Let us also understand this post as the best science fiction books (sci-fi books of the 21st century) Science fiction is a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculations based what is going on now or the future of science.
Science fiction is found in books, art, television, films, games, theatre, and other media.
Science fiction, whose roots go back to ancient times, is related to fantasy, horror, and superhero fiction, and contains many subgenres.
However, its exact definition has long been disputed among authors, critics, and scholars.
Science fiction literature, film, television, and other media have become popular and influential over much of the world. Besides providing entertainment, it can also criticize present-day society, and is often said to inspire a “sense of wonder”.
“Science fiction” is difficult to define precisely, as it includes a wide range of concepts and themes.
American science fiction and fantasy writer James Blish wrote: “Wells used the term originally to cover what we would today call “hard” science fiction, in which a conscientious attempt to be faithful to already known facts (as of the date of writing) was the substrate on which the story was to be built, and if the story was also to contain a miracle, it ought at least not to contain a whole arsenal of them.”
According to American writer and professor of biochemistry Isaac Asimov, “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology. “American science-fiction author and engineer Robert A.
Heinlein wrote that “A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.
10 Best Science Fiction Books
1. Exhalation by Ted Chiang
In these nine provocative and poignant stories, Ted Chiang tackles some of humanity’s oldest questions along with new quandaries only he could imagine.
In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances.
In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal.
In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.
“Chiang produces deeply moving drama from fascinating first premises… These stories are brilliant experiments, and his commitment to exploring deep human questions elevates them to among the very best science fiction.”
2. The Vanished Birds
There are two ways to describe this gorgeously-crafted book: Plot vs. Feeling.
The Vanished Birds follows Nia, a ship captain who travels from planet to planet, never to settle down.
One day, Nia becomes the guardian of a mute boy who, it is believed, can travel the stars in the blink of an eye.
How? Nobody knows because nobody has seen it happen.
But the true experience of this novel is something special to behold. Because Nia must fly vast distances, all of her planet-bound friends and lovers age much faster than her.
This forces her to adapt, to live a transient lifestyle with few companions who, ultimately, she may have to leave behind.
Read This if You Love:
- Science fiction focused on “meaning” rather than scientific explanations
- Nomads who prefer not to fit in with the rest of society
- The painful ennui of nostalgia and the hope of redemption
At its heart, The Vanished Birds is a story about love and regret. Its equal parts are cozy and alienating as you begin to feel the vast weight of time and distance between characters.
3. Red Moon By Kim Stanley Robinson
“Red Moon,” the latest novel from legendary science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, blends realism and drama in a way that instantly transports the reader to the lunar surface.
The book, which takes place 30 years into the future, opens on the journeys of Fred Fredericks, an American quantum engineer working for a Swiss company, and Ta Shu, a poet, Feng shui expert, and celebrity travel reporter to the moon where they are traveling to work.
In the world of the book, China has become the first political and technological entity to inhabit the moon in a serious, long-term way.
At first, as a reader, you may find yourself adjusting to the character’s clumsy movements in lunar gravity and anticipating what life on the moon might really be like, but the story takes a shocking turn, and life on the moon turns out to be much different from what you may have expected.
“Red Moon” does an incredible job immersing the reader in a captivating alien, yet still familiar, world while at the same time staying grounded in a reality that we could truly one day face. ~Chelsea Gohd.
4. Devolution by Max Brooks
The author of the incredible World War Z is back with a novel about the origins – and denial – of a certain kind of superpredator.
Katie and her family were the newest members of a surprisingly high-tech, off-the-grid community in Washington.
But when their community got cut off from the rest of the world by lava flows from Mt. Rainier, the survivors started to turn against each other. And as Katie’s new world fell to pieces, there were report.
Strange sightings in the woods.
Something happened out there.
This novel takes Bigfoot (Bigfeet?) very seriously.
This book is not just about the legend, it’s also about the human ability to deny and blur the truth when it lurks at the corners of your vision.
You will love this book if you love:
- The multiple, “reporter narrative” style of World War Z
- Brutal action, suspense, and questions that start with “What if…?”
5. The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
Kameron is an author that has been previously nominated for the Clarke Award.
She was one of the favorites for the year she was last nominated, for her novel God’s War, but the book that ultimately won that year was Ancillary Justice, which pretty much won every award going.
A lot of people have said to me that, in another year with the same book, Kameron could have won the award very easily, so I’d definitely recommend checking that title out, too.
Military science fiction is a hugely popular genre trope—the war with the evil empire, the machines, the bugs, et cetera et cetera—so on the one hand this book is absolutely embedded within the heartlands of the genre but, I can tell you now, Kameron has tricks aplenty up her authorial sleeve.
The central science fictional concept here isn’t a new super-weapon, spaceship, super-soldier, implacable alien race or similar, but rather the means of delivering soldiers to the battlefield near-instantaneously as light transmissions, which is a fascinating twist of the ‘damn I wish I’d thought of that’ variety.
It’s a fiendishly clever concept because it opens up all kinds of plotlines simply by following the logic of the technology embedded at its center.
What does it do to your humanity to be embedded suddenly into new warzones again and again?
What if you’re transported to the wrong place, or you suspect you’re being sent to places other than the one detailed in your mission?
People are talking about this book in the same way they do about absolute classic works of science fiction like Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein or The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, and like both those books, the freedom of science fiction proves to be a very powerful tool for talking about contemporary issues around duty, patriotism and the dehumanizing effects of conflict.
6. A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
In terms of science fiction tropes, the ‘intergalactic empire’ is what we’re dealing with here.
Once you’ve got a canvas as wide as the universe, anything goes—so what’s interesting about this, then, is that zeroing in on the political detail, the protocol, and so on, rather than the intergalactic war.
There’s nothing better in science fiction than that cosmic sweep with the idea that actually one person in the right place at the right time can make a difference.
Harking back to what we were saying about world-building: the twin concepts of a new arrival in a strange land and the mystery with the predecessor are both plot devices designed to drag you in as a reader, and help you explore the setting, especially its politics in this case, at the same time as the central protagonist.
The mystery is the engine that keeps driving it forward; that investigative plot and science fiction go very well hand in hand.
It’s a great way of actually being able to explore the universe that you’ve created.
Plus, the idea our central protagonist is a new arrival means that, no matter how skilled or special they might be in their own right, they’re starting at a disadvantage, which also helps drive the plot and avoids that cliché of science fiction, the super-competent indomitable hero.
Personally I like my heroes to know what they’re doing—you wouldn’t want Luke always picking up his lightsaber by the wrong end after all—but at the same time not so improbable that suspension of disbelief goes out the airlock.
7. The Book of Koli by MR Carey
An apocalyptic event has transformed much of the world into an overgrown forest filled with exquisitely dangerous plants. Grasping vines, murderous trees… and worse.
The only safe place is inside the walls. Unfortunately for a young boy named Koli, he is forced outside of those walls – and must start an adventure that will unravel his understanding of the world around him.
This is a great setup for a trilogy – so if you’re looking for a new apocalyptic adventure with several more books on the way, this is your best shot.
The Book of Koli shines the most in its narrative style. If you love that “campfire storytelling” feel, you will enjoy this immensely.
Related Article: 15 Best Artificial Intelligence Books| For Experts and Beginners
In the future, the algorithms determine almost every facet of your life. They know what you like, what you want, they anticipate your needs before you even think about it.
The algorithms are always right.
But one man disagrees. Unfortunately for him, he may be the most powerless human being on the planet.
That is until the algorithms purchase one ridiculous gift for him.. giving him no choice but to fight back.
Love Semi-defunct robots and people who are just trying their best want humorous science fiction that starts off as absurd… and slowly gets closer to the truth.
Despite its light-hearted tone, Quality and will make you think long and hard about your future.
9. The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3)
In an alternate 1960s, an earth-wide catastrophic event propels space exploration to global priority #1. Colonizing Mars becomes their only hope.
Intrigue, sabotage, and horribly misguided groups of people do everything in their power to destroy the Astronauts’ painstaking success.
Fortunately for humans everywhere, one woman steps up to the plate. But she does not go bravely alone – she enlists the help of the talented women (and a few men) in her field.
- An alternate history of the Space Race… on steroids
- Warm interpersonal relationships between main characters
- The empowerment of historically disenfranchised groups
I think it’s fair to say that, with this series, Mary Robinette Kowal has finally found her stride in the novel-writing world. If you think you might enjoy science fiction, you will not regret picking up this series.
10. Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2)
Brilliant. A sequel to one of the most original series I’ve read in a long time.
Children of Time is a series that explores the concept of Uplifting: using technology to rapidly improve the intelligence of other lifeforms.
The Children of Time series is for you.
In the first novel, Adrian Tchaikovsky spins a tale that spans hundreds of years.
A race of alien “spiders” are bombed by a virus that slowly rearranges their genes, and helps them reach human levels of sentience.
Unfortunately, some of their ancient natural enemies receive the very same blessing.
Why do we read science fiction?
The immediate answer mostly is escapism: to enter into fantastic worlds that are more exciting than mundane reality.
But that’s a simplistic answer that fails to explain why we’re drawn to science fiction, which, while speculative, often nods to realism and presents a thoughtful perspective on the future – frequently one that’s informed by scientific and technological reality.
The draw of science fiction is more nuanced than a desire to escape the mundane.
Science fiction deals with a myriad of societies, encouraging the possibility of different futures and commenting on the change, so it’s got to make an impression on even the least discerning reader.
As it stimulates thought beyond the present here and now, science fiction is able to perform services for the progression of humankind as no other genre can.
It expands the theories being worked on now and explores what may be possible in the future.
Today’s world is more fictional in many ways than any science fiction writer might have possibly imagined pre-1950.
Not only does the average western person have tiny portable devices which allow them to communicate worldwide, watch television, search through libraries around the world, and access maps and information of their immediate surroundings; we have test-tube babies, have the option of flying just about anywhere on earth and are on the verge of human cloning
Science fiction is relevant, important, and has much to offer the world, giving meaning to life, enlightening readers, and as all those characteristics in a way that no other literature can hope to capture.
Much more than five-armed blue monsters with ray guns kidnapping shrieking scantily clad women, good science Fiction holds an important place in the direction and future of humankind.
Reading science fiction enables us to reflect on the ways people interact with each other, with technology, with our environment.
A good science fiction work posits one vision for the future, among countless possibilities, that is built on a foundation of realism.
In creating a link between the present and the future, science fiction invites us to consider the complex ways our choices and interactions contribute to generating the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let us look at a number f things users have shown interest in, around best science fiction books.
What is the best science fiction story?
West Port Library listed the current 10 best-selling sci-fi in 2023:
- Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.
- Victory City by Salman Rushdie.
- Encore in Death by J.D. Robb.
- Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes.
- Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.
- Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin.
- The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes.
- Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult; Jennifer Finney Boylan.
What are the best science fiction books for teens?
From sources across the web, here are the best science fiction books for Adolescence:
- Scythe Neal by Shusterman, 2016
- Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, 2011
- Divergent by Veronica Roth, 2011
- Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, 2005
- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, 2008
- Illuminae by Jay Kristoff, 2015
- The Giver by Lois Lowry, 1993
- Warcross by Marie Lu, 2017
- Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, 2010
What is the best science fiction story?
This award-winning story book in fiction is Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, 1941.
This science fiction book was voted by the SFWA as the greatest sci-fi short story of all time, and still carry weight in today’s ranking.
Nightfall has always been the most popular choice among other all-time great science fiction books.