it's a lot of fun trying to figure out who's who, and what's what since the characters can change names, faces, and identities if they want to. There are two sequels to this book, and both are great. This is a really fun read, and you'll have trouble putting it down.

Best Science Fiction Books

Ender's Game- Orson Scott Card

This is one of my favorite books of all time--not just in the science fiction genre. It focuses on the story of a young boy-genius who is carted off to a prestigious military academy to hopefully one day fight off the alien hordes threatening mankind. The pacing is perfect, the characters wonderfully deep and well-developed, the action exciting, and the surprise ending is great. Normally I hate surprise endings, but this time it really was a pleasure. I've recommended this book a few times, and always heard rave reviews. There are a bunch of sequels to this, but I've only read Ender's Shadow--which is an interesting re-telling of the original story from one of the supporting character's point of view. Really great stuff. Ender's game is a huge find for any science fiction lover.

Ender's Game- Orson Scott Card

Ok, that's all for now

 That's my list of the best of the best off the top of my head. If and when I think of other books that should make the list, I'll add them. If you guys have any suggestions, shoot! I'm always looking for great new books to read, and I probably missed some that should be on the list as well.

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Comments 18 comments

SimeyC profile image

SimeyC 6 years ago from NJ, USA

Great list! You should read books 2 to 4 in the Ender's game series - Ender's Game was excellent, so were the next 3 books - rounds of the series brilliantly. Then there's 4 more books after that (which I am currently reading) and then a ninth book due that combines the two series!


Morgan Orion profile image

Morgan Orion 6 years ago from Minnesota Author

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't really know why I never read any of the other Ender books; I really love the two I've read. I'll pop over to Amazon and order up the second one to check out.


razor 6 years ago

try ARMOR by John Steakly exellent

im off to get STEEL BEACH thanks!


Morgan Orion profile image

Morgan Orion 6 years ago from Minnesota Author

@ razor

I'll check out Armor, thanks. I hope you enjoy Steel Beach as much as I did.


HartMurengu profile image

HartMurengu 5 years ago from Nairobi

great list will try some of them. am one among many who find hard getting interesting sci-fi books. thanks for sharing


AliceApocalypse profile image

AliceApocalypse 5 years ago from USA

Looking forward to reading Tunnel in the Sky, great selection :)


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

These are really great books ...Thanks for that


EuroCafeAuLait profile image

EuroCafeAuLait 4 years ago from Croatia, Europe

Wow! Glad to hear I'm not the only one who loves Robert Heinlein books. The Moon is a Harsh Mystery was one of my favorites, although I have read more than I can recall. A beautiful hub, voted up and across. Your work, detail and research really shows.


Morgan Orion profile image

Morgan Orion 4 years ago from Minnesota Author

@EuroCafeAuLait-- Thanks! I hope you'll check out John Varley if you haven't already read his books. He's probably the biggest Heinlein fan of us all and he's an amazing writer. I would caution to stay away from his more recent books though, not sure what's happened but his writing fell off a cliff about 6-8 years ago. Read anything before "Mammoth" and you're in great shape. :)


harleytod 4 years ago

try Ready Player One by Cline...if you grew up in the 80's you'll love it


Morgan Orion profile image

Morgan Orion 4 years ago from Minnesota Author

@harleytod- Thank you, I'll go on amazon and check it out right now. :)


aa lite profile image

aa lite 4 years ago from London

Really nice post. I so agree with your first point, I love science fiction, but most of science fiction is utterly crap! This is why I am very slow in finding new authors, don't want to risk wasting my time on another completely derivative story with cardboard characters. I've never heard of John Varley. I will try him out, but avoid his recent books. Similar thing happened to Iain M Banks (one of my favouries), his early stuff is genius (imo), his later books unreadable.


Morgan Orion profile image

Morgan Orion 4 years ago from Minnesota Author

@aa lite- Thanks for the compliment, I really appreciate it. Do you have any Iain M Banks books you'd say are your favorites? I'd like to check them out but want to make sure I get the ones you think are the best.


aa lite profile image

aa lite 4 years ago from London

I think my top Iain M Banks book would be "the use of weapons", some people find it difficult to get into and overcomplicated because the timeline is all-over the place, different chapters jump to different events in no particular chronological order. He really doesn't make much effort to make sure you can follow the plot, I suspect that is on-purpose. As long as you're prepared to be relaxed about exactly understanding the plot and just "flow with it", it's great though. I actually really like the way in which a big event is mentioned in passing in a couple of places, and then a bit later on you find out what happened. And the ending, when you finally find out "how it all started" and why the protagonist does what he does, is very satisfying. The first book I read, "Consider Phlebas" was also very good. "Against a dark background" is a bit different, its not set in the "culture" universe but I would also recommend it.

Damn I think I'm going to have to write a hub about Iain M Banks!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Morgan we have similar tastes. Ender's Game is my all time favorite and now it's finally going to be a movie!

I loved Cayce Pollard in Pattern Recognition. Gibson excites all your nerve endings, but he can't really tell a story like Heinlein or Card. For some reason I really liked King David's Spaceship and Codgerspace by Alan Dean Foster has the best opening of any book I've read.

For hard sci-fi you can't beat The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle. =:)


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Ender's game is finally turning in to a movie?? That's awesome! I cannot wait! All these books in this list are absolutely great reads, thank you for sharingt!


Morgan Orion profile image

Morgan Orion 4 years ago from Minnesota Author

@KDuBarry03-- Yes, I'm excited to see what happens with the Ender's Game movie as well. There's plenty of scuttlebutt about it and it should be interesting to see how it turns out.

I'm glad you liked the books I listed so much. :)


Kelsey Farrell profile image

Kelsey Farrell 18 months ago from Orange County, CA

I was so happy to see Heinlen and Gibson make the list, both are just great representatives of their genre!

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