Top 100 Science Fiction Books

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A crowd ranked version of our Top 100 Best Science Fiction Books list. The rankings are determined by the votes, and other public metrics and NOT curated by us.
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20
5
1

Lord of Light

by Roger Zelazny

4.83 avg rating

“Funny, wise, and infused with a sense of wonder and knowledge….Nobody else made myths real and valuable in the way Roger Zelazny could.”
—Neil Gaiman

 

Lord of Light is a classic tale of the far future from the incomparable Roger Zelazny. Winner of the Hugo Award—one of six Zelazny received over the course of his legendary career, as well as three Nebula Awards and numerous other honors—Lord of Light stands with Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Frank Herbert’s Dune as one of the seminal novels that changed the way readers looked at science fiction. Experience it and you will understand why New York Times bestselling sf author Greg Bear says, “Reading Zelazny is like dropping into a Mozart string quartet as played by Thelonius Monk.”

Hugo
Nebula
21
5
1

Inverted World

by Christopher Priest

5 avg rating
The city is winched along tracks through a devastated land full of hostile tribes. Rails must be freshly laid ahead of the city and carefully removed in its wake. Rivers and mountains present nearly insurmountable challenges to the ingenuity of the city’s engineers. But if the city does not move, it will fall farther and farther behind the “optimum” into the crushing gravitational field that has transformed life on Earth. The only alternative to progress is death.
The secret directorate that governs the city makes sure that its inhabitants know nothing of this. Raised in common in crèches, nurtured on synthetic food, prevented above all from venturing outside the closed circuit of the city, they are carefully sheltered from the dire necessities that have come to define human existence. And yet the city is in crisis. The people are growing restive, the population is dwindling, and the rulers know that, for all their efforts, slowly but surely the city is slipping ever farther behind the optimum.
Helward Mann is a member of the city’s elite. Better than anyone, he knows how tenuous is the city’s continued existence. But the world—he is about to discover—is infinitely stranger than the strange world he believes he knows so well.
22
5
1

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance

by Jeff VanderMeer

In time for the holidays, a single-volume hardcover edition that brings together the three volumes of the Southern Reach Trilogy, which were originally published as paperback originals in February, May, and September 2014.

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, Authority is the second, and Acceptance is the third.
Area X-a remote and lush terrain-has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers-they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding-but it's the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
After the disastrous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the Southern Reach-the secret agency that monitors these expeditions-is in disarray. In Authority, John Rodriguez, aka "Control," is the team's newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves-and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he's promised to serve. And the consequences will spread much further than that.
It is winter in Area X in Acceptance. A new team embarks across the border on a mission to find a member of a previous expedition who may have been left behind. As they press deeper into the unknown-navigating new terrain and new challenges-the threat to the outside world becomes more daunting. The mysteries of Area X may have been solved, but their consequences and implications are no less profound-or terrifying.

23
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4

The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

4.44 avg rating
NATIONAL BESTSELLER

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER
National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

A New York Times Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year
The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Denver Post, The Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, New York, People, Rocky Mountain News, Time, The Village Voice, The Washington Post


The searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece.

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.
24
6
3

Altered Carbon

by Richard K. Morgan

3.85 avg rating
In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”) making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.

Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats “existence” as something that can be bought and sold. For Kovacs, the shell that blew a hole in his chest was only the beginning. . . .
Philip K. Dick
25
5
2

Pandora's Star

by Peter F. Hamilton

4.29 avg rating
Critics have compared the engrossing space operas of Peter F. Hamilton to the classic sagas of such sf giants as Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert. But Hamilton’s bestselling fiction—powered by a fearless imagination and world-class storytelling skills—has also earned him comparison to Tolstoy and Dickens. Hugely ambitious, wildly entertaining, philosophically stimulating: the novels of Peter F. Hamilton will change the way you think about science fiction. Now, with Pandora’s Star, he begins a new multivolume adventure, one that promises to be his most mind-blowing yet.

The year is 2380. The Intersolar Commonwealth, a sphere of stars some four hundred light-years in diameter, contains more than six hundred worlds, interconnected by a web of transport “tunnels” known as wormholes. At the farthest edge of the Commonwealth, astronomer Dudley Bose observes the impossible: Over one thousand light-years away, a star . . . vanishes. It does not go supernova. It does not collapse into a black hole. It simply disappears. Since the location is too distant to reach by wormhole, a faster-than-light starship, the Second Chance, is dispatched to learn what has occurred and whether it represents a threat. In command is Wilson Kime, a five-time rejuvenated ex-NASA pilot whose glory days are centuries behind him.

Opposed to the mission are the Guardians of Selfhood, a cult that believes the human race is being manipulated by an alien entity they call the Starflyer. Bradley Johansson, leader of the Guardians, warns of sabotage, fearing the Starflyer means to use the starship’s mission for its own ends.

Pursued by a Commonwealth special agent convinced the Guardians are crazy but dangerous, Johansson flees. But the danger is not averted. Aboard the Second Chance, Kime wonders if his crew has been infiltrated. Soon enough, he will have other worries. A thousand light-years away, something truly incredible is waiting: a deadly discovery whose unleashing will threaten to destroy the Commonwealth . . . and humanity itself.

Could it be that Johansson was right?



From the Hardcover edition.
26
4
1

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
27
4
1

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

by Claire North

SOME STORIES CANNOT BE TOLD IN JUST ONE LIFETIME.

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. "I nearly missed you, Doctor August," she says. "I need to send a message."

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
28
4
1

Behold the Man

by Michael Moorcock

Karl Glogauer is a disaffected modern professional casting about for meaning in a series of half-hearted relationships, a dead-end job, and a personal struggle. His questions of faith surrounding his father's run-of-the-mill Christianity and his mother's suppressed Judaism lead him to a bizarre obsession with the idea of the messiah. After the collapse of his latest affair and his introduction to a reclusive physics professor, Karl is given the opportunity to confront his obsession and take a journey that no man has taken before, and from which he knows he cannot return. Upon arriving in Palestine, A.D. 29, Glogauer finds that Jesus Christ is not the man that history and faith would like to believe, but that there is an opportunity for someone to change the course of history by making the ultimate sacrifice.

First published in 1969, Behold the Man broke through science fiction's genre boundaries to create a poignant reflection on faith, disillusion and self-sacrifice. This is the classic novel that established the career of perhaps contemporary science fiction’s most cerebral and innovative author.

29
4
1

The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith

by Cordwainer Smith

Includes 33 stories that represent Cordwainer Smiths entire SF works except for the novel Norstrilia. These stories are "classics" of the field such as "The Dead Lady of Clown Town," "The Game of Rat and Dragon," "Scanners Live in Vain," and "A Planet Named Shayol." Appearing for the first time in print are "Himself in Anachron" and the completely rewritten adult version of his high school story "War No. 81-Q." Introduction by John J. Pierce.
30
4
1

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

by James Tiptree Jr.

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever collects eighteen brilliant short stories from a luminary of the science-fiction genre, James Tiptree, Jr. This updated edition is the quintessential Tiptree collection and contains revisions from the author’s original notes. Tiptree’s fiction reflects the darkly complex world its author inhabited: exploring the alien among us; the unreliability of perception; love, sex, and death; and humanity’s place in a vast, cold universe.
31
4
1

Rogue Moon

by Algis Budrys

3 avg rating
All his life, Al Barker has toyed with death. So when the US lunar programme needs a volunteer to penetrate a murderous labyrinth, alien to all human comprehension, Barker's the man to do it. But what is required of Barker is that he withstand the trauma of dying, not just once, but time and time again. A disquieting and original psychological study, Rogue Moon is the story of monstrous scientific ambition matched by human obsession.
Hugo
32
4
1

The Skylark of Space and Other Works by E.E. "Doc" Smith

by E. E. Smith

This Halcyon Classics ebook collection contains eight novels and short stories by E.E. "Doc" Smith, an early pioneer in the science fiction genre. His novel THE SKYLARK OF SPACE and its immediate sequel SKYLARK THREE are among the first works dealing with interstellar travel.

THE SKYLARK OF SPACE is the first book in the Skylark series and pits the hero, Dick Seaton, against Marc DuQuesne. The story is not only in the technology, although there is a lot of that, but in the contrast in characters of Seaton and DuQuesne. Seaton is the honest scientist, making his discoveries for the good of mankind, and sharing knowledge and cooperating with other like-minded people. DuQuesne is in it only for himself and he will go to any lengths to ensure that he gets what he wants and wins in the end.

This ebook is DRM free and includes an active table of contents for easy navigation.


Contents:

The Skylark of Space
Skylark Three
Masters of Space
Spacehounds of IPC
Subspace Survivors
The Galaxy Primes
Tripanetary
Vortex Blaster
33
5
3

A Clockwork Orange

by Anthony Burgess

3 avg rating

Great Music, it said, and Great Poetry would like quieten Modern Youth down and make Modern Youth more Civilized. Civilized my syphilised yarbles.

A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where the criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?" This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked."
34
4
2

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
35
4
2

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

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36
4
2

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.
Arthur C. Clarke
Nebula
Locus Science Fiction
37
4
2

Modern Classics the Death of Grass

by John Christopher

A post-apocalyptic vision of the world pushed to the brink by famine, John Christopher's science fiction masterpiece The Death of Grass includes an introduction by Robert MacFarlane in Penguin Modern Classics. At first the virus wiping out grass and crops is of little concern to John Custance. It has decimated Asia, causing mass starvation and riots, but Europe is safe and a counter-virus is expected any day. Except, it turns out, the governments have been lying to their people. When the deadly disease hits Britain, society starts to descend into barbarism. As John and his family try to make it across country to the safety of his brother's farm in a hidden valley, their humanity is tested to its very limits. A chilling psychological thriller and one of the greatest post-apocalyptic novels ever written, The Death of Grass shows people struggling to hold on to their identities as the familiar world disintegrates - and the terrible price they must pay for surviving. John Christopher (1922-2012) was the pen name of Samuel Youd, a prolific writer of science fiction. His novels were popular during the 1950s and 1960s, most notably The Death Of Grass (1956), The World in Winter (1962), and Wrinkle in the Skin (1965), all works depicting ordinary people struggling in the midst of apocalyptic catastrophes. In 1966 he started writing science-fiction for adolescents; The Tripods trilogy, the Prince in Waiting trilogy (also known as the Sword of the Spirits trilogy) and The Lotus Caves are still widely read today. Ifyou enjoyed The Death of Grass, you might like John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, also available in Penguin Modern Classics. 'Gripping ... of all fiction's apocalypses, this is one of the most haunting' Financial Times
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3
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Earth Abides

by George R. Stewart

4 avg rating
A disease of unparalleled destructive force has sprung up almost simultaneously in every corner of the globe, all but destroying the human race. One survivor, strangely immune to the effects of the epidemic, ventures forward to experience a world without man. What he ultimately discovers will prove far more astonishing than anything he'd either dreaded or hoped for.


From the Paperback edition.
ITEMS 20 - 38 of 72

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3 comments
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Anonymous | 2017-09-02 06:08:58
Nothing from the Foundation trilogy, or Lije Bailey stories by Asimov? What about Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love", or "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" or "Glory Road".
Anonymous | 2016-11-23 12:19:20
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