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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World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

by Max Brooks

5 avg rating
“The end was near.” —Voices from the Zombie War

The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

Note: Some of the numerical and factual material contained in this edition was previously published under the auspices of the United Nations Postwar Commission.


Eyewitness reports from the first truly global war

“I found ‘Patient Zero’ behind the locked door of an abandoned apartment across town. . . . His wrists and feet were bound with plastic packing twine. Although he’d rubbed off the skin around his bonds, there was no blood. There was also no blood on his other wounds. . . . He was writhing like an animal; a gag muffled his growls. At first the villagers tried to hold me back. They warned me not to touch him, that he was ‘cursed.’ I shrugged them off and reached for my mask and gloves. The boy’s skin was . . . cold and gray . . . I could find neither his heartbeat nor his pulse.” —Dr. Kwang Jingshu, Greater Chongqing, United Federation of China


“‘Shock and Awe’? Perfect name. . . . But what if the enemy can’t be shocked and awed? Not just won’t, but biologically can’t! That’s what happened that day outside New York City, that’s the failure that almost lost us the whole damn war. The fact that we couldn’t shock and awe Zack boomeranged right back in our faces and actually allowed Zack to shock and awe us! They’re not afraid! No matter what we do, no matter how many we kill, they will never, ever be afraid!” —Todd Wainio, former U.S. Army infantryman and veteran of the Battle of Yonkers


“Two hundred million zombies. Who can even visualize that type of number, let alone combat it? . . . For the first time in history, we faced an enemy that was actively waging total war. They had no limits of endurance. They would never negotiate, never surrender. They would fight until the very end because, unlike us, every single one of them, every second of every day, was devoted to consuming all life on Earth.” —General Travis D’Ambrosia, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe
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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.
41
1
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Blood Music

by Greg Bear

4 avg rating
In the tradition of the greatest cyberpunk novels, Blood Music explores the imminent destruction of mankind and the fear of mass destruction by technological advancements. The novel follows present-day events in which the fears concerning the nuclear annihilation of the world subsided after the Cold War and the fear of chemical warfare spilled over into the empty void it left behind. An amazing breakthrough in genetic engineering made by Vergil Ulam is considered too dangerous for further research, but rather than destroy his work, he injects himself with his creation and walks out of his lab, unaware of just how his actions will change the world. Author Greg Bear’s treatment of the traditional tale of scientific hubris is both suspenseful and a compelling portrait of a new intelligence emerging amongst us, irrevocably changing our world. 
Nebula
Hugo
BSFA
John W. Campbell
42
2
0

Stand on Zanzibar

by John Brunner

5 avg rating

Norman Niblock House is a rising executive at General Technics, one of a few all-powerful corporations. His work is leading General Technics to the forefront of global domination, both in the marketplace and politically---it's about to take over a country in Africa. Donald Hogan is his roommate, a seemingly sheepish bookworm. But Hogan is a spy, and he's about to discover a breakthrough in genetic engineering that will change the world...and kill him.

These two men's lives weave through one of science fiction's most praised novels. Written in a way that echoes John Dos Passos' U.S.A. Trilogy, Stand on Zanzibar is a cross-section of a world overpopulated by the billions. Where society is squeezed into hive-living madness by god-like mega computers, mass-marketed psychedelic drugs, and mundane uses of genetic engineering. Though written in 1968, it speaks of 2010, and is frighteningly prescient and intensely powerful.

Hugo
BSFA
Nebula
43
2
0

River of Gods

by Ian McDonald

As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business — a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj — the waif, the mind-reader, the prophet — when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.

In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.

River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures — one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods. Ian McDonald has written the great Indian novel of the new millennium, in which a war is fought, a love betrayed, a message from a different world decoded, as the great river Ganges flows on.
BSFA
Hugo
Arthur C. Clarke
44
1
1

Tales of the Dying Earth

by Jack Vance

Jack Vance is one of the most remarkable talents to ever grace the world of science fiction. His unique, stylish voice has been beloved by generations of readers. One of his enduring classics is his 1964 novel, The Dying Earth, and its sequels--a fascinating, baroque tale set on a far-future Earth, under a giant red sun that is soon to go out forever.

This omnibus volume comprised all four books in the series, The Dying Earth, The Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga and Rialto the Magnificent. It is a must-read for every sf fan.

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The Space Merchants

by Frederik Pohl

3 avg rating

In a vastly overpopulated near-future world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge transnational corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and boasts some of the world's most powerful executives.

Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that all the products on the market improve the quality of life. However, the most basic elements are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel.

The planet Venus has just been visited and judged fit for human settlement, despite its inhospitable surface and climate; colonists would have to endure a harsh climate for many generations until the planet could be terraformed.

Mitch Courtenay is a star-class copywriter in the Fowler Schocken advertising agency and has been assigned the ad campaign that would attract colonists to Venus, but a lot more is happening than he knows about. Mitch is soon thrown into a world of danger, mystery, and intrigue, where the people in his life are never quite what they seem, and his loyalties and core beliefs will be put to the test.

46
2
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Beggars in Spain

by Nancy Kress

5 avg rating

In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent ... and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep.

Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other "Sleepless" are outcasts -- victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society ... and, ultimately, from Earth itself.

But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her "gift" -- a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom ... and revenge.

Hugo
Nebula
Locus Science Fiction
John W. Campbell
47
2
0

Dying Inside

by Robert Silverberg

In 1972, Robert Silverberg, even then an acknowledged leader in the science fiction field, published a book that was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. More than three decades later, Dying Inside has stood the test of time and has been recognized as one of the finest novels the field has ever produced. Never wasting a word, Silverberg persuasively shows us what it would be like to read minds, painting an unforgettable portrait of a man shaped by that unique power; a power he is now inexorably losing.

Acclaimed upon first publication by SF critics and mainstream reviewers alike, Dying Inside is overdue for reintroduction to today's SF audience. This is a novel for everyone who appreciates deeply affecting characterization, imaginative power, and the irreplaceable perspective unique to speculative fiction of the highest order.

Nebula
Hugo
Locus Science Fiction
48
1
0

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.
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Swastika Night

by Katharine Burdekin

   Published in 1937, twelve years before Orwell's 1984, this novel projects a totally male-controlled fascist world that has eliminated women as we know them. They are breeders, kept as cattle, while men in this post-Hitlerian world are embittered automatons, fearful of all feelings, having abolished all history, education, creativity, books, and art. Not even the memory of culture remains. The plot centers on a "misfit" who asks, as readers must, "How could this have happenned?" Ann J. Lane calls the novel a "brilliant, chilling dystopia." "This is a powerful, haunting vision of the inner and outer worlds of male violence."-Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One, 1884-1933
50
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1

Queen City Jazz

by Kathleen Ann Goonan

In Verity's world, nanotech plagues decimated the population after an initial renaissance of utopian nanotech cities. Verity has been raised, an orphan, in a tiny Shaker revival community where all are forbidden contact with the Enlivened Cities. Yet as she grows up on the isolated farm, she is often drawn to the City of Dayton, abandoned nearby, and to its self-contained and still-functioning library. Her happy life is suddenly destroyed when the Shakers, in spite of their precautions, contract a nanotech plague that possesses them. Blaze, the only young man in the community and Verity's best friend, is shot by a crazed elder. And so Verity, with her dog Cairo - and the body of Blaze wrapped in a nanotech cocoon - sets off on a quest to the Enlivened City of Cincinnati. It is a place of legend, walled off from the rest of the world, where huge bio-engineered bees carry information through the streets and enormous nanotech flowers burst from the tops of strange buildings. It is the place where Blaze might be brought back from the brink of death. But Cincinnati is a city of dreams turned into nightmares, endlessly reliving the fantasies of its creator, a city that Verity must rule - or die.
BSFA
51
0
1

Synners

by Pat Cadigan

First published in 1991, this cyberpunk classic won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was shortlisted for the Nebula Award
 
Synners are synthesizers—not machines, but people. They take images from the brains of performers, and turn them into a form which can be packaged, sold, and consumed. This book is set in a world where new technology spawns new crime before it hits the streets. The line between technology and humanity is hopelessly slim; the human mind and the external landscape have fused to the point where any encounter with reality is incidental. This classic novel from one of the founders and mainstays of the cyberpunk movement.
Arthur C. Clarke
Nebula
52
2
0

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang: A Novel

by Kate Wilhelm

Before becoming one of today's most intriguing and innovative mystery writers, Kate Wilhelm was a leading writer of science fiction, acclaimed for classics like The Infinity Box and The Clewiston Test.

Now one of her most famous novels returns to print, the spellbinding story of an isolated post-holocaust community determined to preserve itself, through a perilous experiment in cloning. Sweeping, dramatic, rich with humanity, and rigorous in its science, Where Later the Sweet Birds Sang is widely regarded as a high point of both humanistic and "hard" SF, and won SF's Hugo Award and Locus Award on its first publication. It is as compelling today as it was then.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is the winner of the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

53
1
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Schismatrix Plus

by Bruce Sterling

4 avg rating
Schismatrix Plus, is Bruce Sterling's new trade paperback. For the first time in one volume: every word Bruce Sterling has ever written on the Shapers-Mechanists Universe.

In the last decade, Sterling has emerged a pioneer of crucial, cutting-edge science fiction. Now Ace Books is proud to offer Sterling's stunning world of the Schismatrix--where Shaper revolutionaries struggle against aristocratic Mechanists for ultimate control of man's destiny. This volume includes the classic full-length novel, Schismatrix, plus thousands of words of mind-bending short fiction.
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Dhalgren

by Samuel R. Delany

In Dhalgren, perhaps one of the most profound and bestselling science fiction novels of all time, Samuel R. Delany has produced a novel "to stand with the best American fiction of the 1970s" (Jonathan Lethem).

Bellona is a city at the dead center of the United States. Something has happened there…. The population has fled. Madmen and criminals wander the streets. Strange portents appear in the cloud-covered sky. And into this disaster zone comes a young man–poet, lover, and adventurer–known only as the Kid. Tackling questions of race, gender, and sexuality, Dhalgren is a literary marvel and groundbreaking work of American magical realism.
Nebula
Locus Science Fiction
55
2
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The City, Not Long After

by Pat Murphy

Half a generation ago, a gesture in the name of peace turned out to spread plague and disaster. In San Francisco, the survivors are heir to a city transformed. It is a haunted, dreaming place peopled with memories, and in a strange way nearly alive itself. And although it is only beginning to recover from near-ultimate disaster, the city is at risk again. An army of power-hungry men are descending on San Francisco. Teenagers Jax and Danny-boy must lead the fight for freedom using the only weapons they have—art, magic, and the soul of the city itself.
Arthur C. Clarke
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1
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Last and First Men and Star Maker : Two Science Fiction Novels

by Olaf Stapledon

The greatest future histories in science fiction. In Last and First Men the protagonist is "mankind" in an ultimate definition — intelligence. Star Maker, in a sense its sequel, is concerned with the history of intelligence in the entire cosmos.
57
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Pavane

by Keith Roberts

4 avg rating
A classic of alternate history, this novel is set in a twentieth century where the Roman Catholic Church controls the western world, and has done so so Queen Elizabeth was assassinated in 1588.
ITEMS 39 - 57 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
cat country by lao she

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