Best Hard Science Fiction Books

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The public version of our Best Hard Science Fiction list (see URL below). Vote to rank the items and/or submit new books to the list. You can read more about what defines "HARD" science fiction here: http://bestsciencefictionbooks.com/hard-science-fiction.php
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1

Rendezvous With Rama

by Arthur C. Clarke

3.79 avg rating
At first, only a few things are known about the celestial object that astronomers dub Rama. It is huge, weighing more than ten trillion tons. And it is hurtling through the solar system at inconceivable speed. Then a space probe confirms the unthinkable: Rama is no natural object. It is, incredible, an interstellar spacecraft. Space explorers and planet-bound scientists alike prepare for mankind's first encounter with alien intelligence. It will kindle their wildest dreams... and fan their darkest fears. For no one knows who the Ramans are or why they have come. And now the moment of rendezvous awaits -- just behind a Raman airlock door.
Nebula
BSFA
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
John W. Campbell

1 Similar Reader Recommendations

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23

Foundation

by Isaac Asimov

4.2 avg rating
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled supreme. Now it is dying. But only Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future—to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and save mankind, Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire—both scientists and scholars—and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for a fututre generations. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.

But soon the fledgling Foundation finds itself at the mercy of corrupt warlords rising in the wake of the receding Empire. Mankind's last best hope is faced with an agonizing choice: submit to the barbarians and be overrun—or fight them and be destroyed.
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17

Ringworld

by Larry Niven

3.92 avg rating
A new place is being built, a world of huge dimensions, encompassing millions of miles, stronger than any planet before it. There is gravity, and with high walls and its proximity to the sun, a livable new planet that is three million times the area of the Earth can be formed. We can start again!
Nebula
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
4
74
13

Revelation Space

by Alastair Reynolds

4.4 avg rating
Alastair Reynolds's critically acclaimed debut has redefined the space opera with a staggering journey across vast gulfs of time and space to confront the very nature of reality itself.
BSFA
Arthur C. Clarke
5
55
15

The Forever War

by Joe Haldeman

4.25 avg rating
Nebula
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
6
48
10

Contact

by Carl Sagan

3.56 avg rating
In December, 1999, a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who -- or what -- is out there?
In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he predicts its future -- and our own.
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41
5

Blindsight

by Peter Watts

4.18 avg rating
The Hugo Award–nominated novel by “a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive.” —The Globe and Mail
 
Two months have past since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since—until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who should we send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet?
 
Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder and a biologist so spliced with machinery that he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find—but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them. . . .
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
John W. Campbell

1 Similar Reader Recommendations

0 Recs
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8

Red Mars

by Kim Stanley Robinson

3.38 avg rating
In his most ambitious project to date, award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson utilizes years of research and cutting-edge science in the first of three novels that will chronicle the colonization of Mars.

For eons, sandstorms have swept the barren desolate landscape of the red planet. For centuries, Mars has beckoned to mankind to come and conquer its hostile climate. Now, in the year 2026, a group of one hundred colonists is about to fulfill that destiny.

John Boone, Maya Toitavna, Frank Chalmers, and Arkady Bogdanov lead a mission whose ultimate goal is the terraforming of Mars. For some, Mars will become a passion driving them to daring acts of courage and madness; for others it offers and opportunity to strip the planet of its riches. And for the genetic "alchemists, " Mars presents a chance to create a biomedical miracle, a breakthrough that could change all we know about life...and death.

The colonists place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light to the planets surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels, kilometers in depth, will be drilled into the Martian mantle to create stupendous vents of hot gases. Against this backdrop of epic upheaval, rivalries, loves, and friendships will form and fall to pieces--for there are those who will fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.

Brilliantly imagined, breathtaking in scope and ingenuity, Red Mars is an epic scientific saga, chronicling the next step in human evolution and creating a world in its entirety. Red Mars shows us a future, with both glory and tarnish, that awes with complexity and inspires with vision.
Nebula
BSFA
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
Arthur C. Clarke
9
30
2

Diaspora

by Greg Egan

4 avg rating
Behold the orphan.

Born into a world that is not a world.

A digital being grown from a mind seed, a genderless cybernetic citizen in a vast network of probes, satellites and servers knitting the Solar System into one scape, from the outer planets to the fiery surface of the Sun.

Since the Introdus in the 21st century, humanity has reconfigured itself drastically. Most chose immortality, joining the polises to become conscious software.

Others opted for gleisners: Disposable, renewable robotic bodies that remain in contact with the physical world of force and friction. Many of these have left the Solar System forever in fusion drive starships.

And there are the holdouts. The fleshers left behind in the muck and jungle of Earth -- some devolved into dream-apes; others cavorting in the seas or the air; while the statics and bridges try to shape out a roughly human destiny.

But the complacency of the citizens is shattered when an unforeseen disaster ravages the fleshers, and reveals the possibility that the polises themselves might be at risk from bizarre astrophysical processes that seem to violate fundamental laws of nature. The Orphan joins a group of citizens and flesher refugees in a search for the knowledge that will guarantee their safety -- a search that puts them on the trail of the ancient and elusive Transmuters, who have the power to reshape subatomic particles, and to cross into the macrocosmos, where the universe we know is nothing but a speck in the higher-dimensional vacuum.

Quite simply the boldest and most wildly speculative writer of his generation, Greg Egan has written a quantum Brave New World  for the century's end -- a masterful SF saga envisioning a time when not only humanity but "reality" itself will be but a memory.

It is a novel unlike anything you have ever read. Or even imagined.

10
27
0

Dragon's Egg

by

5 avg rating
11
27
3

Spin

by Robert Charles Wilson

4 avg rating
Spin is Robert Charles Wilson's Hugo Award-winning masterpiece—a stunning combination of a galactic "what if" and a small-scale, very human story.
 
One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.
 
The effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk—a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world's artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they'd been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside—more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.
 
Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister cult leader who's forged a new religion out of the fears of the masses.
 
Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work, turning the planet green. Next they send humans…and immediately get back an emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars. Then Earth's probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars. Jason, desperate, seeds near space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun—and report back on what they find.
 
Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
John W. Campbell
12
29
7

The Diamond Age

by Neal Stephenson

3.89 avg rating
In Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson took science fiction to dazzling new levels. Now, in The Diamond Age, he delivers another stunning tale. Set in twenty-first century Shanghai, it is the story of what happens when a state-of-the-art interactive device falls in the hands of a street urchin named Nell. Her life—and the entire future of humanity—is about to be decoded and reprogrammed…
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
Nebula
John W. Campbell
Arthur C. Clarke
13
22
3

Accelerando

by Charles Stross

3 avg rating

The Singularity. It is the era of the posthuman. Artificial intelligences have surpassed the limits of human intellect. Biotechnological beings have rendered people all but extinct. Molecular nanotechnology runs rampant, replicating and reprogramming at will. Contact with extraterrestrial life grows more imminent with each new day.

Struggling to survive and thrive in this accelerated world are three generations of the Macx clan: Manfred, an entrepreneur dealing in intelligence amplification technology whose mind is divided between his physical environment and the Internet; his daughter, Amber, on the run from her domineering mother, seeking her fortune in the outer system as an indentured astronaut; and Sirhan, Amber’s son, who finds his destiny linked to the fate of all of humanity.

For something is systematically dismantling the nine planets of the solar system. Something beyond human comprehension. Something that has no use for biological life in any form...

Locus Science Fiction
BSFA
Hugo
John W. Campbell
Arthur C. Clarke
14
22
4

Altered Carbon

by Richard K. Morgan

3.85 avg rating
Philip K. Dick
15
19
1

Downbelow Station

by C. J. Cherryh

3.8 avg rating
A legend among sci-fi readers, C. J. Cherryh's Union-Alliance novels, while separate and complete in themselves, are part of a much larger tapestry—a future history spanning 5,000 years of human civilization.

Here is the 20th anniversary edition of Downbelow Station, the book that won Cherryh a Hugo Award for Best novel in 1982. A blockbuster space opera of the rebellion between Earth and its far-flung colonies, it is a classic science fiction masterwork.

Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
16
19
2

The Martian

by Andy Weir

4.17 avg rating

1 Similar Reader Recommendations

1 Recs
17
19
4

Use Of Weapons

by Iain M. Banks

4.5 avg rating
The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action.

The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.

The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.

Ferociously intelligent, both witty and horrific, USE OF WEAPONS is a masterpiece of science fiction.
BSFA
Arthur C. Clarke
18
17
2

Tau Zero

by Poul Anderson

5 avg rating
Poul Anderson’s book Tau Zero stands out in the genre in large part because it does precisely the thing that one so rarely sees in science fiction: it takes a keen interest in the emotional lives of the characters in the novel, which the novel combines this with a general fascination for all things scientific. In Tau Zero, these two often competing themes in the genre work together with a synergy that makes the novel much more than just another deep space adventure story.

From practically the very first page, Tau Zero sets the scientific realities in dramatic tension with the very real emotional and psychological states of the travelers: you have the time factor and their emotional response to the consequence of traveling at this high rate of speed and the time that has passed. This tension is a dynamic that Anderson explores with great success over the course of the novel as fifty crew-members settle in for the long journey together. While they are a highly-trained team of scientists and researchers and therefore professionals, they are also a community of individuals, each of them trying to create for him or herself a life in a whole new space (or literally, in space).

It isn’t too long, however, before the voyage takes a turn for the worse. The ship passes through a small, uncharted cloud-like nebula that makes it impossible to decelerate the ship. The only hope rather, is to do the opposite and speed up. But acceleration towards and within the speed of light means that time outside the spaceship passes even more rapidly, sending the crew deeper into space and also, further into an unknown future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Acclaimed science fiction writer Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania. After earning a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota, he moved to San Francisco where he lived with his wife and writing partner, Karen.

Anderson was a prolific writer with more than one hundred titles to his name. He wrote from a unique position and point of view having a deep understanding of science as well as a keen interest in Norse mythology. While Anderson had written some fantasy novels, including The Broken Sword (1954), Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961), and A Midsummer Tempest (1974), his reputation rests primarily on the strength of his science fiction.

Anderson's first science fiction novel was the 1954 Brain Wave, and it is considered by most to be a classic in the genre. Anderson liked to write series of novels, including his popular Time Patrol works beginning with 1981's Guardians of Time. He also wrote novellas and many short stories.

To his credit, Anderson has numerous science fiction awards including three Nebula awards, seven Hugo awards and the SFWA Grand Master Award (1997). But it is perhaps for the 1970 novel Tau Zero that Anderson will be best remembered. Anderson's last novel, Genesis (2000), won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2001) for best science fiction novel of the year.
Hugo
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Comment on this list

5 comments
Anonymous | 2018-10-20 11:31:00
Starship Troopers is additionally a decent one, do not decide it supported the travesty they referred to as a picture show. Robert A. Robert A. Heinlein seemingly turned over in his grave once that picture show came out. homework writing service - assignmentdoer.com. fully totally different. Another fantastic book by him is alien in an exceedingly Strange Land that is unquestionably sensible for the sci-fi romance angle, however not the fighting for freedom. of course not for fighting the least bit.
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Anonymous | 2018-10-06 02:35:17
One necessity for hard SF is procedural or purposeful: a story should attempt to be exact, coherent, valid and thorough in its utilization of current logical and specialized learning about which innovation, marvels,Pay for Essay Writing situations, and circumstances that are for all intents and purposes as well as hypothetically conceivable.
Anonymous | 2018-10-04 10:46:12
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Anonymous | 2014-07-02 06:19:06
any Charles Sheffield book could be on the list

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