The 100 Best Science Fiction Books of All Time

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Science fiction is one of the most popular genres of all – both books and movies. The reason for this is easily explained: we all like to imagine what the world will look like long after we exist. And when we read about future generations and societies, we realize a lot about our presence at the same time. And not to forget: science fiction books are simply exciting and entertaining.

In our overview, we present you with the 20 best science fiction books of all time. In our selection, we made sure to include the most important classics, but also to take into account recent developments. And a graphic novel may not be missing under the Top books to the Science Fiction naturally also. If you’re a science fiction fan yourself (or want to become one), here are the perfect books to get you started in the genre.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey - The Saga: Four novels in one volume
2001 is a truly unique book: Arthur C. Clarke wrote it in parallel with the development of Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same name. Both developed the story independently afterward. 2001 begins when a monolith is found on Earth that is clearly of extraterrestrial origin and sends signals into space. A mission is put together to find out the origin of the monolith. But on the way, the on-board computer HAL 9000 seems to lose its mind.

Arthur C. Clarke manages to describe Jupiter in 2001 as if he had been there himself. Above all, he tells an exciting and profound story about the relationship between man and machine, which surprises you again and again by its topicality when you read it.

2. Picnic by the wayside – Arkady and Boris Strugatzki

Picnic by the Wayside: Utopian Narrative (suhrkamp taschenbuch)
Roderic Schuchart works as a protective digger: he illegally enters a cordoned-off zone near his hometown to find and sell artifacts left behind by aliens. On his last trip to the zone, he has a very concrete goal: to find the golden ball that will fulfill all the wishes of its finder.

Picnic by the Wayside is best known for its film adaptation under the name Stalker. The story has everything a good science fiction novel needs: Wondrous alien technology, danger, and the main character who learns something about himself and humanity as a result.

3. The Great Game – Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game: Novel (The Ender Saga, Volume 1)
Ender is a so-called third: the third child of his parents, who, due to the overpopulation of the planet and corresponding ordinances, should not really exist at all. At school, Ender is teased, and when he gets the chance to transfer to a military school, he immediately grabs. What he doesn’t know is that his very existence as an outsider could mean the final salvation for mankind.

The Great Game (Ender’s Game) paints a bleak picture of the future, where adults are completely out of their depth and rely on children to make the most important decisions. In addition, the novel also tells an exciting coming-of-age story of the outsider Ender, who becomes an important key figure and thus finds his true destiny.

4. Dune – The Desert Planet – Frank Herbert

The Desert Planet: Novel (The Desert Planet - Newly Translated, Volume 1)
Dune – the desert planet is the first part of the science fiction series of the same name. On the planet Arrakis, which is called Dune because of its barren nature, the so-called Spice is mined, a raw material that allows people to foresee the future. And, of course, this raw material is in great demand and causes fights and wars.

Dune has already been filmed three times – and three times almost. Especially the failed film version of the cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky is legendary. The fact that so many producers and directors have tried their hand at the material is due to its greatness: Dune is not simply about raw material, but about what constitutes humanity at its core.

5. Hell is the absence of God – Ted Chiang

Hell is the absence of God
For those who like it shorter, science fiction short stories are a good choice. A special one is a collection Hell is the Absence of God by U.S. author Ted Chiang.

The movie Arrival by Denis Villeneuve is based on one of Chiang’s stories, namely Story of Your Life. Their aliens come to earth and try to communicate with the earthlings. What they don’t learn until later: The language the aliens use, which some humans gradually learn, greatly affects how they perceive the world.

Chiang’s stories are characterized by a high degree of scientific accuracy – what is called hard science fiction. Fans who are also interested in physics and technologies are well served by his stories.

6. Time out of joint – Philip K. Dick

Time out of joint: novel (Fischer Klassik)
No list about science fiction books without Philip K. Dick, it’s clear. The highly prolific author has provided not only readers but also Hollywood with countless ideas. One of them is the story about Ragle Gumm, who lives a tranquil life in the 1950s. The highlight of each day is solving a puzzle in the newspaper. But suddenly he realizes that something is wrong in his surroundings and he decides to get to the bottom of it.

Like all of Dick’s books, this one is full of creative ideas and depicts a world in which an individual’s life is less important than his or her potential function to society.

7. Foundation – Isaac Asimov

The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation / Foundation and Empire / Second Foundation (Robots and Foundation - the cycle, Volume 13)
Which science fiction fan does not know them, the robot laws, according to which a robot must never hurt a human being? This law comes from Isaac Asimov, more precisely from the Foundation cycle, in which Asimov describes the fall of galactic civilization and its reconstruction according to strict scientific guidelines.

Foundation is one of the defining classics of the genre, and many science fiction novels – including current ones – use the conventions created in this cycle. For this reason alone, it’s worth getting into the novel series.

8. Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Watchmen Deluxe
Graphic novels and science fiction go together well – after all, in comics, you can really put all futuristic ideas into visual form. Watchmen has even made it onto the Times Magazine’s list of the 100 best novels of all time. The story tells of a world where a group of people disguises themselves as masked superheroes to fight injustice – until their activity is outlawed.

The phrase “Who watches the watchmen?” – that is “Who watches the watchmen?” – sums up the message of the story well: When individuals band together to fight evil, the temptation is eventually to put themselves above the law. Who takes care that this does not happen?

9. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells

The Time Machine (Great Classics at a Small Price, Volume 1)
The oldest book in this review is from the 19th century. Century. A scientist tells his skeptical friends about his latest invention: the time machine that allows him to travel 800.000 years into the future and learn the fate of mankind. These have divided into two camps: the Eloi, who live a seemingly carefree life and remind him of his contemporaries, and the Morlocks, who live underground and make the carefree life of the Eloi possible in the first place through their machines – though not entirely unselfishly.

H.G. Wells’ novel not only shaped the sub-genre of the time travel book but is also considered a forerunner of steampunk. His books and themes are still timely and read absolutely current.

10. The Three Suns – Cixin Yu

The Three Suns: Novel (The Trisolaris Trilogy, Volume 1)
What will it look like when humanity has contact with extraterrestrials? This is the theme of The Three Suns. An extraterrestrial civilization is on its way to Earth to claim new living space for itself. Their own planet is too uncertain because there are three suns there whose constellations cannot be accurately predicted. This holds great danger for the civilization so that it has chosen a new home planet with the earth – and wants to exterminate mankind in order to take it over.

The Three Suns are also hard science fiction, as the scientific aspect is not neglected. After its publication in 2006, the book was highly praised by critics and readers, and even Barack Obama named it one of his favorite books. In addition to the scientific aspects, the novel also deals with the question of how humanity can work together in the face of a common problem – and thus, of course, also brings up current issues.

11. Solaris – Stanislaw Lem

Solaris (0)
The planet Solaris seems to be the first one where mankind has discovered extraterrestrial life: The planet is almost completely covered by an ocean that seems to have intelligence. However, no one has yet managed to understand this intelligence. An exploration team was destabilized by this mission. When psychologist Kelvin arrives to help the crew, he discovers that they have long been suffering from psychological problems. And besides the researchers, there are also other people living onboard the station. Kelvin finds out that this is a result of an attempt by the ocean to communicate.

Solaris has great imagery, fantastic ideas, and – most importantly – psychological insights into the nature of humanity that are only possible when compared to another imagined intelligence.

12. 1984 – George Orwell

1984
George Orwell wrote his horror vision of a totalitarian state in 1948 and moved it to 1984: In a totalitarian surveillance state, Winston Smith tries to join a resistance group and stand up for the truth. The topicality of this novel still makes it one of the most important science fiction books. Winston Smith’s job is nothing more than to produce Fake News to support the government’s statements at any given time. And of course, this is reminiscent of current developments.

The book is very dark and not for the faint-hearted, but a classic among dystopias it definitely is.

13. Otherland – Tad Williams

City of Golden Shadows (Otherland, Volume 1)
Otherland is the name of a collection of virtual worlds developed by a group of particularly rich and powerful people – the Grail Brotherhood. Virtual worlds are no longer special in themselves. Everyone likes to spend time there, and those who can have almost completely withdrawn from the real world, which in any case no longer has much to offer ordinary mortals. But Otherland is different, better, and more intense. And also dangerous: because some children never make it back from this virtual world.

Four volumes comprise Tad Williams’ series of novels that explore the impact of technology and the gap between rich and poor on society’s continued existence. The themes – as in many science fiction books – are very relevant again, especially today.

14. Operation Zombie: Whoever lives longer is dead later – Max Brooks

Operation Zombie: Who lives longer, is dead later
The title isn’t the best, but this book really packs a punch. Through interviews, a UN staffer chronicles the past zombie wars – World War Z. It describes how the first victims of the pandemic-like zombie outbreak appeared, how the zombies multiplied, how humanity reacted, and what it all did to society. The realism with which this is described is breathtaking: companies that want to make a profit from supposed vaccines, countries that completely seal themselves off, others that abandon their citizens: Operation Zombie is really about how the various societies of our time dealing with a catastrophe. And it’s about zombies, too, of course.

By the way, author Max Brooks is the son of director Mel Brooks, so it is not surprising that his book has not only realism but also a good dose of humor.

15. The Lives of Lazarus Long – Robert A. Heinlein

The Lives of Lazarus Long: Novel
Lazarus Long is already a few thousand years old and thus the oldest living person in the world. But he has enough of the life and would like to die now rather. His descendants, however, try to convince him that his life still has something new in store for him. They get him to talk about his long life and meanwhile prepare a new experience for him.

The lives of Lazarus Long is a compilation of different stories, which captivate above all by their almost philosophical insights. In addition, the novel gives a nice insight into the theme of immortality.

16. The Martian – Andy Weir

The Martian: Save Mark Watney - Novel
Mark Watney is part of a research mission to Mars. When this is hastily aborted, Watney is left alone on Mars – with no great equipment, relatively little food, and no communication channel to Earth. But Watney has one thing: his inventiveness. This helps him survive on Mars and eventually call for help as well.

The story of Watney being stuck on Mars in complete isolation, yet not losing hope, is absolutely thrilling and exciting. All the ideas Watney has are reminiscent of a modern MacGyver. At the same time the story has wit and deep emotions – and what more could you want from a science fiction novel?

17. The Handmaid’s Report – Margret Atwood

The Handmaid's Report: Novel
In the USA in the near future, most women have become infertile. Women who are still able to bear children are considered the most important raw materials – and are treated as such. They live as maids to influential men and their wives and are expected to conceive children for them. The Handmaid’s Report depicts the story of Desired, who is fertile and has to suffer all the torments of the new form of society.

It is the closeness of the story to current developments that makes this book particularly exciting – and also particularly touching. Meanwhile, Margret Atwood has written a sequel that addresses and answers readers’ questions about the novel.

18. Free Spirits – Ursula K. LeGuin

Free Spirits
Anarres is an inhospitable planet, whose inhabitants must give everything to wrest a little life from their environment. Nevertheless, they are happy where they are, after all, they have chosen their home planet themselves. After a failed revolution on Urras, their planet of origin, they have found a new home to build an anarchic society without money and without hierarchies. The physicist Shevek wishes to exchange ideas with other scientists and sets off for Urras, which does not meet with much sympathy in his home country.

Very untypically for science fiction novels, Ursula K. LeGuin here a picture of a better society that at least makes an effort to abolish inequalities. However, it also clearly shows the limits of such a community.

19. The Assassination – Stephen King

The Assassination: Novel
Teacher Jake Epping gains access to a time portal that takes him to 1958, always on the exact same day. Epping takes it upon herself to carry out the assassination of John F. Kennedy to prevent, but this is more difficult than he first thought. Because time itself becomes Epping’s greatest adversary and doesn’t want to be messed with so easily – and puts plenty of obstacles in Epping’s way.

The Attack is an extremely clever time travel story with lots of suspense and emotion – as usual with successful author Stephen King.

20. The Burning Man – Tad Williams

The Burning Man
Gully Foyle is the last survivor of a damaged spaceship. Previously completely unremarkable and without much ability, this experience changes everything for him. For another spaceship, which could save him, simply flies past him. Foyle only wants revenge from now on. What helps him: the Jaunten – the travel by teleportation, which mankind has discovered in the meantime.

The Burning Man is a Count of Montecristo story that combines Foyle’s thirst for revenge with modern technology and its impact on human society. In the process, the story comes up with some unexpected twists and turns.

Places 21-100 of the best science fiction books:

Place: Book: Author: Link to the book:
21. The Shadow of the Torturer: The Book of the New Sun Gene Wolfe
22. Ready Player One Ernest Cline
23. The immortality program Richard Morgan
24. Brave new world Aldous Huxley
25. Legend – Falling Sky Marie Lu
26. The Ghost in the Shell Masamune Shirow
27. War of the clones John Scalzi
28. The long way to a small angry planet Becky Chambers
29. All we had to give Kazuo Ishiguro
30. The Hyperion Songs Dan Simmons
31. The Eternal War Joe Haldeman
32. Blade Runner: Do androids dream of electric sheep? Philip K. Dick
33. The Cloud Atlas David Mitchell
34. Infinity Alastair Reynolds
35. The true essence of things Ted Chiang
36. Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
37. Ilium Dan Simmons
38. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams
39. The light of the last days Emily St. John Almond
40. Leviathan awakens James S. A. Corey
41. The transition Justin Cronin
42. Ubik Philip K. Dick
43. Biowar Paolo Bacigalupi
44. 1Q84 Haruki Murakami
45. Slaughterhouse 5 or The Children’s Crusade Kurt Vonnegut
46. The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger
47. Red Rising Pierce Brown
48. Android Dreams John Scalzi
49. Mister wind-up bird Haruki Murakami
50. The Chosen – In the Labyrinth James Dashner
51. The Syndrome John Scalzi
52. Anathem Neal Stephenson
53. Singularity Charles Stross
54. The Transformation Narrative Franz Kafka
55. The oracle from the mountain Philip K. Dick
56. The Destiny Veronica Roth
57. Pattern Recognition William Gibson
58. Red Mars Kim Stanley Robinson
59. Metro 2033 Dmitry Glukhovsky
60. Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
61. Evolution Stephen Baxter
62. Little Brother Cory Doctorow
63. Completed (Unwind) Neal Shusterman
64. The fifth wave Rick Yancey
65. The true essence of things Ted Chiang
66. Daemon Daniel Suarez
67. Eyepiece Alastair Reynolds
68. Skinner – The blue death Neal Asher
69. Dark Matter. The Time Runner Blake Crouch
70. Aurora Alastair Reynolds
71. Spheres Iain Banks
72. Steelheart Brandon Sanderson
73. The Arena Stephen King
74. In the maelstrom of time Peter F. Hamilton
75. The invisible killer Peter F. Hamilton
76. Robocalypse Daniel H. Wilson
77. Nexus Ramez Naam
78. The story Margaret Atwood
79. Extinction: Book 1 of the Southern Reach Trilogy Jeff VanderMeer
80. The Children of Time: Novel (Children of Time) Adrian Tchaikovsky
81. The Association of Yiddish Policemen Michael Chabon
82. Use of weapons Iain Banks
83. The end of the stars as Big Hig knew them Peter Heller
84. Skyfall Alastair Reynolds
85. The called Mike Carey
86. The Star of Pandora: The Commonwealth Saga, vol. 1 Peter F. Hamilton
87. Scorpion Richard Morgan
88. Redshirts John Scalzi
89. Leviathan – The secret mission Scott Westerfeld
90. Perdido Street Station China Miéville
91. Torn Earth N. K. Jemisin
92. 2312 Kim Stanley Robinson
93. The house of the suns Alastair Reynolds
94. V for Vendetta Alan Moore
95. Light Connie Willis
96. The Algebraist Iain Banks
97. Error Neal Stephenson
98. Accelerando Charles Stross
99. The Dark Universe: Black World Peter F. Hamilton
100. The Armageddon Cycle: The Unknown Force Peter F. Hamilton

The variety of books already shows: Science Fiction is a wide field. We guarantee that you will find one or the other book here that has what it takes to become your favorite novel. We hope you enjoy reading and choosing your personal favorites!

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