Best Science Fiction Books of ALL Time

Dune (1965)

Dune - Hardcover

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Frank Herbert’s epic saga centers around the plight of the Atreides family who are charged with ruling the planet of Arrakis, the only source of a mind-altering, life-preserving spice called mélange.” It’s a story of an intergalactic messiah who transcends rival families and spice-guarding mega-sandworms to take his place as emperor of the universe.

Fun Facts

“Dune’ was rejected by 23 publishers before it was accepted by a company that published automobile repair manuals.

Actor Kyle MacLachlan was 25 years old when he played the 13-year-old main character Paul Atreides in 1984 David Lynch film adaptation

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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Douglas Adams’ novel about Earth’s final survivor proved that the typically bleak sci-fi genre can be incredibly funny too. Protagonist Arthur Dent may have seen his home planet destroyed by aliens building an intergalactic super highway, but the good news is those aliens also have access to the answer to the meaning of life

Spoiler alert: the answer is 42.

Fun Facts

The novel and its sequels were originally inspired by a radio comedy series.

The book inspired an annual holiday called “Towel Day,” celebrating the undisputed most valuable item for an intergalactic hitchhiker.

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Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

Slaughterhouse-Five: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)

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Kurt Vonnegut’s sci-fi tragi-comedy follows Billy Pilgrim, a WWil veteran who becomes “unstuck in time and relocated to the planet of Tralfalmadore where he’s kept in a zoo by aliens. So it goes

Fun Facts

Vonnegut received a flood of sympathy cards in February 1976, the month when his main character Pilgrim dies in the novel.

Kilgore Trout, the main character in Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions, makes a cameo in “Slaughterhouse Five.”

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The Martian Chronicles (1950)

The Martian Chronicles

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TMC is a collection of 28 interconnected short stories about humans colonizing Mars in the face of Earth’s imminent demise in the distant future of 1999. Unfortunately, the natives of Mars are less than thrilled with their uninvited new neighbors, leading to a combination of terrifying, inspiring, and heart-wrenching tales of interplanetary immigration

Fun Fact

  • The book was adapted into a contemporary opera in 2008
  • A 1997 update of the book made all of the dates 31 years later.
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Frankenstein (1818)

Frankenstein: The 1818 Text (Penguin Classics)

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Widely accepted as the first English language science fiction novel, Mary Shelley’s classic features a young scientist gone rogue who creates a semi-human life form known as “the Creature. This early cautionary tale of the consequences of scientific innovation is also a metaphor for human isolation

Fun Facts

Mary Shelley started writing the “Frankenstein when she was 18 years old.
There have been more than 60 films featuring Frankenstein’s monster dating back to 1910.

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Brave new world (1931)

Brave New World

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Aldous Huxley’s novel features a Utopian future in which genetically engineered humans take a drug called “soma en masse to deal with the dystopian pressures of 2054. When a natural born family with powerful unmedicated emotions gets thrown into this “brave new world,” it’s the classic tale of a stranger in a strange land.

Fun Facts

  • Huxley wrote the entire novel in four months.
  • The mass production people factories in the novel were inspired by car maker Henry Ford’s production lines.
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Ender’s game (1985)

Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet)

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Protagonist Andrew “Ender Wiggin is a child soldier being trained in the Earth’s “International Fleet’ in anticipation of a future war against an alien race known as “buggers.” When Ender learns that his simulated battles with alien opponents were real all along, the knowledge of the mass genocides he’s perpetrated inspire him to engage in a very different fight

Fun Facts

The book is suggested reading in some modern day military officer’s training programs.
It was the first science fiction novel to be published entirely online before its print version

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A wrinkle in time (1962)

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet)

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The groundbreaking YA novel by Madeline L’Engle follows the children who go on a journey through the time-space continuum to rescue their father from imprisonment by evil forces on a dark world called Camazotz. It also proves that evil alien forces are no match for the power of love.

Fun Facts

Astronaut Janice Voss said that the book inspired her career path.
The supernatural character Mrs. Which is played by media mogul Oprah Winfrey in the 2018 film adaptation

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Do androids dream of electric sheep? (1968)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

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Better known by its film adaptation name “Blade Runner,” the Philip K. Dick masterpiece follows a bounty hunter out to destroy (aka “retire”) 6 escaped android slaves hiding out in post-nuclear war San Francisco posing as humans. “Sheep asks the eternal Sci-fi question: What really makes us human?

Fun Facts

Dustin Hoffman almost played Harrison Ford’s iconic lead role of Decker in the 1982 film.
The term “Blade Runner” never appears in the book. It was taken from a short story bu a writer named Alan Nourse,

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Neuromancer (1984)

Neuromancer (Penguin Galaxy)

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Hackers gonna hack. William Gibson’s cyberpunk novel tells the story of Case, a disgraced hacker whose been locked out of the worldwide computer network known as “the matrix.” Case is confronted by an artificial intelligence computer called Neuromancer which tries to trap him in a virtual reality but he breaks free and is born anew.

Fun Facts

The novel became the first in a series of books that went on to inspire “The Matrix” film trilogy
The alt rock band Sonic Youth makes reference to the book in their hit song “Hey Joni.”

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (Penguin Galaxy)

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The year 2001 seemed like a long way off when Arthur C. Clarke penned his novel about the evolution of human intelligence that begins with a monolith dropped on Earth by aliens millions of years ago and evolves into a battle between an astronaut battling a man-made supercomputer.

Fun Facts

  • The novel and the film of the same name were developed at the same time and released the same year.
  • The original press release for the film listed the title as “Journey Beyond the Stars
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I, Robot (1950)

I, Robot

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Isaac Asimov’s short story collection is one of the few sci-fi classics that asks readers to show some compassion for the machines by examining ‘robopsychology.” It introduces the “Three Laws robots must follow which are often referenced throughout the sci-fi history, the foremost being no robot may hurt any human or allow them to come to harm.

Fun Facts

The theme for the 2018 “Burning Man’ music festival was “, Robot”
The progressive rock band The Alan Parsons Project named their 1977 album after Asimov’s book.

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The Time Machine (1895)

The Time Machine and Other Stories (Wordsworth Classics)

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H.G. Wells coined the phrase “time machine with this groundbreaking novella featuring a scientist who steps away from his dinner guests in London to travel through history and eventually until the end of human existence before he returns in time for the main course.

Fun Facts

A portion of the book was deleted from and published as a short story called “The Grey Man.”
The novella was the inspiration for several comic books, the first of which was published in 1956.

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Penguin Clothbound Classics)

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It’s not always about outer space. Jules Verne’s early sci-fi novel explores the horrors that lie right here on Earth, deep under the sea This adventure novel follows Captain Nemo who guides the submarine Nautilus into unknown waters in an attempt to escape his grief over terrestrial life.

Fun Facts

  • The furthest the characters in the book go under the seas is actually four leagues
  • Among other places, the characters visit the lost world of Atlantis in the novel.
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The War of the Worlds (1897)

The War of the Worlds (Classics Illustrated Vintage Replica Hardcover)

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Author H.G. Wells introduced the concept of an extraterrestrial alien invasion, a staple of the science fiction historical canon, with this heart-stopping narrative about what could be the end of human existence. A 1938 U.S. radio broadcast of the novel actually sent some Americans into a panic that the invasion was really happening.

Fun Facts

A serialized version of the novel first made its appearance in “Cosmopolitan” magazine.
A 1938 radio broadcast reading of the manuscript was so compelling that many listeners believed it was an actual news broadcast.

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The Martian (2011)

The Martian

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This modern twist on life on the red planet features an astronaut stranded on Mars as the title character. His struggle to survive while his crew attempt to rescue him spawn a delightful array of speculative theories about everything from extraterrestrial farming to experimental rocket science

Fun Facts

The original manuscript was self-published online in serial format after the author received a slew of rejections
A page of the script from the film adaptation of the novel was launched aboard an exploration test flight of the Orion spacecraft in 2014

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