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The Alternative Top 25 Best Science Fiction List

Our Alternative Top 25 Best Science Fiction Books List

This is the Alternative Top 25 Best Science Fiction list (AKA the OLD Top 25 Science Fiction List before we created a brand new one and released it in January 2016).

The new, completely updated / revised version is our current Top 25 Best Fantasy Books List, which I suggest you do check out FIRST before drawing recommendations from this Alternative Top 25 list of book picks.

Why Do We Have The Alternative Top 25 List?

The short answer is that I put so much effort into writing the damn thing, with so many detailed recommendations that I couldn't bear to get rid of it.

The long answer is that while the newer (current) Top 25 list is a better, more encompassing. more comprehensive list than this older version of it, there's still a lot of goodness to this Alternative / Older list and ALL the recommendations are still completely valid. For some of you, you may prefer this version to the newer list we created. The Alternative List includes a lot more 'recent' books than the newer version. 

Either list offers great recommendations, so use them both!

So, look at the Top 25 Best Science Fiction list, then come back to this Alternative Best List. Between both lists, I guarantee you'll find a selection of the best works to read.

And if you need even MORE recommendations, look at the Top 100 Best Science Fiction Books list, which picks up where the (new) Top 25 leave off, from #26 and concludes at #100.

You can view the crowd-ranked version of this list and vote on the entries at the bottom of this page. This crowd version is the ORIGINAL crowd list that's tied to the Alternative Best List (formerly the old Top 25 Best List).

Ah Dune -- a million words have been written about Dune, more words in fact than Herbert himself ever wrote in his grand planetary romance meets ecological space opera.  Dune has made just about every relevant recommendation list on this site and you'll find most people put Dune near the top of anything with the words 'best' and 'science fiction' in the same sentence.It's not surprise that critics endlessly refer to it as Science Fiction's answer to Lord of the Rings.Dune is many things: a planetary romance, a science fiction Shakespearean tragedy, an ecological science fiction, a revenge tale, a saga of a dynasty, and a Space Opera.It's a Space Opera that (mostly) takes place on a planet. A very special planet. Dune. A planet that controls an empire of planets.If you are the one person who has not yet read Dune, start. The series is sometimes polarizing, but it's a grand sweep of politics, war, economics, dynasty, and religion. But it's also (at least the first couple books) a very personal tale of a boy who becomes a man, and a man who becomes a leader, and a leader who becomes a god, a god who becomes a man.Read it and weep for love.Series InfoI've only listed the superior original Dune trilogy (which was six books with the seventh book, partially completed and edited to completion by Herbert's son, Brian). The first couple books are the absolute best with the post-humorously released book a disappointment. Frank Herbert's son Brian along with Kevin J Anderson have pumped out an enormance amount of ti-in dune novels that tell prequel and sequel stories in the universe. While they are decent reads, they are a shadow of a spec of the brilliance of the original series.

Books in Dune Chronicles Series (7)

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Don't let the bloat of the later Dune novels put you off. You really should read some of Frank Herbert's other novels.

The Dragon in the Sea is another novel of depleted natural resources, in this case oil following a decade-long war between West and East. But the nuclear submarines that the West is using to harvest the scarce oil are simply disappearing. It's not the great world-building epic of Dune, but it is a gripping thriller with a strong message.

The Eyes of Heisenberg is set in a future in which the majority of people on Earth are ruled by the genetically superior Optimen. In the main the rule seems benevolent, despite the fact that the Optimen have dramatically restricted technological development, but a resistance movement is starting to develop. The future world is very vividly drawn, and this is another of the gripping plots that Herbert seemed to produce effortlessly.

Hellstrom's Hive takes what Herbert called "the most horrible kind of civilization you could imagine", and then makes them into the good guys. The horrible civilization is the sort of regimented, highly structured life of social insects; but when a group of humans try to live this way, they are disrupted by the intrusion of government agents.

Dune is a one-off, there is no other novel quite like it. But if you are looking for a novel set in a richly imagined desert landscape with a serious ecological message, you could turn to The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.

What do you get when mix together a card carrying-homophobe and science-fiction? Ender's Game. Now it's an ethical struggle these days to decide what to do with the great writer OSC and his fiction, but it happens that he wrote one of the best space opera sci-fi novels of all time. So much so, that even the American military seems to agree with this. Ender's Game has been awarded fifth place on our list for one of the most popular and well-written novels space opera novels. The book has been critically acclaimed and is suggested reading for the U.S. Marine Corps. It won the 1985 Nebula Award and the 1986 Hugo Award. Ender's Game ranked in second place on the Damien Broderick's book Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 list.Ender's Game was also made into a well received big budget movie in 2013 as well, though the book is a richer and much deeper reading experience.

Books in The Ender Quintet Series (3)

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Give Pierce Brown's awesome Red Rising trilogy a read (starting with Red Rising). It takes some of the concepts introduced in Ender's Game (group of younger individuals pitted against each other in a kill or kill game of survival) and do so with panache. 
Robert Heinlein’s most important military science fiction work deserves all the praise people heap upon it. It’s not just a book about Earth’s military trying to defeat giant alien bugs; it’s a look at the moral, ethical, and philosophical implications of war, life, duty, and perhaps most of all, how young people should progress. It’s a complicated series of concepts, and a rather intense novel as well, and one which is by-far the most readable of all Heinlein’s work. Of course, it is not just the story, but the way that it ties in with the Cold War, which was just a about as hot as it would get in 1959. Heinlein is taking shots at a post-World War II America that he argues is losing its way by forgetting what discipline is required to serve the American moral identity, and that the ‘softening’ of America, as demonstrated by the beginnings of the abandonment of corporal and capital punishment. This is an incredibly political novel, one which you will never mistake for anything other than what it is, but also one that is thrilling and incredibly intelligent. Why it’s on the list It’s the prototype for modern military science fiction.
A crumbling interstellar empire, rebels and space battles, a mutant warlord, and a secret base that remains hidden away for millennia. It is said that Isaac Asimov based this groundbreaking space epic on Edward Gibbons's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but really it's just a rumbustious space adventure that took all the scale and wonder of the old space operas and turned them into something far better than anyone might have expected.Originally published as a series of short stories during the 1940s, then collected as three volumes, Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation in the early 50s, the trilogy has a grandeur and a scope that has been rarely matched even today. The writing can be stodgy, but it's still a great series to read. Just don't bother with Asimov's belated prequels and sequels, which try and tie all of his Robot stories and others into the same future history, they're not worth the effort.Why It Made the List At number 6 on our list of top hard science fiction books is Foundation by Issac Asimov. Why number two? Because we couldn't have a joint number one, that's why. Many of Asimov's books would have fitted the bill, but given Foundation is part of the original foundation (sorry) of modern science fiction, we thought it the best starting point. With it's sprawling, space-opera like setting, it's focus on science and history and Asimov's classic turn of phrase, it's no wonder this novel has remained popular for decades after it was first published. Foundation takes the familiar starting point of the fall of an Empire, sets it in space and adds in that vital ingredient - hope. Mixed together, we get a soaring epic that spans both space and time. Not only is the technology realistic, but so are the characters and society. Asimov is master of both story and science, and it's evident throughout this. The best part is, this is the first in a series! So you can read even more! The Foundation Trilogy won a one-off Hugo Award as the All-Time Best Series. It probably wouldn't win a similar award today, but it is still a wonderful example of the ambition and the scope of space opera at its very best.

Books in Foundation Series (9)

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Forty years after the first of the stories that became Foundation was published in Astounding, Asimov returned to the series with a sequel, Foundation's Edge, followed by a further sequel, Foundation and Earth. After this he wrote two prequels to the trilogy, Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. To be honest, they're not a patch on the original trilogy, despite the fact that Foundation's Edge won both a Hugo and a Locus Award.

If you LOVE hard science fiction, there's been a lot that stands out since Foundation. For hard science fiction that's highly regarded, check out the Ringworld series by Larry Niven. For space opera science fiction with grand ideas about alien civilizations, read A Fire Upon the Deep

You might also want to check out the Revelation Space series by Alastair Reynolds. Both of these are not 'hard' science fiction, but some of the ideas are certainly realistic about space travel, alien civilizations, and contact.

He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead. Gully Foyle is a shipwrecked sailor abandoned out in space, and when ships pass him by without stopping to pick him up he vows to exact revenge. He manages to repair his ship, and after numerous terrors and adventures he manages to find his way back to civilisation. There he starts to put his plan into action. Famously based on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (like Spirit: or, the Princess of Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones, another amazing space opera that very nearly made it onto this list), this novel is colourful, startling and unfailingly surprising.   William Gibson has said: "I can't recall having met an SF writer whose opinion I respected who failed to share my enthusiasm for Alfred Bester's work" and The Stars My Destination (also known as Tiger! Tiger!)is regularly and rightly listed as one of the best science fiction novels ever written.

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Bester's other great novel is The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. It asks the question: how do you get away with murder in a society in which telepathy is so common that the police can know everything going on in your mind? Told in a free and easy manner, with lots of wordplay and typographical tricks, it is another novel that clearly deserves to be recognised as a classic.

If you are fascinated by Bester's adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, you should also check out Spirit: or the Princess of Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones, which also uses the Dumas novel as a model for a story of interstellar adventure. In this case it's also a sequel to her award-winning Aleutian Trilogy.

For another modern space opera with Bester's fingerprints all over it, check out The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War, Abaddon's Gate and Cibola Burn. The co-author, Daniel Abraham, acknowledges Bester as a major influence then goes on to list what elements of the story are owed to The Stars My Destination:http://www.danielabraham.com/2012/01/30/paying-tribute-the-stars-my-destination/

In the early 1960s, Arthur C. Clarke was approached by the film maker, Stanley Kramer, to ask if he would be interested in writing a film. Clarke recalled a short story he had written some time earlier called "The Sentinel", in which a strange, alien object is uncovered beneath the surface of the moon, and thought this might make a good starting point for a film. And thus 2001, A Space Odyssey, one of the best and most famous of all science fiction films, was born. The novel, which was written at the same time as the film, differs in occasional minor details from the film, but essentially the two tell the same story.The story is, surely, too well known to need repeating here. The black monolith whose appearance abruptly converts primitive man into a tool-using creature; the identical object unearthed on the moon that sends a signal towards Jupiter; the two spacemen contending with a computer gone rogue; the psychedelic journey through the star gate that ends in what appears to be a Belle Epoque palace, and the final mysterious appearance of the star child.As in so much of Clarke's fiction, it's about humankind coming to the brink of a new evolutionary leap. In a sense the story is cold and intellectual, Clarke never was a writer of strong emotions, but if you love science fiction that appeals to the mind then this is the story for you. He wrote three sequels to 2001: 2010, Odyssey Two; 2061, Odyssey Three and 3001, The Final Odyssey; the first of these is good but the quality does fall off across the series. Why It's On the ListBoth aesthetically and intellectually, 2001, A Space Odyssey is one of the most influential films of all time, certainly it's effect upon all subsequent science fiction is incalculable. And let's not forget the movie by Stanely Kubrick was just as influential to film and general pop culture and generations of science fiction pop culture as the very book it was based on.Alternative ChoiceArthur C. Clarke has been voted one of the all-time best science fiction writers, and he left plenty of work that deserves that title. Here are three novels that could easily have been an Alternative Choice for our Top 25 list.Alternative Choice 1: Childhood's End, which received a Retro Hugo Award, was Clarke's own favourite among his novels, and it's easy to see why. Aliens known as Overlords arrive suddenly over the earth and bring an end to war. For fifty years there is peace and prosperity, but it is finally revealed that the real purpose of the Overlords is to prepare humanity for the next step in their evolution, a merger with a cosmic mind.Alternative Choice 2: The City and the Stars is set a billion years in the future when the people of the enclosed and computer-controlled city of Diaspar believe they are the last humans on earth. But one person leaves Diaspar and discovers another community, Lys, an oasis where people have rejected the technology of Diaspar. By bringing the two communities together, a new future in space is opened up.Alternative Choice 3: Rendezvous with Rama, which won the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus, Jupiter and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards, is a story of alien contact without the aliens.An asteroid is spotted heading towards Earth, but when it is investigated it proves to be an uninhabited spaceship. The story tells of the exploration of the craft, and the deductions that can be made about the aliens without the aliens ever appearing. Clarke went on to produce three sequels written in collaboration with Gentry Lee, Rama II, The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed, but these are nowhere near as good as the original, and the appearance of actual aliens in the later books rather spoils what was most interesting and effective about the original.

Books in Space Odyssey Series (3)

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For similar reads, give those three alternative choices a read -- Childhood's End, The City and the Stars, and Rendezvous with Rama.

The idea of first contact and an alien civilization's (or knowledge of such a presence) effect on human society is a common theme in science fiction literature. Here are some outstanding works that deal with first contact.

First Contact by Carl Sagan. This is 'the' first contact novel you should read. Sagan's work has lot a lot of the presteige it had when it came out years ago, yet it still remains a seminal work in the genre about a first contact situation. And of course, there was the Jodie Foster movie.

Blindsight by Peter Watts. A contact novel with a twist. Brilliant and strangely depressing.

For a space opera novel where first contact change the game (and with a lot of emphasis on action, politics, and ship to ship battles), read The Expanse. This series has become a science fiction pop culture phenomenon -- hugely popular with readers looking for compelling action packed old school science fiction and now a hugely successful SyFy TV series which is regarded now as one of the best science fiction tv series ever made so far.  

Revelation Space books also deal with aliens and first contact.

Brilliant on just about every level, Hyperion IS the quintessential space opera series. Simmons puts everything you'd ever want in a Space Opera (breathtaking action, military engagments in and out of space, faster than light travel, AI, etc), but what sets this series apart from the rest is the deep human themes explored, the cast of emotionally tortured (yet all the while compelling characters), the beautiful prose, and Simmons' ability to seamlessly structure the narrative in homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as a series of interrelated tales told by each character as they march to their doom on a desolate planet to seek answers from a god. If you have not read Hyperion, stop everything and make sure you do. The 'series' is divided into two series -- each having two books. Both are brilliant and both are completely different sorts of stories.

Books in Hyperion Cantos Series (3)

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Dan Simmons has written an incredible range of books, from mainstream to horror, but if you like The Hyperion Cantos, you really should give his other science fiction duology a read: Illuim and Olympus. They are fantastic books that also borrow literary conceits and reuse them in an extravagant science fiction setting; in this case, Simmons takes on the Odyssey and the Illiad but shifts the events of the Trojan War to a far future Earth and Mars. Hell there's even discussion about Shakespeare by some of the characters. A must read.

For a wild ride into big space opera territory, give Peter Hamilton's works a go. You could start with his Night's Dawn Trilogy which includes The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God -- it's an absolutely massive space opera series with a gripping plot that includes the souls of the dead coming back to possess the living, that keeps you glued to the page from the start to the very end. For a vast space opera with a huge universe, massive cast of characters, a quality story, you should also take a good look at Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, Misspent Youth, Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.

Hyperion Cantos is a dark series with themes of death, suffering, and tragedy pervading the story. For the ultimate "downer" science fiction space opera, give Stephen R. Donaldson's five-volume Gap Cycle a go. It deals with adult themes and the world presented is not a sugar-coated "the future is bright and human kind is good" kind that most space operas follow.

If you want to know the most influential science fiction novel of the last thirty-odd years, look no further than William Gibson's Neuromancer. The novel didn't invent cyberpunk; two films that came out a couple of years earlier, Tron and Blade Runner, had already introduced some of the themes of cyberpunk. And the term itself was invented by Gardner Dozois talking about a novel by Bruce Bethke. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that without Neuromancer, there would have been no cyberpunk. Neuromancer wasn't the first science fiction novel set among the low life and street people of the near future, but Gibson inhabited the Sprawl with utter conviction, inventing a street slang that caught on in the real world. In this underground, Case is a washed-up hacker whose been treated with drugs to stop him accessing the Matrix ever again, while Molly is a street samurai who offers case a cure in exchange for his services.Through a violent world of double-dealing corporations and government cover-ups, Case and Molly risk their lives in the bright and threatening landscape of cyberspace, following a trail that eventually leads them to Wintermute, a powerful AI at a time when machine intelligence is banned.A heady mixture of computer know-how and grimy film noir action, Neuromanceris like no novel before it, a totally original and absolutely gripping take on the near future. Why It's On the ListNeuromancer was the first novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards. It also set the tone for cyberpunk and made Gibson one of the most acclaimed of modern writers. Neuromancer didn't just catch the zeitgeist, it created it, giving us terms like "cyberspace" and "ICE", and being instrumental in the way the World Wide Web developed.Alternative ChoiceMake sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre for MORE cyberpunk book recommendations.And the novel that is our Alternative Choice for the Top 25 is:Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.  In a balkanised Los Angeles, where everything is privatised and the economy is breaking down, a new computer virus appears that affects the users as much as their computers. A key part of this future is the Metaverse, Stephenson's futuristic version of the Internet where people "log on" via virtual goggles. Everything is conducted through the Metaverse, from business to dating. Stephenson not only presents us with a very realistic look at what could be, but there are some subtle social observations about the way things are different and the same.Stephenson frames the modern social constructs intruding into this cyberworld; ones' social wealth is judged by the look of the avatar they use to interact with the Metaverse, with the wealthy being able to afford custom while the "poor" use off the shelf.This book has it all, from hacker heroes who wield Samurai sword destruction by night in the Metaverse and deliver pizza by day for the Mob, governments and police controlled by private corporations, and a conspiracy that might the world needs some saving from.

Books in Childe Cycle Series (24)

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Neuromancer was just the start of the Sprawl trilogy, so you should certainly go on to read Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, not to mention the stories in Burning Chrome, which tell us yet more about this future of jacked-in cyber jockeys and street samurai, simstim and emerging machine intelligence. You simply can't understand cyberpunk, or anything that happened in science fiction afterwards, without these books. Note that while these books take place in the same 'world' they are unique stories and as such you can read Neuromancer (or the other loosely connected books) as stand alones.

Gibson has recently returned to science fiction with a powerful new novel, The Peripheral, in which people riding shotgun on an immersive game in the run-down near future end up witnessing a murder in the more distant future, and get caught in a time-travelling mystery of escalating violence and ever-increasing mystery. It can be hard going at first, but boy is it worth keeping on with the book.

If Neuromancer got the ball rolling with cyberpunk, there were an awful lot of great writers who quickly joined him. So if this sets you on fire, you absolutely must go on to read Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling, the novel and stories set in his Shaper/Mechanist universe, a future in which humanity is divided between those who go in for genetic modification of the body, the Shapers, and those who prefer mechanical augmentation, the Mechanists. This is the point where cyberpunk started to mutate into stories of post-humanity.

Then there's Pat Cadigan, especially Synners and Fools, both of which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, making her the first person to win the award twice. These are dramatic stories of human/machine interface, and the way it affects our awareness of reality.

For more specific CYBERPUNK book recommendations, make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre

The words have become so commonplace we hardly realise we are using them: Big Brother is watching you, the Ministry of Truth, Room 101, Newspeak, thoughtcrime. George Orwell gave us a language for describing our fear of any controlling and intrusive government.Winston Smith is a minor clerk in a future where the world's three great power blocs are constantly at war with one another, though alliances shift daily, and his job is to rewrite old newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports whatever is today's party line. It is a world where everyone is under surveillance all the time; the ubiquitous telescreens are always on, always spouting the party line, and always watching you. Winston meets a colleague, Julia, and realises that they both share the same distrust of the regime. They begin an affair that would be forbidden by the state, but the agents of the state are watching them all the time. Eventually they are arrested and Winston is taken to Room 101 to be tortured into betraying Julia and swearing his love for Big Brother. Nineteen Eighty-Four is regularly listed among the best novels in the English language; it is also one of the scariest. No other account of a totalitarian regime has so captured our imaginations. It's a chilling book, but absolutely brilliant and unforgettable.

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Animal Farm is Orwell's other great dystopian novel. Disguised as a rather charming fable about animals taking over the running of their farm, it is really a chilling account of Soviet Russia as the pigs, particularly Napoleon, become all-powerful rulers indistinguishable from the humans they have displaced. And the great rallying cry: all animals are created equal, is subtly changed to read: all animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

We by Yevgeny Zamiatin (which appears elsewhere on this list) is the inspiration behind much of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (which also appears elsewhere on this list) is the other great dystopian novel of the period.

One by David Karp is set in a near-future America that believes itself to be approaching perfection, though it is in fact a dystopia. An incredibly complex bureaucracy is in place to keep control of all citizens by encouraging a vast network of informers, but when one informer falls foul of the system he finds himself rounded up and subjected to torture.

Alternative Choice
The Trial by Franz Kafka gave us the word "Kafkaesque" for any nonsensical bureaucracy which gives no reasonable way forward. Although it is a contemporary mainstream novel, the way that the protagonist, Josef K, finds himself arrested for an unspecified crime by agents of an unspecified force, and brought to trial in the attic of a huge tenement building where the procedures remain ever mysterious to him, all adds up to a powerful and haunting dystopia.

It began as a radio series on the BBC. It was quickly adapted for television (with many of the same cast), and much later there came a film version (though the less said about that the better). But it is now probably better known as the novel, which became a trilogy, which in turn became a trilogy in five books, only now there's a sixth book as well (not to mention the various towels and computer games and stage shows and so on).What it is, is easily the funniest work of science fiction ever written. Frankly, if you don't laugh at this, you're not going to laugh at anything.We all know the story, even if Douglas Adams did keep making changes in each new version of the work. Arthur Dent wakes up one morning to find his house is about to be demolished, but as he tries to protect his home he discovers that his best friend, Ford Prefect, is actually an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and that the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a hyperspatial expressway. From that point, Arthur is whisked away on a series of increasingly absurd adventures that include Vogon poetry, the Infinite Improbability Drive, ZaphodBeeblebrox former President of the Galaxy and wanted criminal, Marvin the Paranoid Android, the answer to life, the universe and everything, which happens to be 42 but they forgot to ask what the question was. And on, and on. Don't panic, the whole thing is infinitely improbable and gloriously hilarious. Check it out. There isn't very much science fiction comedy because it's incredibly hard to do, and even harder to do well. This is on the list for the very simple reason that it is laugh out loud funny whether or not you're an sf fan, and that makes it just about unique.

Books in Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Series (7)

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Douglas Adams died ridiculously young and didn't write anywhere near as many books as we'd like. But he did have ideas for a sixth Hitchhiker book shortly before he died, and that book, And Another Thing ��¢��¦, was written by Eoin Colfer. Okay, it's not Adams, but it's a worthy conclusion to the series.

As for Adams's own work, you really don't want to miss Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and its sequel, The Long, Dark, Tea-Time of the Soul, which Adams himself described as "a kind of ghost-horror-detective-time-travel-romantic-comedy-epic, mainly concerned with mud, music and quantum mechanics." Even if they're not as good as the Hitchhiker series, they're still head and shoulders above anything else you're likely to come across.

If you want a taste of other science fiction comedies, it's worth taking a look at The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, about an interstellar criminal who finds himself working for an elite law enforcement agency headed by the galaxy's greatest crook. The first book is pretty good, but there were endless sequels that each get progressively worse.

And don't forget that before he turned to fantasy, Terry Pratchett wrote Strata. It features a flat planet very like the Discworld, but this is actually taking the piss out of Ringworld. And it's by Pratchett, so you know it's going to be funny.

What is a best science fiction list without the inclusion of one of the greatest science fiction writers ever? Yes, I'm talking about Philip K. Dick, a man ignored in his time but now Hollywood's golden boy when it comes to drumming up new science fiction films that star A list actors. The typical entry on a top list would be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a seminal science fiction short story that has influenced pop culture like few others. Blade Runner, for one, was based closely on the short story. And we all know how much that film influenced future films. Pretty much every new science fiction film that features an urban city rips out the dirty, vertical urban city sprawl depicted in Blade Runner. While Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep was a seminal influence on the genre, Dick's best work is actually a much lesser known work known as Ubik. Ubik features the classic Dick themes of questioning the meaning of reality, gallows humor in the face of a reality that's unraveling, and an everyman protagonist you can identify with. Ubik was a major influence on the Matrix films. The story centers on the idea that a few unique humans have psychic powers. These are not lauded as heroes by the public, but rather feared by the public as a potential source of privacy invasion. Then come in another group of special humans, a sort of counter-psychic group who block the powers of the first group. A group of anti-physics embark on a mission that goes horribly wrong, barely escaping with their lives. They find on their return, however, that things are starting to go wrong – reality is wrong; coffee is stale, phone directories are out of date, etc. It's an exciting read that makes you question the nature of reality. This is one of those books that will have you thinking about it long after you turn the final page.

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For sure, other Dick reads that deal with similar themes of reality coming undone: Minority Report, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Scanner Darkly, and Total Recall.

The films of Sam Fuller were seen as so visceral, they were banned from many municipalities. Haldeman’s novel The Forever War is the science fictional equivalent of Fuller’s films, and carries so much more weight. The violence is frank, clear, unambiguous. The story of William Mandella and his travel through time ad battlefields is brutal at times, and the use of concepts like post-hypnotic suggestion leading to massacres, makes the book a strong commentary against war. Haldeman’s own Vietnam experience is evident throughout, as William Mandella is nearly as autobiographical a character as Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim. The way Haldeman writes of the thousand year-long war is much like he would write of the Vietnam, and he pulls no punches.  He questions not only the reasoning and effect of war, but the very stresses that humanity carries within it that we believe leads to warfare. In The Forever War, there is brutality, but in the end, it is brutality that is screaming at the reader that we must never look away, and never accept as reasonable. Why it’s on the list Many vets consider this to be the most direct and honest portrayal of war ever, genre or not.

Books in The Forever War Series (2)

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Some years later, Haldeman wrote two other novels linked to The Forever War, though only one is a direct sequel.

The sequel is Forever Free, in which Mandella, with his wife and children, is now a colonist on the icy world of Middle Finger. When they try to use time dilation effects to escape the post-human hive mind known as Man, things go wrong, and they end up returning to a depopulated planet, meet an alien shapeshifter that has coexisted on Earth throughout history, and end up in a face to face meeting with God. It is nowhere near as good as the original, but it is interesting as a sequel.

Much better, but only tangentially connected to the original, is Forever Peace, which also won the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. This is another novel which argues that war is an aberration, but in this case it is a war here on Earth fought by armies of robotic "soldier boys" who are controlled by plugged in operators. However, it is discovered that being plugged in like this cures all warlike impulses, so that the very act of fighting the war ends war.

If you love the military action (and suit to suit combat) of Forever War, read the classic Starship Troopers by Heinlein. While Forever War is an argument against war (and specifically, the Vietnam War), Starship Troopers is the celebration of all things war. Both have a shit load of action. And if you want a novel that straddles the middle between Starship Troopers and Forever War, then give John Steakley's Armor a good read.

For a somewhat different take on future wars, you should also check out Old Man's War by John Scalzi in which it is old people who have already lived productive lives who are recruited to fight and are then given enhanced bodies. But this is still an anti-war novel, the characters are psychologically damaged by their experiences and it is far from clear that the humans are fighting on the right side.

A novel of startling ideas that influenced a generation of writers and pop culture. Some of the best cyberpunk science fiction out there. Fans of dystopian fiction and cyberpunk will love this one especially those who adore the setting present in Blade Runner - a dilapidated futuristic Asian metropolis with little law and even less order. The writing is sharp, the wit sharper, and the sarcasm even more so. Stephenson brings you into HIS world, a world where society has been redefined and the rules of living are vastly changed. It's a distant future that's somewhat familiar while also alien.  There's a lot of ideas in Snow Crash and complex ones at that. Stephenson looks at the not-too distant future; it's a dismal place with no laws, private corporations controlling everything, and the Mob having their hands in the rest – including Pizza Delivery services. Key part of this future is the Metaverse, Stephenson's futuristic version of the Internet where people "log on" via virtual goggles. Everything is conducted through the Metaverse, from business to dating. Stephenson not only presents us with a very realistic look at what could be, but there are some subtle social observations about the way things are different and the same. Stephenson frames the modern social constructs intruding into this cyberworld; ones' social wealth is judged by the look of the avatar they use to interact with the Metaverse, with the wealthy being able to afford custom while the "poor" use off the shelf. This book has it all, from hacker heroes who wield Samurai sword destruction by night in the Metaverse and deliver pizza by day for the Mob, governments and police controlled by private corporations, and a conspiracy that might the world needs some saving from. And like the protagonist takes the win for most awesome name ever: Hiro Protagonist. I feel The Diamond Age, Stephenson's other big Cyberpunk work is actually a better novel with more grand concepts and better social critiques, one that shows Stephenson's maturity as a writer. But Snow Crash is what made it happen and was a highly influential novel on the genre, so it gets my recommendation as "The Must Read".

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Neuromancer. This is often lauded as THE book that started the cyberpunk genre. It's an oldie but has aged surprisingly well. It's more of a reserved cool, calculated read when you want to really think. Stephenson's Snow Crash is pumped full of energy, a white hot read that keeps you on edge.

Read Stephenson's The Diamond Age, his other great Cyberpunk work. Probably the "closest" you are going to get to Snow Crash.

Altered Carbon, a bit of snow crash, a bit of Neuromancer, and a shipload of action. Awesome on every level.
You might give Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth saga a read. While it is space opera and not cyberpunk, but there's lots of in the words of the Penny Arcade Forum member "locomotiveman" "badasses being badass with the aid of gadgetry, cybernetic and otherwise, while overall being really cool, likable and at times quite funny." An apt description I think. Give it a read if you like reading about heroes who kick ass with the aid of gadgets.

If you like the entertaining dialogue present in Snow Crash, you might want to give Neal Asher's Spatterjay book a read.

Set thousands of years into the future, the universe is inhabited by various races, including super-intelligent entities in the Transcend and the simple creatures and technology of the Unthinking Depths. Space has been divided in these regions of thought by unknown forces. When the Straumli realm uses an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, a huge force of power is unleashed that kills thousands of worlds and enslaves all intelligence - natural and artificial alike. Recognizing what they have unleashed, researchers attempt to flee in two ships, one of which is destroyed. The second ship is unharmed, landing on a distant planet with a medieval type civilization of dog-like creature called the Tines.There's a problem with much traditional space opera: the setting may be as vast as the entire universe, but it's all more or less the same. Or it was until Vernor Vinge came along with the Zones of Thought.The idea, first presented in this stunning novel, is that the further out from the galactic core that you travel, then the greater the speeds that can be attained, and the more advanced the thought that is possible. Close to the core, in the Unthinking Depths, intelligent thought is pretty much impossible. Outside this, in the Slow Zone (where Earth is located), faster than light travel and true artificial intelligence are impossible. In the Beyond, artificial intelligence, faster than light travel and faster than light communication are all possible. Further out still, in the Transcend, there are superintelligent species that are incomprehensible to normal beings.Humans from the Beyond, fleeing the superintelligence known as the Blight, crash onto a planet in the Slow Zone inhabited by Tines, dog-like aliens whose intelligence works within the pack. The humans must raise the medieval technology of the Tines in order to activate countermeasures against the Blight. Why It Made the ListA Fire Upon the Deep, which won the Hugo Award, is one of those novels so packed with ideas that it could keep most other writers busy for years.This novel has everything I want in space opera in it: love, betrayal, aliens, space battles, super-intelligence, physics, and the Beastie Boys. Wait, I think I just included that part by accident. These things happen when you start getting Intergalactic Planetary stuck in your head every time you read about a gripping tale of galactic war. A Fire Upon the Deep won the Hugo Award in 1993.

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Vernor Vinge has so far written two more novels set within the Zones of Thought.

A Deepness in the Sky, which won the Hugo, Prometheus and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards, is a prequel set some 20,000 years before the events of A Fire Upon the Deep. Set in the Slow Zone, it is about what happens when an intelligent species is discovered on a planet orbiting an anomalous star, a system that may have entered the Slow Zone from the Transcendent.

The Children of the Sky is a direct sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, but it is set entirely on Tinesworld. The surviving humans on the planet start to fall into warring factions, and while trying to raise the technological status of the Tines they also unleash further wars. A Deepness in the Sky is every bit the equal of A Fire Upon the Deep, but The Children of the Sky feels rather flat and limited by comparison; a decent read, but not a great one. However, there are clearly more Zones of Thought stories to come.

The Outcasts of Heaven Belt, the first novel by VernorVinge's then-wife, Joan D. Vinge, about an escalating conflict between male and female dominated societies in the asteroid belt is also set within the Zones of Thought, or at least so Joan Vinge has claimed.

For an unusual adaptation of the Zones of Thought idea, try Jo Walton's fantasy novel, Lifelode, in which she adapts the Zones of Thought as zones of magical ability.

John Scalzi is one of the shining lights of today’s science fiction landscape. His first novel, Old Man’s War, was an incredible introduction, bringing Scalzi to international attention, as well as a Hugo nomination for Best Novel. The story of a fighting force comprised of genetically enhanced senior citizens fighting a war in space is an exceptionally fun bit of work, and takes so many classic science fiction methods. There’s incredible technologies, like a fun faster-than-light travel method, and neural implants, and excellent use of run of the mill genetic engineering and thought consciousness transfers. When you look at Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, Zoe’s Tale, The Lost Colony, and other shorter works, they’re all a combination of 1960s and 70s science fiction ideas, the kind you’d get from Heinlein or Bester, along with seriously funny prose you’d find  from Vonnegut or Sturgeon. That marvelous combination, and the power of his plotting, is a major part of why Scalzi is seen as one of today’s most beloved, and highly awarded,  of all scifi practitioners! Why it’s on the list Old Man’s War is the best of both worlds, old time science fiction fun with contemporary prose styling!

Books in Old Man's War Series (7)

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Old Man's War was the first volume in an ongoing series consisting, to date, of The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe's Tale and The Human Division, with further novels promised. These follow the continuing adventures of John Perry and Jane Sagan, who was created from the DNA of Perry's dead wife. As conflict with varied alien races continues, the pair become increasingly disillusioned with the war, eventually learning that Earth has been kept in ignorance of what is going on, leading eventually to a new alliance with the aliens.

Just as Old Man's War contains echoes of Heinlein, Scalzi has played with ideas from other works of science fiction. Fuzzy Nation, for instance, reboots ideas from the Little Fuzzy stories of H. Beam Piper; while Redshirts, which won the Hugo and Locus Awards, is a comedy built around the idea that it is always the redshirts on Star Trek who die.

The concept for the book is rather involved. Peopleâs souls and memories can now be digitized and stored. Once stored, if something happens to you, the soul and memories can be put into a different body, which is now called a sleeve (and explains the title). Not everyone is in favor of eternal life in different bodies. The problem is that much like a computer back-up, the last few hours of data is lost since it has not been backed up as of yet. Thatâs the situation for Laurens Bancroft, whose death is labeled a suicide, but he thinks that someone deliberately killed him. He hires Kovacs who has been trained as a member of an elite military group and now works as a detective. The book is violent, since Kovacs was trained to take a beating, but the bookâs hook is worth the violence. Why It Made the List For starters Netflix announced that this will be a 10 episode series in 2016. It also won the Philip K. Dick Best Novel award when it was released. Read It If You Likecyberpunk, dystopian societies.

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I would suggest the works of Philip K. Dick, since this book won the award named after him. Dick had numerous dystopian societies.

The first volume in this quartet starts amid dark, forbidding towers, where young Severian is apprenticed to a Guild of Torturers. Sound like fantasy? Wrong! Because those towers are actually long-abandoned rocket ships. The picture of a man in armour that we see inside one of the towers is actually a famous photograph of Buzz Aldrin taken on the moon. This, we realise, is the far future, a future where the world is starting to run down and the people await a saviour who will renew the sun. When Severian is expelled from the guild for putting one prisoner out of her misery, we follow him into a society that is crowded and colourful and mysterious. Here there are aliens, though for a while we don't realise they are aliens because everyone is so used to them that they don't pay them any special attention. Here there are augmented people, and strange technological advances, but knowledge of these has long been lost. As we pick our way through the story we realise that there is a huge amount of stuff going on that we only glimpse out of the corner of the eye, and each time you re-read the work you notice something else so that the story becomes ever richer and more rewarding. Our narrator, Severian, has a perfect memory, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's a reliable narrator; he leaves things out so that there are always surprises awaiting the reader. But there is so much going on in the story that you sometimes don't notice when he's left things out, because there are wars and betrayals and miracles and mysteries and people raised from the dead, and Severian's journey includes companions who may or may not be reliable, assassins attempting to kill him for reasons he doesn't understand, attacks by terrifying creatures, and the staggering revelation that he is actually the next autarch.Why It's on the list Gene Wolfe is the finest stylist writing in science fiction, it is always a pleasure to read his books. But The Book of the New Sun marks the high point of his career, a subtle and brilliantly readable blending of science fiction and fantasy, which is reflected in the fact that all four volumes won at least one major award. The Shadow of the Torturer received the BSFA Award and the World Fantasy Award; The Claw of the Conciliator won the Nebula and Locus Awards; The Sword of the Lictor won the Locus and British Fantasy Awards; and The Citadel of the Autarch won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Books in The Book Of The New Sun Series (7)

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The Book of the New Sun was only the start of the story, Gene Wolfe went on to write a further volume about Severian and then two further series set in the same universe.

The Urth of the New Sun is set several years after the events recounted in the quartet. Severian is now travelling in a massive spaceship to meet the all-powerful alien who can rejuvenate Urth's dying sun. Along the way he has to encounter all the dead people he has known, and, upon his return to Urth, he finds himself once again facing the enemies he had to battle in the first quartet.

The Book of the Long Sun is another four-book series, Nightside the Long Sun, The Lake of the Long Sun, Call of the Long Sun and Exodus from the Long Sun, which follows the adventures of Patera Silk. As the series opens he is a lowly priest in a small neighbourhood 'manteion', but in his efforts to save the manteion he discovers that he is actually aborad a generation starship now nearing its destination.

The Book of the Short Sun concludes what has been known as the 'Solar Cycle' with three novels, On Blue's Waters, In Green's Jungles and Return to the Whorl. A direct sequel to The Book of the Long Sun, the plot concerns the search for Patera Silk across the two habitable worlds, Blue and Green, that the generation starship Whorl has reached. By the end of the sequence we realise that these events immediately precede 

If you love Gene Wolfe's allusive writing and subtle world building, then don't miss The Fifth Head of Cerberus. These three linked novellas concern two planets once colonised by the French, where the population has a rich if rather decadent lifestyle. But there's a mystery concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of the planets who seem to have disappeared, but who are rumoured to have been shapeshifters. Could the humans actually be the natives in disguise?

As The Fifth Head of Cerberus indicates, before he embarked on The Book of the New Sun Gene Wolfe was best known for his multiple award-winning stories, many of which are gathered in The Best of Gene Wolfe; look out in particular for "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories", "The Death of Doctor Island", "Seven American Nights", and "The Hero as Werwolf".

The dying earth that we encounter in The Book of the New Sun has a long tradition in science fiction. Don't miss the book that gave its name to the subgenre, The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, set in a distant future when the Moon has disappeared, the sun is burning out, and predatory monsters from another age now infest the cold and barren landscapes of Earth.

Probably the best of Ian Bank's Culture novels. Strong characters and a light-hearted tone to the novel despite the "seriousness" of the actual plot make this an easy, addicting read. Come on people, as much as we like reading about world-shattering ideas, end of the universe problems, and defeat impossible alien invader odds, sometimes you just want to a fast read that doesn't require too much commitment on your part. Player of Games is just that type of novel – you can jump into a rich world without committing to too much. And despite how easy it is to read, it's a pretty damn good read to boot. The Culture novels are about a Galactic spanning empire of hedonistic evolved humans where all supposed problems have been solved. This society and the workings of it are highly detailed by Banks. The story centers on Gurgeh, Culture's top strategy game player. Gurgeh becomes bored of life due to a lack of competition. He ends up getting blackmailed into traveling to a distant system ruled by a barbaric medieval empire who play the most complex strategy game ever devised – a perfect job to utilize Gurgeh's game skills on.  Gurgeh finds out -- too late -- that losing not only results in loss of respect, but actual torture and death; it's a game where the very stakes are your life and the prize is to be crowned emperor. The novel in some ways brings to mind one of those action anime series where the conflict between hero and villain is hyped up over and over through a series of battles in and out of a grand tournament with a variety of skilled underlings until the final, anticipated showdown with the main villain. The strategy and action in the game sequences are as exciting as the action outside the games.  The longer Gurgeh stays in the tournament, the more he discovers about this alien civilization which is quite proud of its cruelty and violence.  The extremes of the Azad civilization make you think about issues of race, gender, and morals.  If you want to read a fun and exciting book that also makes you think, The Player of Games should be at the top of your list. The strategy and action are exciting both in the game and outside the game. The extremes cruelty of the Azad Empire force you to ask questions about race, gender, and morals. Compared to Bank's other works (especially his flagship novel, Consider Phlebas), it's more of a personal story than a Space Opera, but it's also a lot more fun because of it.  I know some will ask why I chose this over Bank's more famous Consider Phlebas, which is a more space opera of grand ideas than Player of Games. Player of Games is a more focused with smaller settings; you are offered more of a slice of the pie than the whole pie itself; sometimes a slice is better than the whole pie. If you like the "Culture" idea of a perfect utopia society, Player of Games is a good, perhaps the best, introduction to the series, even though it's the "second" book in the series. If you want a flawed novel of grand ideas and deeper questions, you might want to choose Consider Phlebas as your introduction to the Culture universe. However, it you want an easier-to-read novel with a page-turning plot that still asks enough deep questions to make you think, The Player of Games is a good choice for anyone who has at least a passing interest in science fiction. What's interesting about the Culture Series is that Banks often has to go outside of "Culture" (which is Banks version of a perfectly evolved society where solutions to every problem have been found) to find story worth writing about because well, a perfect world is pretty f*king dull if you ask me.

Books in Culture Series (11)

As we keep saying, scale is one of the key features of space opera; after all, if you take the whole of the galaxy as your playground, you've got to think big. So it's hardly surprising that space opera has generated some very big books, and they don't come much bigger than Peter Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy: well over a million words in three massive thousand-page volumes. Is it worth the time, and the wrist-ache, of reading them? You bet, because Peter Hamilton does epic stuff very well.Then three volumes, The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God, along with the short story collection, A Second Chance at Eden and the non-fiction The Confederation Handbook, cover a vast amount of space centuries from now. There are sentient space ships and sentient space cities, there are aliens, space navies, and there's a war against the dead who are returning, all of which make for a vivid and exciting account of our future in space. Why It Made the ListSpace opera should be epic, and with Peter Hamilton that's exactly what you get.Technically, I think this epic space opera tale also fits within the zombie genre, but somehow this has never been mentioned by any reviewers. Have we finally had our fill of zombie jokes? Am I flogging an (un)dead horse? Okay, I admit defeat. Peter F. Hamilton's novel is much fresher than my terrible zombie jokes: it's a new take on the space opera genre with all of the old-fashioned criteria: new technology, epic plots across the stars, massive spaceships, and entertaining baddies and heroes you want to gun for. But this novel really does tell the story of a "reality dysfunction" - a rip in the fabric of time that lets the dead possess living bodies. A Satanist, Quinn Dexter, takes control of his dead/sort of dead/kind of living/are they living or dead army and initiates the Night's Dawn: the decimation of everything on Earth. All is not doom and gloom, however, with Joshua Calvert and Syrinx using their spaceships to search for an alien God who just may hold the answer, if they can manage to find this mythical God in the stars before The Night's Dawn eats everything in existence.

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Commonwealth Saga, Hyperion, The Expanse, Dune
Imagine Robert Heinlein without his gratuitous love of breakfast foods and busty, bisexual women and replace those interests with technical, craft brilliance and a love of robust dialogue, and you have Frederik Pohl. The Heechee, an alien race who disappeared a long time ago, built a space station (Gateway) in a hollow asteroid. Humans have tried to replicate this technology with most efforts ending in disaster and they`ve also tried to learn how to operate the alien space ships that were found at Gateway, but the humans can`t quite figure out how to use the controls all too well - they don`t know where a setting will send the ship or how long the ship will be there for. Out of luck, a few voyages have resulted in finding Heechee artifacts and other habitable planets. This made the Gateway Corporation (the corporation who runs the space station on behalf of a cartel of countries) and the passengers of the relevant voyagers rather rich. Robinette Stetley Broadhead wins a lottery giving him enough money to buy a one way ticket to Gateway. He goes on several riches seeking missions - the first is useless, the second he makes a huge discovery but is penalized for incapacitating his ship, the third is where he and his ship mate Gelle-Klara get stuck in the gravitational pull of a black hole. And at this point, things get really interesting. Gateway won the 1977 Nebula Award and the 1978 Hugo, Locus and John W. Campbell Awards.

Books in Heechee Saga Series (5)

One night, when he is 12 years old, Tyler Dupree and two friends witness all the stars in the sky suddenly disappearing. It turns out that a membrane has been placed around the Earth. An artificial sun allows daily life on Earth to continue as normal, but the membrane has had a profound effect upon time: one year passing within the membrane is equivalent to one hundred million years outside. So people on Earth don't have too long before the sun grows big enough to destroy the planet.It's a bravura opening, the sort of startling, big concept idea that creates a genuine sense of wonder. And Wilson really follows through. All the way through Spin and its two sequels, Axis and Vortex, there are moments that just stop you dead in your tracks.At one point a ship penetrates the membrane and delivers colonists to Mars. Just two years later Earth time, Mars has a sophisticated technological civilisation, and a membrane is thrown around that planet too.Eventually we discover that the membrane is the work of intelligent von Neumann machines, dubbed Hypotheticals, who do it to slow down time for societies close to collapse to allow time for a solution to be found. No sooner do we discover this than in another brilliantly vivid moment a massive arch opens up in the Indian Ocean which serves as a gateway to another world.Axis takes us to that other world, but more puzzles about the Hypotheticals soon emerge, and with them more time dilation. Which becomes extreme in Vortex, where the storylines alternate between 40 years after the events of Spin and 10,000 years after the events of Axis. Spin won the Hugo Award, and was one of the most widely talked about novels of the day, simply because it is so awesome at creating amazing vistas and startling events.

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Julian Comstock is a post-catastrophe story in which America has become rigidly hierarchical, with an hereditary president and fundamentalist Christianity ruling the land. Julian is the nephew of the President who is spirited away as a child to escape assassination. Raised in a rural community, he becomes a war hero and, following a coup, is declared President. In that position he immediately starts to ease censorship, reintroduce the ideas of Darwin, and downgrade the influence of the Church, all of which raises powerful forces against him, which become even more powerful when he comes out as gay. It's a fable about illiberality in Aerica that is one of the best things he has written.

Burning Paradise is yet another very different story. In this instance it is an alternate history in which the discovery of a "radiosphere" has resulted in a less technologically oriented but more peaceful world. But the radiosphere turns out to be a kind of alien hive mind.

After a whole string of stories about global warming, biotechnology, gene hacking and other ways we can threaten our global food supply, which together virtually defined the new subgenre of biopunk, Paolo Bacigalupi then took the ideas another stage further with this stunning novel.It's two centuries from now, the sea levels have risen, fossil fuels are exhausted, and biotechnology has created as plagues and pests that have devastated world food supplies. So any genetically pure stock of seeds is a precious resource. Thailand may have just such a stock, and the AgriGen agent in Bangkok will do anything to get his hands on it.This is the setting for a story that involves a sexually-exploited humanoid "Windup Girl", a rogue GM elephant, a deadly new plague, smuggling, extortion, murder, embezzlement, and a coup.It's a vivid, vicious, terrifying and utterly convincing portrait of the future. You'll keep reading because there's so much going on you just have to know what happens next, but every time you put the book down you shiver and think that's exactly what the world is going to be like. The Windup Girlwon the Nebula Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and tied for the Hugo Award with China Miéville'sThe City and the City. It's a fabulous novel that will keep you up nights.

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It's worth reading this novel alongside Bacigalupi'sbiopunk stories, which are collected in Pump Six and Other Stories, which won a Locus Award for best Collection, and contains such seminal biopunk stories as "The Calorie Man", "The People of Slag and Sand" and "Yellow Card Man" which serves as a prequel to The Windup Girl.

If you're interested in biopunk, you also need to check out Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo, a collection of stories in which he argues thatthe next revolution â the only one that really matters â will be in the field of biology.

Also worth checking out is Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling, in which one of the consequences of climate change is not just the effect on our food supply, but also the effect on our weather. It's a chilling novel in which, in the very near future, the planet is lashed by storms of unprecedented ferocity.

Wow, what a ride from beginning to end. True to a Neal Stephenson tradition, it ties a number of completely different ideas and themes together into a (somehow) working thread. Stephenson returns to the science fiction genre after nearly 13 years and manages to reinvent the old wheel, but improve on it in many ways.I know Stephenson has been mentioned on this list already with Snow Crash and there are a LOT of classics that could take this place; but Anathem was one of the best recent science fiction releases and because of that is on this list.Science Fiction is not interested with extrapolation, but variation on existing ideas. Big Object hurtling towards earth. Parallel universes. Artificial Intelligence. That's not to say contemporary science fiction hasn't produced some outstanding works that explore these ideas more fully than the pioneers of the genre did, but the fact remains that very few "new" concepts are being explored.Stephenson bucks the current trend by not borrowing from overused science fiction tropes but instead goes back to drawing board and re-invents them pretty much from scratch. Stephenson incorporates work from a variety of sources â physics, mathematics, philosophy, and even literary theory to meld together a big book about everything.It's a strange intoxicating mix that feels both literary and scientific. It's as if you know you are reading a non-fiction book about real ideas and hard science but also fiction. To me it hearkens back to the science fiction days of the 40's and 50's of grand ideas yet with the modern sensibilities of the 2000's. It's a strange mix that just works.Cutting edge quantum physics, parallel universes, alien menace, monks, and more bleed from the pages of this story. Yet all that aside, it's also a coming of age story of a young man full of angst in a strange world that's just as familiar as it is different from our own. Funky, crazy, epic, and intensely personal come to mind when reading Anathem. It really is one hell of a ride. For something different yet familiar, read this work.Rumor is there may be a sequel novel. And that my friends is damn good news.
This novel has been hailed as one of the best hard sf stories written this century. It's an awesome novel, packed with invention and new ideas and challenges to the way we think. You have to keep your wits about you when reading it, but it is well worth the effort.In the near future, all sorts of genetic engineering and viral plagues have created a variety of posthumans, including Vampires, an ancient but very intelligent predator, and Zombies, who are highly effective and very obedient as soldiers. Then, signs start to be detected of an alien presence on the outskirts of the solar system. The story mostly concerns the journey of a ship, the Theseus, to investigate the aliens. The ship is captained by a vampire and crewed by transhumans with an AI, plenty of opportunity for intercrew conflict along the way. But things really hot up when they reach the Oort Cloud and find a vast starship whose crew have no individual consciousness, but who operate as a sort of hive mind which makes them far quicker to respond and therefore far more dangerous than the humans.Consciousness, it turns out, is bad news. Human self-awareness generates a noise that threatens the normal intelligence of the universe, so the aliens are here to quarantine the Earth as they would for a plague. The book as a whole raises a host of intriguing questions about the nature of consciousness and the possibilities and cost of transhumanity. I guarantee, you'll come away from this book with your mind buzzing.Why It Made the ListCutting edge ideas, challenging questions, a stunning action-packed story: what more do you want from your science fiction? This is the true quill, and pretty damned good it is too.

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Echopraxia is a kind of sequel to Blindsight, though it shifts our attention to characters who played little or no part in the first book. What we get is one of the biologists who unleashed the zombie plague is on a field trip in a remote wilderness when intruders force him to retreat to a strange monastery. Then, when the monastery is attacked, he finds himself aboard a spaceship heading towards a spacestation near the Sun. When we discover that this, too, has been infected with an alien slime mold, we start to question how much of the first novel we can really believe. (Incidentally, Blindsight and Echopraxia have now been published together in one book under the title Firefall.)

There's a time for everything. There's a time to read heavy novels filled with grand ideas and space, the universe, and the destiny of mankind through Hard Science Fiction. There's a time to read meaningful discourse on the human condition through Soft Science Fiction. Then there's just a time to sit back and read something that's just pretty damn fun without having to think complex thoughts. Miles Vorkosigan is that read. This is heroic, romantic space opera that has the best character writing and development in the entire genre.  The series follows the rise of prodigy Miles Vorkosigan, a young man with a crippled body but a brilliant mind, through his rise in the ranks as he takes on and conquers impossible odds with genius strategy. This is character-driven Space Opera that mixes in humor, comedy, tragedy and loss, politics,, military, and romance in various proportions. Lots of action, lots of adventure, and always fun, this is one of science fiction's most endearing and enduring series. The first book was published in 1986 and the most recent in 2012.  Part of the pleasure of reading this saga is rooting for the underdog, the titular hero of the story Miles Vorkosigan. Miles is the definition of an underdog, a man who's bound by serious physical limitations but with a brilliant mind. It's the juxtaposition of Mile's clear physical inadequacies (his bones are fragile as glass and he's under five feet tall) and the strength of his mind that fuel the emotional conflicts of this novel. Miles is forever the underdog, both in physical contests and strategic ones; he also faces serious prejudice because of his physical appearance, prejudice he is able to overcome through his own heroic efforts, though he must deal with them at an emotional level. If the fact that Miles Vorkosigan is a pretty thrilling read from start to finished with astoundingly deep characterization of the hero (and other characters) isn't enough, then perhaps the fact that Lois McMaster Bujold has won Four Hugo awards, two Nebula awards, two Locus awards and countless nominations for books in the series over the twenty-five year history might help convince you; indeed, if it comes down to a "who has the bigger Hugo collection" brags, only Robert H. Heinlein has tied Lois McMaster Bujold with each having 5 Nebulas. Bottom line: if you want an extraordinarily entertaining series that's fueled some suburb characterization and a lot of politics, action, and adventure, you absolutely have to read this series. This series definitely takes the cake for some of the most entertaining science fiction reads in the genre.A Note About the (confusing) Miles Vorkosigan Series Order We've given the internal chronological order of the series below. This is a different order than the publishing order as Bujold has published a number of novels and novellas from different periods, not always following the publishing order. The author herself suggests that you follow the internal chronological order. Note that not every novel in the series stars the titular hero, Miles. There are also a number of short stories / novellas inter-spliced between the novels. We've the strict internal chronological order. As for recommended reading order, you should probably start out with the "first" book where Miles (rather than start out with the prequel story that takes place before Miles birth) is the (main) protagonist to at least get a feel for the series. This book is "The Warrior's Apprentice" and really marks the point where "the series takes off." If you like the first few Miles books, you can read the prequel series than start following the chronological order.

Books in Vorkosigan Saga Series (37)