Best Mars Science Fiction Books

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This is the crowd ranked list version of our 'Best Mars Science Fiction' list. All these books deal with mars in some significant way -- either as the setting of the story or as the major focus of the plot. The success of The Martian by Andy Weir and the subsequent Ridley Scott movie and the recent NASA findings about mars has made MARS all the rage again in pop culture, if indeed it ever went away at all.
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The Martian Chronicles

by Ray Bradbury

4.21 avg rating
In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, America’s preeminent storyteller, imagines a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor— of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a vanished, devastated civilization. Earthmen conquer Mars and then are conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race. In this classic work of fiction, Bradbury exposes our ambitions, weaknesses, and ignorance in a strange and breathtaking world where man does not belong.
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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
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The Martian

by Andy Weir

4.17 avg rating
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

1 Similar Reader Recommendations

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Stranger in a Strange Land

by Robert A. Heinlein

4.43 avg rating
The Hugo Award-winning and controversial science fiction masterpiece from Robert A. Heinlein, the New York Times bestselling author of Starship Troopers. 

Valentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love. 
Hugo
5
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The War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells' best-selling classic THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
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The Sands of Mars

by Arthur C. Clarke

In Clarke's first published full-length science fiction novel, renowned science fiction writer Martin Gibson joins the spaceship Ares, the world's first interplanetary ship for passenger travel, on its maiden voyage to Mars. His mission: to report back to the home planet about the new Mars colony and the progress it has been making.

First published in 1951, before the achievement of space flight, Clarke addresses hard physical and scientific issues with aplomb―and the best scientific understanding of the times. Included are the challenges of differing air pressures, lack of oxygen, food provisions, severe weather patterns, construction on Mars, and methods of local travel-both on the surface and to the planet's two moons.

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A Princess of Mars

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

1 avg rating
A Princess of Mars (1917) is a science fantasy novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of his Barsoom series. Full of swordplay and daring feats, the novel is considered a classic example of 20th century pulp fiction. It is also a seminal instance of the planetary romance, a sub-genre of science fantasy that became highly popular in the decades following its publication. Its early chapters also contain elements of the Western. The story is set on Mars, imagined as a dying planet with a harsh desert environment. This vision of Mars was based on the work of the astronomer Percival Lowell, whose ideas were widely popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Barsoom series inspired a number of well-known 20th century science fiction writers, including Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and John Norman. The series was also inspirational for many scientists in the fields of space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life, including Carl Sagan, who read A Princess of Mars when he was a child.
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Martian Time-Slip

by Philip K. Dick

"The writing is humorous, painful, awesome in its effect on both mind and heart . . . There are few modern novels to match it."—Rolling Stone

On an arid Mars, local bigwigs compete with Earth-bound interlopers to buy up land before the UN develops it and its value skyrockets. Martian Union leader Arnie Kott has an ace up his sleeve, though: an autistic boy named Manfred who seems to have the ability to see the future. In the hopes of gaining an advantage on a Martian real estate deal, powerful people force Manfred to send them into the future, where they can learn about development plans. But is Manfred sending them to the real future or one colored by his own dark and paranoid filter? As the time travelers are drawn into Manfred's dark worldview in both the future and present, the cost of doing business may drive them all insane.

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Out of the Silent Planet

by C.S. Lewis

The first book in C. S. Lewis's acclaimed Space Trilogy, which continues with Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity. First published in 1943, Out of the Silent Planet remains a mysterious and suspenseful tour de force.
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The Quantum Thief

by Hannu Rajaniemi

4 avg rating

Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur....

Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burgler, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds are known throughout the Heterarchy, from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his power―in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

The Quantum Thief is a breathtaking joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people who communicate via shared memory, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as an MMORPG guild. But for all its wonders, The Quantum Thief is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, jealousy, and revenge. It is a stunning debut. One of Library Journal's Best SF/Fantasy Books of 2011

John W. Campbell
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1
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The Sword Of Rhiannon

by Leigh Brackett

Greed pulls the archaeologist Matt Carse into the forgotten tomb of the Martian god Rhiannon and plunges the unlikely hero into the Red Planet's fantastic past, when vast oceans covered the land and the legendary Sea-Kings ruled from terraced palaces of decadence and delight. Talented enough to co-write The Big Sleep film with William Faulkner and imaginative enough to pen the original screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, Leigh Brackett is a giant in the science-fiction field, and The Sword of Rhiannon is one of her most popular adventure tales.
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1
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Desolation Road

by Ian McDonald

It all began thirty years ago on Mars, with a greenperson. But by the time it all finished, the town of Desolation Road had experienced every conceivable abnormality from Adam Black's Wonderful Travelling Chautauqua and Educational ‘Stravaganza (complete with its very own captive angel) to the Astounding Tatterdemalion Air Bazaar. Its inhabitants ranged from Dr. Alimantando, the town’s founder and resident genius, to the Babooshka, a barren grandmother who just wants her own child—grown in a fruit jar; from Rajendra Das, mechanical hobo who has a mystical way with machines to the Gallacelli brothers, identical triplets who fell in love with—and married—the same woman.
Arthur C. Clarke
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2
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Mars Life

by Ben Bova

5 avg rating
Jamie Waterman discovered the cliff dwelling on Mars, and the fact that an intelligent race lived on the red planet sixty-five million years ago, only to be driven into extinction by the crash of a giant meteor. Now the exploration of Mars is itself under threat of extinction, as the ultraconservative New Morality movement gains control of the U.S. government and cuts off all funding for the Mars program.

Meanwhile, Carter Carleton, an anthropologist who was driven from his university post by unproven charges of rape, has started to dig up the remains of a Martian village. Science and politics clash on two worlds as Jamie desperately tries to save the Mars program and uncover who the vanished Martians were.
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White Mars

by Brian W. Aldiss

A breathtaking vision of a utopian future on Mars by one of science fiction’s most renowned authors

In the middle decades of the twenty-first century, the corporate powers on Earth have established a thriving colony on Mars as an alternative to life on the overpopulated, war-torn, ecologically ravaged home planet. But when the economy of EUPACUS—Earth’s collective industrialized nations—collapses, all contact between the two worlds abruptly ceases, and the Martian pioneers are left to fend for themselves. Led by Tom Jeffries, a philosopher and a visionary, the colonists now face a twofold challenge: No longer supported and subsidized by Earthbound interests, they must somehow form a working planetary alliance to create a new society based firmly in freedom and fairness for all while at the same time eliminating war, hunger, hatred, environmental abuse, and other former scourges of humanity. But first and foremost, they must survive.
 
Brian W. Aldiss, a Hugo and Nebula Award–winning Grand Master of Science Fiction, presents a vision for the future that is startling, uplifting, and endlessly exciting. Written in collaboration with noted mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose—and with essential input from international law expert Laurence Lustgarten—Aldiss’s remarkable White Mars opens a window onto a relentlessly thrilling and gloriously possible tomorrow.
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Rainbow Mars

by Larry Niven

Five-time Hugo Award winner Larry Niven weaves together time travel and fantasy to create an utterly unique novel on the origin of the Martian "canals." Thought-provoking, vivid, viciously smart, and wildly funny, Rainbow Mars is sci-fi at its best.

Hanville Svetz was born into a future to match the sorriest predictions of Greenpeace. Most of Earth's original life forms are extinct. It is Svetz's job to go back in time and retrieve them, or at least it was until his Institute for Temporal Research was transferred. Now, with a new boss obsessed with stars and planets, Svetz must figure out why the Martian canals have gone dry and what that means for Earth's future.

Because Mars was inhabited. When Svetz learns how the sapient Martian species were wiped out, he realizes that Earth could soon fall victim to a similar fate. Together with his dog, Wrona, a visitor from the distant past, and Miya, an astronaut with her own complex history, Svetz must struggle to unravel a puzzle that will tax not just his rational mind, but the very limits of his imagination.

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Redemption Ark

by Alastair Reynolds

This stunning sequel to Revelation Space begins late in the twenty-sixth century. The human race has advanced enough to accidentally trigger alien machines designed to detect intelligent life--and destroy it.
Locus Science Fiction
19
1
0

Red Dust: A Path Through China

by Ma Jian

In 1983, at the age of thirty, dissident artist Ma Jian finds himself divorced by his wife, separated from his daughter, betrayed by his girlfriend, facing arrest for “Spiritual Pollution,” and severely disillusioned with the confines of life in Beijing. So with little more than a change of clothes and two bars of soap, Ma takes off to immerse himself in the remotest parts of China. His journey would last three years and take him through smog-choked cities and mountain villages, from scenes of barbarity to havens of tranquility. Remarkably written and subtly moving, the result is an insight into the teeming contradictions of China that only a man who was both insider and outsider in his own country could have written.

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