Science fiction books are some of my favorite all times book because of the creativity of the authors. It is not easy writing a science fiction book which is why we decided to take a look at the best science fiction books of all time.
I made the mistake of creating a list of the five best science fiction books of all time and left out many classics. To make up for that mistake, I have decided to create a list of all of the best science fiction books in my opinion.
The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, 1985
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick, 1968
- Dune by Frank Herbert, 1965
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, 1949
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov, 1942
- The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, 1895
- The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams, 1979
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, 1985
- The Martian by Andy Weir, 2011
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1932
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons, 1989
- Ringworld by Larry Niven, 1970
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, 1950
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, 1961
- The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, 1898
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, 1962
- Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, 1864
- Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, 1990
- Fahrenheit 451 by by Ray Bradbury, 1953
- Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, 2016
- A Clockwork Orange by by Anthony Burgess, 1962
The list is in no specific order but what came to my mind first. There are many books on the list that are synonymous with the science fiction genre and the first one I will be talking about is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. The novel tackles a bunch of issues and uses science fiction perfectly to create the worst-case scenario to make the its point. That has led to it being one of the most banned books in the country.
A book that is often credited as being one of the first if not the first science fiction books is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The novel is over two centuries old and is still relevant today. If that doesn’t speak volume, I don’t know what else will.
Authors Who Have Defined the Genre
Now, I will be shifting the focus on a couple of authors that played an important part in the genre. H. G. Wells has written multiple books that are regarded as some of the best books in the genre. Books like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds make him vital to this category.
Another author that comes to mind is Isaac Asimov. His Foundation series is a goldmine for fans of the science fiction genre. His novel I, Robot is also worth reading as it tackles a lot of issues when it comes to artificial intelligence.
No list is going to get it right but this list covers most of the major science fiction novels of the past two centuries. From classics like Dune by Frank Herbert to Ringworld which I have heavily recommended by my readers. What do you make of the list? Are there any books that should have made the list? Let us know in the comments below!
58 thoughts on “The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time”
I don’t think Blake Crouch makes the grade, to be honest. His writing and stories are Crichton-lite and made to be turned into movies/tv shows. Plus, from what I’ve read of him, he takes every 90’s SF trope and tries to present it as “new” to readers while it’s old hat. At least Crichton had some real science in his books.
I’ve often wondered if Dune will eventually become known as the King of the SF novels. Herbert sketches out an entire universe with just a few pen strokes and still tells an excellent story. We won’t be around to see if that ends up being the case, but I do like to think about it 🙂
I’d add these
K.W. Jeter -Farewell Horizontal
Abnett, dan – titanicus
Brian Aldiss – Heliconia trilogy
Banks, iain – feersuum endjinn
Greg Bear – Darwin’s Children
John Brunner – The Jagged Orbit
Mick Farren – Necrom
Geo. Alec Effinger – When Gravity Falls
Richard K. Morgan – Altered Carbon
Lucius Shepherd – Life During Wartime
Williams, walter jon – conventions of war
Zelazny, Roger – lord of light
Russo, richard paul – carlucci novels
Reynolds, Alastair – blue remembered earth
Missing from this list..THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.
Also missing from this otherwise excellent list is Bradbury’s overlooked novel “The Illustrated Man” and Chricton’s “Andromeda Strain”.
Right, more recent are more relevant and developed.
well off, but a good to-do list
I have read alot on your list and do believe that Battlefield Earth is outstanding. Definitely not the movie
Any list of great science fiction books that doesn’t have anything written by Arthur C Clarke on it is suspect. Any list without “Childhoods End” on it is not a list worthy of consideration.
At first I thought it was a complete disgrace, but then I came to realise that it’s actually a huge compliment. So many of Arthur C Clarke’s ideas have become ingrained in our collective psyche – they’re so pervasive – that people have forgotten they were actually introduced to us by him?
Player piano… my favorite
Neuromancer, by William Gibson, was a game-changer. It was not just great sci-fi, but really good literature. He has a unique style, unimitable. Big mistake to leave him out. He created new genres: cyberpunk sci fi, and “inner space” sci fi.
Have read all on the list. I think The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin trilogy should be on the list.
There’s no Disch, Delany, Gibson or Stephenson on this list. That makes it not even worth discussing.
How about some Vernon Vinge, ‘Fire upon the Deep’ ? No scifi list is comple without VV.
Do yourself a favor and read these two books by Alfred Bester: The Demolished Man, and The Stars My Destination.
Then come back and add them to this list.
I’ll add them to my to read list.
Yes. “Stars My Destination” kicked off the cyberpunk genre. It is also titled “Tiger! Tiger!”
Alfred Bester! Stars My Destination & The Demolished Man! Both on my re-read shelf year after year. Chilling. INTENSE. Insanely committed protagonists.
Many, many excellent books on this list. I’ve read most. Rarely do I see Bester’s “Stars” and/or “Demolished” on any best-of list. That’s a shame for these two cherished classics.
Like many authors/books on your list, I enjoy those books that have new concepts created on every page “with a few pen strokes”. Dune fits that precept; Hyperion (Cantos) fits; as do Asimov’s Robot and Foundation series.
I would add Startide Rising by David Brin as one that has more “mind blowing” ideas in the 1st chapter than many whole novels.
Completely skipped Arthur C. Clark.
Great list, but you need to add more recent books, and a few overlooked greats:
Parable of the sower by Octavia Butler ( don’t bother with the sequel)- brilliant
Murderbot series by Martha Wells – genius
Ancillary Justice series
A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (pen name, Arkady being the female lead in one of the Foundation novels)
The Girl With all the Gifts- horror sci fi, excellent all the same
The Expanse Series- hard to choose just one
And I agree that Delaney and Clark should show up on this list- Stars in My Pockets like Grains of Sand and either Childhoods End or 2001.
And Three Body Problem (the other two are trash)
And Neuromancer by Gibson
If the list were ranked, Dune should take the top spot. Glad it’s finally getting it’s due. So far ahead of it’s time. So layered with such complex world building.
I’m an old guy. Raised on Sci-Fi in middle school in the early 1960’s. Most of my re-reads are from the Clarke, Heinlein, Niven, Pohl heydays.
But… Your mention of the very recent MURDERBOT SERIES by Martha Wells is spot-on. Probably the most enjoyable new(-ish) read I’ve had in years. Yes. And good news, Ms. Wells has signed to add at least two more books to the Murderbot Series.
Also Becky Chambers first book THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET, is another new(-ish) book by a new science fiction author that won many awards and that I re-read every year or three 🙂
Don’t forget Empire From The Ashes by David Weber
Atwood’s “MaddAddam Trilogy” is better than The Handmaid’s Tale
I am a big fan of Roger Zelazny, especially the Nine Princes of Amber (series). Do you have a list of fantasy books by chance?
Awesome list. I’d add a Lazarus Long title and Arthur C. Clark.
‘Combat Unit’ by Keith Laumer. (1960)
Yes, it’s only a short story, but it’s the first tale of the futuristic supertanks known as the Bolos, and Laumer’s style of telling their stories from the point of view of their combat AI was unique in its time.
Pavane by Keith Roberts
Engine Summer by John Crowley
The Last Castle by Jack Vance
A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter Miller Jr.
The Man In The High Castle by Philip K Dick
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Stations Of The Tide by Michael Swanwick
And many others which could be added to your me list without diluting it’s quality.
Thank you for including Larry Niven. Though Ringworld is his most known book, there are so many more that are amazing (Protector, Lucifer’s Hammer, A World Out of Time… I feel I could go on and on).
I would warming recommend Aristoi by W. J. Williams.
I always liked the Well of souls books (e.g midnight at the well of souls, etc.) And the four lords of the diamond series from Jack Chalker.
Just to be clear, you have a list of The Best Science Fiction Books of All Time – one which isn’t even limiting itself to a specific number – but you haven’t included a single book by Arthur C Clarke?
I mean … just to provide one example, Rendezvous With Rama is the ONLY hard science fiction book (series, actually), which delves into how a species might ACTUALLY travel interstellar distances without resorting to the fantasy of an FTL drive or a wormhole, but … so what, right?
I’ve been watching with horror as hard science fiction has become rarer and rarer (people ACTUALLY believe that Interstellar is hard science fiction, as opposed to the ridiculous fantasy nonsense that it is, and compare it to 2001: A Space Odyssey), but when the King of hard science fiction, one of the towering figures of the science fiction genre, one of the pioneers, one of the acknowledged Masters, doesn’t have a single book on a list like this, then I guess hard science fiction can officially be pronounced dead.
I was going to say that poor old Arthur must be turning over in his grave, but then I realised that he might actually be overjoyed to find that many of his ideas have become so ingrained in the human psyche that he isn’t even acknowledge as their originator any more. So, for example, you have included War Of The Worlds, because Wells introduced us to the idea of advanced, hostile aliens, but you haven’t included any books from the guy who introduced us to the idea of advanced, benevolent aliens.
The City And The Stars (which was a re-write of Against The Fall Of Night), is one of the first books – certainly the first to be read by a wide audience – to introduce us to the idea of virtual reality, to name just ONE of the many ideas which overflow from that incredible book, but who has heard of virtual reality? It’s not like Zuckerberg is betting his empire on it or anything like that, so it was definitely right to leave that book off the list I suppose…
Honestly, I don’t know if you just don’t rate Clarke as an author for some reason – despite his towering presence and influence on the genre – or whether you just haven’t read any of his books for some reason, but if it’s the latter then you are doing yourself a great disservice; one you should rectify immediately…
Now, shall we discuss the fact that of all of Michael Crichton’s excellent science fiction books, the one you’ve chosen to include on your list is Jurassic Park???
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester and Nova by Samuel R. Delany should definitely have been on this list.
Lots of authors/books already highlighted, so I would just add two great series (in my opinion):
– The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
– The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
AI RUN AMOK!!!!! FRED SABERHAGEN’S BESERKER SERIES
AHhhh… Thanks for reminding me of Saberhagen and the BESERKER series of his books.
Yes. The first Sci-Fi instance of AI run (Really and TRULY) amok, on a grand scale, of which I am aware. Hard Sci-Fi and horror Sci-Fi all wrapped up into one chilling bundle!
Boy oh boy. I’ll have to add a couple of Beserker novels that I have in my library to my re-read shelf (which is already overflowing).
Good catch on Saberhagen / Beserker.
I thought Stranger in a Strange land was a terrible book. In fact I hated it. All he did was take the idea of a modern day Christ appearing, and then did it poorly at that.
If you want a modern messiah to be your protagonist, DUNE was THE way to do it.
I enjoyed the first half of it a lot. The second half was a bit too much but I don’t think it takes away from the overall book. It obviously was trying to get a message across with its use of a messiah and had its purpose. Dune is a much more realistic approach to a modern messiah and is unmatched in its portrayal.
I greatly enjoyed reading books by Robert Jordan. His Wheel of Time series had me, but I’m not a dedicated science fiction reader. I just enjoyed them.
Several people mentioned Clarke. Childhood’s End definitely! Shot stories aren’t included, but any book that even contains Clarke’s The Star or Asimov’s Nightfall belong on a list of the greatest. Bester’s Stars My Destination is great. I really enjoyed Dune years ago, but a re-read much later wondering why I found it so good back then. A great book should hold up for a second read.
Amazed EE Doc Smith lensmen series is not on the list
I saw one mention of Heinlein and frankly his Tunnel in the Sky, and Starship Troopers we’re great reads but also well ahead of their time.
I never hear about an author I read in the 70, books written in the late 30s and 40s. The author was EE Doc Smith who wrote the Lensman series.
Finally I saw a mention of David Weber. His Safehold series is enjoyable. More importantly Weber takes on how to take a fully agrarian society and fast forward it to a highly technical one.
Consider the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein and Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
Decent list. There’s a couple in there that I wouldn’t include. It’s missing the three body problem. And there’s an argument to be made that the Martian isn’t really a science fiction book since all of the science and it is absolutely 100% real. Though of course we haven’t actually landed a man on Mars yet so I guess it qualifies
I think Stanislav Lem is missing. You might know Solaris, but I like way more The Futurological Congress…. Thank you for this list!
Doc Smith was the writer other great writers like Asimov and Heinlein looked up to.
The six books of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series are a bit dated, but it is epic science fiction that led to likes of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon 5. There are great ideas there ahead of their time. And pretty damn good writing too.
You don’t have Neuromancer in there ?
Roadside picnic from Strugatsky brothers.