29 of the best science fiction books everyone should read


    29 of the best science fiction books everyone should read

    Price: £8 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible trial

    Metro 2033, by Dmitry Glukhovsky (2002)

    It’s 2033, and a nuclear apocalypse has forced the rag-tag remains of the human population of Moscow to flee to the underground maze of tunnels below the city. Here they develop independent tribes in each metro station, trade goods and fight against each other. But hidden in the tunnels between the stations hide terrifying flesh-eating mutants and a voice that is driving people mad… This is the premise of Dmitry Glukhovsky’s wildly successful novel, which was later made into a series of video games. Part epic tale, part thriller, the translated story follows a teenager called Artyom, who has to travel to the heart of the Metro through unpredictable dangers to save the remains of humankind. Expect to be shocked.

    Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2003)

    While The Handmaid’s Tale describes a world that seems more plausible by the day, in Oryx and Crake Atwood spins a genetically-modified circus of current trends taken to their absolute extreme – a “bio-engineered apocalypse,” is how one reviewer put it. A number of television adaptations have been mooted, including a now-defunct HBO project with Darren Aronofsky, but this might be one to place alongside The Stars My Destination in the impossible-to-adapt file. The world of the book is vibrant, surreal and disturbing enough.

    Price: £10 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    Read more: The best sci-fi movies everyone should watch once

    The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin (2008)

    Liu Cixin was already one of China’s most revered science fiction writers when, in 2008, he decided to turn his hand to a full-length novel. The Three-Body Problem is the result – an era-spanning novel that jumps between the Cultural Revolution, the present day, and a mysterious video game. The first part of a trilogy, it’s a fascinating departure from the tropes of Western science fiction, and loaded with enough actual science that you might learn something as well as being entertained.

    Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)

    Children of Time is an epic book about a dying Earth. People are leaving, and there’s a plan to keep some of them safe and the human race flourishing elsewhere. However, things don’t quite pan out how they should. This is a saga of a story spanning many, many generations. That’s a tricky thing to pull off and ensure readers still follow with care and attention. But Adrian Tchaikovsky infuses interest, humanity and authenticity into every character and storyline so well. You’ll find yourself rooting for every new character that comes next – even when they’re only distantly related to the one you met a few chapters ago. The book deals with small interactions and feuds through to huge themes about belief, artificial intelligence, legacy, discovery, alienness and much more. It’s no surprise it won the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award. There’s a follow-up called Children of Ruin and (fingers crossed) a possible movie adaptation in the works.

    Price: £8 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible trial

    The Martian, by Andy Weir (2015)

    Andy Weir’s debut novel literally puts the science into science fiction, packing in tonnes of well-researched detail about life on Mars. There’s descriptions of how to fertilise potatoes with your own excrement, and hack a life-support system for a Martian rover – in levels of detail that the movie adaptation starring Matt Damon came nowhere near to reaching. The sassy, pop-culture laden writing style won’t be to everyone’s taste – this book probably won’t get taught in English Literature lessons – but the first-person perspective makes sense for this story of an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet with no way to get home.

    Price: £7.50 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood (2015)

    An odd cocktail of a novel: part techno dystopia, part satire, part sex comedy, part classic Atwood. In a bleak, postlapsarian version of the US, young lovebirds Charmaine and Stan endure a miserable existence sleeping in their car and dodging criminals’ knives. Salvation arrives under the guise of an offer to move to the Positron Project – a gated community modelled after an American 1950s suburb. The rub? All Positron’s couples must spend every other month working in a prison, temporarily swapping homes with another couple, called “alternates”. When both Charmaine and Stan start developing oddball sexual relations with their alternates, things move rapidly south.

    Price: £10 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    The Power, by Naomi Alderman (2016)

    Margaret Atwood also had a hand in this gripping novel, which inverts the premise of The Handmaid’s Tale, and puts women in the ascendancy. Atwood mentored the author, Naomi Alderman, as she wrote this inventive thriller about women and girls discovering a powerful new ability to emit electricity from their hands, up-ending civilisation in different ways across the world. The Power is paced like a television series, and it is, in fact, coming to screens soon via Amazon Studios.

    Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer (2017)

    The Annihilation series showcased Jeff VanderMeer’s gift for the surreal, and he turns it up a notch in Borne – which starts with an unknown scavenger plucking an object from the fur of a giant flying bear in a post-apocalyptic city, and only gets weirder from there as the main character strikes up a friendship with an intelligent sea anemone-like creature called Borne. The story is, it eventually transpires, one of biotechnology run amok – which makes for the most colourful dystopia you’re likely to come across.

    Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Foyles | Audible trial

    Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Adventures, by Mike Ashley (2018)

    Moonrise, from the British Library’s Science Fiction Classics series, could just have easily appeared in the 1950s or even the 1900s in this list. It’s a brilliantly curated anthology of twelve SF short stories about the moon – getting to it, exploring it, contemplating it – with lunar-inclined fiction from H.G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke present and correct but also the likes of Judith Merril’s 1954 Dead Centre, which distills all the potential tragedies of space programs into just a handful of haunting images. From author and science fiction historian Mike Ashley.

    Price: £9 | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery | Audible trial

    Exhalation, by Ted Chiang (2019) 

    Exhalation is a book of short stories rather than a novel, but hear us out. Ted Chiang is a fantastic science-fiction writer who weaves real science and theory into his tales. This makes them feel somehow part of this world despite dealing with a range of classic sci-fi themes, including parallel realities, robot pets and time travel. 

    From a circular time travelling portal in ancient Baghdad to a device that allows you to meet your parallel self that you can trade-in at a local store in the present day, it’s glorious science-fiction filled with wonder and mystery. There are stories and ideas nestled in Exhalation’s pages that stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. Chiang has breathed life into the science-fiction genre, creating stories that feel refreshing and human rather than concerning distant worlds and ideas that can lead to a disconnect. This is evident in his short story Story of Your Life, the source material for Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.

    Price: £8 | Amazon | Waterstones | Audible trial

    The Resisters, by Gish Jen (2020)

    A speculative dystopia set in an ‘Auto America’, Gish Jen’s The Resisters, which was published in early 2020, puts the sport of baseball – of all the things – at the centre of her world, which is divided into people who still get to have jobs, the Netted, as in ‘Aunt Nettie’, as in the internet, and the rest: the Surplus. The story centres on Gwen, who comes from a Surplus family but who has the chance to rise in status when her baseball skills get attention, with Jen taking on surveillance culture and the value of work and leisure.

    Price: £18 | Amazon | Abe Books | Audible trial

    Published at Thu, 28 Oct 2021 13:46:00 +0000


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