The Best Science Fiction Books and Fantasy Novels
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Looking for a new science fiction book to read? Great news we have compiled the best sci-fi books that all fans should read, everything from sci-fi classics to up and coming indie authors.
Science fiction and fantasy novels provide us with allegory, cautionary tales, and the human condition told through the lens of the fantastical and the cutting-edge. Find your favorite genres and the classics within!
Sci-Fi Origins (Best Sci-Fi Books of all Time)
Where did it all begin? Read these early tales with impossible futures, fascinating creatures, time travel, and alien invasion!
- Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein brought us the iconic monster made by Victor Frankenstein. Considered the first true science fiction novel of the modern era, it would foreshadow genetic tinkering stories of the future.
- The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (also called The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World)
Considered to be the first science fiction work, in the 17th century, Duchess of Newcastle Margaret Cavendish wrote of a utopian world.
- Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The third Oz book by L. Frank Baum features Tik-Tok, the wind-up clockwork man Dorothy Gale encounters in the Land of Ev. Tik-Tok is basically one of the first robots in literature. Other wacky features in Ozma of Oz include a sand-sailing boat and lunch pail tree.
- The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
A 19th century classic by Wells, depicting time travel and inspiring science fiction tales for over a century.
- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
The book that would inspire a radio program that terrified people into thinking Earth was being invaded by Martians. Wells would kickstart first contact stories and alien invasion at the same time, offering up a cautionary tale that touches sci-fi to this day.
Transport yourself across the universe with these pillars of world-building in science fiction.
- Dune by Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert’s Dune is considered a masterwork of world-building and family intrigue, inspiring other famous series and their respective houses. In the first book, Paul Atreides encounters the resident free people of the planet Arrakis (Dune), the Fremen, and achieves a destiny of messianic proportions.
- The Lensman Series by E.E. Smith
Starting with Triplanetary, the Lensman Series would influence writers for decades and receive nods in shows such as Babylon 5.
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
A Hugo and Nebula award winner, novella Binti and its sequels launched a new era of 21st Century science fiction in general and Afro-futurism in particular. Intergalactic world-building and cultural heritage blend in this unique series, led by the title character.
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
The beginning of the Foundation series reveals the “psychohistory” developed by mathematician Harry Seldon. Seldon would establish a new empire called Foundation to preserve the culture from societal collapse.
- Rendezvous with Rama by Sir Arthur C. Clarke
A strange spacecraft enters the solar system, and humanity investigates. The secrets within the enormous craft, called Rama, reveal the heritage of an advanced alien civilization.
If you like your science fiction taut with the edginess of battle and the implication of future wars, you must add these books to your collection!
- The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
This classic military sci-fi epic details the tragic effects of time dilation on a group of soldiers fighting a seemingly endless war.
- Ringworld by Larry Niven
Set in the 29th century, Louis Wu and his companions explore a vast, Earth-orbit-sized, constructed world. Their adventures uncover the alien civilization that built it.
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
First set with the backdrop of China’s cultural revolution, this new epic involves secret scientific experiments, alien invasion, challenging moral dilemmas, and impressive world-building.
- Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
A man in his 70s is recruited as a soldier in the Colonial Defense Force, and altered physically in unexpected ways. Strong on character development, this kickstarts the Old Man’s War Series.
- Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
This classic military sci-fi tale follows Johnny Rico and military recruits who become involved in a battle between humans and aliens nicknamed Arachnids or “Bugs.”
If you love Starship Troopers, check out our review of the wisdom of Grand Admiral Thrawn – Michael
The future of robots is here and is complex and necessary reading in these sci-fi tales.
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov’s intriguing work introduced the laws of robotics, that all robots must adhere to in order to work alongside humans.
- All Systems Red by Martha Wells
The first novel in the Murderbot Diaries, All Systems Red, follows a cyborg that goes by the name Murderbot contends with self-awareness in the corporate-dominated future.
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The beginning of The Lunar Chronicles series is a retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of a cyborg.
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
Famed for its eventual big-screen adaptation, Blade Runner, this novel recounts a future in which highly realistic artificial fugitives are on the run from bounty hunter Rick Deckard.
- The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
Mattie is an automaton in this steampunk and urban fantasy novel involving gargoyles, Mechanics, and Alchemists.
Our neighbor, the red planet Mars, beckons to us. What would it be like to walk on the shifting red sands of Mars? Find out in these Martian classics.
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury’s mesmerizing prose introduces us to a Mars full of exotic possibility, soon plundered by humanity’s arrival.
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
The first in the Mars Trilogy, Red Mars involves the colonization and terraforming of Mars and the conflicting moral questions that result.
- The Martian by Andy Weir
Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on a Mars mission and must draw upon his skills and ingenuity in order to survive.
- Mars by Ben Bova
Navajo geologist Jamie Waterman joins the first expedition of scientists exploring Mars. The grounded approach Bova takes to all the interaction, politics, and bureaucracy help achieve a plausible future story.
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The first book in the Red Rising Trilogy envisions a future of planetary colonization in which caste systems abound. Darrow must fight against this system of overlords.
Best Sci-Fi Fantasy Books
Fly high with dragons, roam lands on epic quests, and learn the hearts of true heroes in the fantasy masterpieces.
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus spans three books, opening up a fantastically detailed and fully invented universe in Middle Earth that was hinted at in The Hobbit. Considered the ultimate work of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings brings myth, allegory, poetry, song, war, and melancholy to heights of realism and wonder.
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The first novel in The Earthsea Cycle tells the tale of the wizard Ged, and his journey to redeem his reckless past.
- A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Beginning with A Game of Thrones, Martin’s elaborate, dark fantasy series covers land in which seasons last decades, and a terrible force from the north threatens to bring an icy apocalypse to a land filled with rulers jockeying to take the Iron Throne.
- The Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey
This remarkable series takes place on the world Pern, where people telepathically bond with dragons. Dragonflight is the first in the series.
- The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N.K Jemisin
The Fifth Season marks the first book of award-winning The Broken Earth trilogy. Set against civilization’s collapse and natural disaster, Essun endures great personal tragedy in her quest to rescue her daughter.
Dystopian & Apocalyptic
Set in a nightmare future, these dystopian and apocalyptic legends will keep you up at night.
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In a totalitarian future America, handmade Offred is forced to bear children to men of a ruling class. The tale follows her harrowing life in a bleak future, and the attempt to escape and bring down the subjugating class to restore rights.
- The Stand by Stephen King
A deadly pathogen escapes a military installation, rapidly spreading and bringing civilization essentially to an end. A group of survivors makes its way to a form of a promised land while battling a malevolent group seeking domination.
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
In the near future breakdown of the society of Los Angeles, empathic teenager Lauren believes in a better future entailing traveling to other planets. Lauren gathers followers to her belief as she makes her way north.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Set in the Great Lakes region of America, a group of nomadic creatives picks up the pieces after the fall of civilization due to pandemic flu.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy follows the immense challenges that Katniss Everdeen faces in the post-apocalyptic version of America called Panem. She takes her sister’s place in the government-sponsored Hunger Games to compete for survival in a no-holds-barred and deadly competition.
The future is here, or nearly so, in these ground-breaking novels set close to our present day.
- Contact by Carl Sagan
Scientist Ellie Arroway detects a potentially extraterrestrial signal from space, which appears to instruct humanity in how to build a machine. She faces self-doubt amid scrutiny to uncover the mysteries of the discovery.
- Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
This cautionary tale about genetic engineering in which scientists make living, cloned dinosaurs for an amusement park. Mayhem ensues.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Mysterious monoliths appear across many worlds, seeding life with intelligence. Following the discovery of one such monolith on the moon, Dr. Bowman and a team of scientists investigate the signal it sends to Saturn’s moon Iapetus. The onboard AI begins exhibiting alarming behavior during the journey.
- Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
A physics experiment creates an unintended consequence of everyone on earth losing consciousness for two minutes. Each person sees a “flash forward” decades in the future while they are unconscious. The resulting accidents and visions challenge everyone’s ideas of free will.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In dystopian 2044, impoverished Wade Watts navigates through the virtual reality world of the OASIS, seeking to reverse his fortune.
Take adventures through time and space, no matter your age!
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Murry children and Calvin O’Keefe crosses universes and space-time to try to find their missing father. Their tale is a mind-bending adventure of good vs. evil.
- His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass/The Subtle Knife/The Amber Spyglass) by Philip Pullman
The Golden Compass/Northern Lights begins this sweeping saga of two children, one born in a parallel universe, one born in our own. In Lyra’s universe, people’s souls exist in animal form, called daemons. Her father and mother represent warring factions determined to control all universes. Filled with talking animals, witches, airships, and strange creatures, His Dark Materials packs an emotional punch.
- The Apothecary Series by Maile Meloy
Set in the 1950s, The Apothecary starts this highly entertaining, thrilling adventure series in which American Janie Scott meets Benjamin Burrows, the son of an apothecary. After Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, the teenagers uncover a terrifying plot that could result in humanity’s end. They use potions with magical effects to try and stop the impending doom.
The first of the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series, book one begins with Kiranmala discovering her parents are missing, and there is a demon in her kitchen! She is recruited by two princes and sent to another dimension, where she must battle the Serpent King and the Rakkhoshi Queen to rescue her parents and save the Earth.
- The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
This delightful middle-grade novel recounts a discarded robot named Roz and her search for love and acceptance.
These mind-bending sci-fi novels will have you thinking for a long time afterward.
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
Raised on Mars, Valentine Michael Smith returns to Earth and tries to fit in. His unusual upbringing makes him seem superhuman, but he attempts to help his Earth kin understand things from a different perspective.
- The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Set in the 24th century when telepaths (“Espers”) are common, and police are telepathic as well. Ben Reich tries to evade the telepathic police for a murder he wants to commit. The story opens up the moral issues of using telepathy, regulated mostly by a guild, but raises issues about the exclusion of telepaths who run astray as well as psychological intrigue.
- Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
Solaris follows humans’ failed attempts to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. The sentient planet tests the researchers with their own memories and emotions.
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
A story spanning time and space and connections between various characters, Cloud Atlas explores the theme of fate with a mind-bending narrative.
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
This classic tale follows the journey of Genly Ai on his mission to the planet Gethen. The ambisexual Gethenians present challenges and growth for Ai.
If you dream of the future lit by neon, shadowed by noir and fueled with intrigue, these seminal cyberpunk novels are for you!
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
In the first novel of the Sprawl Trilogy, hacker Henry Case is hired to help an AI take over the global network called The Matrix.
- All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
A modern cyberpunk tale weaving together magic and science, with wit and feeling.
- Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Set in the 25th century, humans have spread through the galaxy and can be preserved after death via cortical stacks, then essentially regenerated or “re-sleeved” into another body. Takeshi Kovacs stumbles upon a vast conspiracy after his latest “sleeve.”
- The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
This early entry into cyberpunk sci-fi follows teleporter Gully Foyle, an outcast considered dangerous.
- Synners by Pat Cadigan
The synthesizers, or Synners, are people who can turn mental images into products for consumption. The story is told via various characters’ viewpoints.
Discover the latest sci-fi and fantasy stories, while supporting independent authors!
- Mindful Things by Mya Duong
Nineteen-year-old Lauren begins to experience visions and uncovers the fact her deceased parents were witches. A madman hungry for power pursues her, and she must embrace her magical heritage to try to stop him.
- The Infinet by John W. Akers
The inventor Pax works on a secret project that can revolutionize human cognition. His plans are derailed by a computer virus that could end civilization, so Pax is forced to make a choice in how he can help humanity survive.
- Threadwalkers by Joanna Volavka
Miranda Woodward undergoes a discordant series of events following her father’s death. This is a young adult time travel tale.
- Beasts (Beginning Vol. 1) by Mary Catherine Gebhard
Set 1000 years in the future, the World Collective seems utopian. Atlia, a member of the World Collective, soon uncovers a horrifying truth about her society.
- Resonance by Jennifer Greenhall
In Book One of the Resonance Series, Sophia Walsh uses her psionic abilities for good but finds herself the next target of a killer.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Books
At Your Money Geek, we are huge fans of the science fiction genre, everything from military science fiction to novels about space travel, parallel worlds, and fantasy novels. We are always looking for new books to read and interesting sci-fi writers to profile, let us know in the comments what authors you are currently enjoying. – Michael
J. Dianne Dotson is the author of Heliopause: The Questrison Saga: Book One and the upcoming Ephemeris: The Questrison Saga: Book Two (May 28, 2019). Dianne is also a science writer, illustrator, and baker of many tasty treats. Visit jdiannedotson.com to learn more about Dianne and her work.