Last updated: August 25, 2021

Our method

22Products analysed

16Hours spent

3Evaluated articles

75User reviews

The best science fiction books have futuristic narratives that introduce scientific or technological discoveries and their possible developments in a utopian or dystopian society.

The narrative can be presented in a believable or unfeasible manner, depending on the theme, year of release and author of the work. Learn about the best science fiction books - classic and contemporary - in this article.




Summary

  • The themes dealt with in classic and contemporary science fiction books are not very different, what changes is the perspective of the narrative, because over the past 200 years, the relationship between science and society has changed a lot.
  • The most popular themes in science fiction books are alien invasions, relationship between humans and robots, existence of parallel universes, interstellar travel and time travel.
  • Nowadays, science fiction books have gained new sub-genres such as Afrofuturism, Cyberpunk, Dystopias, Soft Sci-Fi, Hard Sci-Fi, New Weird and Space Opera, we will talk more about these genres throughout the article.

The best science fiction books: Our picks

Buying Guide

One of the most widely read fictional literary genres by young and old alike is science fiction. Reading a book of this genre is capable of transporting you to a futuristic utopian or dystopian setting.

Books in this genre deal with themes related to science, technology, alien creatures, space race, time travel and parallel universes. Find out more information about science fiction books in this Buying Guide.

Imagem de uma mulher lendo um livro.

Science fiction books are a good way to spark young people's interest in science. (Source: Karolina Grabowska/ Pexels.com)

What are the characteristics of a science fiction book?

Also called Sci-Fi (short for Science Fiction), science fiction is a literary genre that discusses how scientific and technological revolutions impact the lives of human beings throughout history.

Generally, the conflicts between science and humanity are projected in the distant future and in different scenarios such as parallel universes and other planets, giving a fantastic tone to science fiction narratives.

The characters can be human beings, extraterrestrial beings, robots, humanoids, frightening creatures, among others. It is also common for elements of fantasy, horror or drama to be incorporated into science fiction narratives.

Imagem de uma nave espacial.

One of the most popular themes in science fiction books is the arrival of aliens on planet Earth. (Source: Geralt/ Pixabay.com)

How to start reading science fiction books?

If you are interested in reading science fiction works, start with the classics. These books have served and still serve as inspiration for contemporary science fiction books, and many authors make references to these works in their texts.

The themes covered in classic and contemporary books are basically the same

The themes dealt with in classic and contemporary books are basically the same: Extraterrestrial invasions, coexistence of humans and robots, discovery of parallel universes, travel between galaxies and time travel.

But science fiction books make extrapolations about technology, human and biological sciences based on the time when the narrative was written, that is, according to the scientific and technological advances of the time.

What themes are covered in the best science fiction books?

Whether classic or contemporary science fiction books, these titles have similar themes. We've prepared a table with the most popular themes of this universe:

Theme Features
Extraterrestrial Alien beings invade planet Earth
Parallel universes Completely different universes or alternative timelines
Intergalactic travel Can occur inside or outside the Solar System
Time travel Through time machines or wormholes
Cyberpunk Characteragen in a technological but decadent future
Robots and Androids Conflicts arising from the relationship with artificial intelligences

In addition to the themes listed above, more modern science fiction books deal with slightly different themes that have emerged over the years. We have prepared a second table to present them:

Theme Characteristics
Afrofuturism Combines science fiction with African mythologies
Dystopias Portrays societies that are technologically advanced but suffer from serious social problems
Soft Sci-Fi Portrays more human dramas than scientific issues
Hard Sci-Fi Brings technical language based on experimental science
Space Opera Portrays adventures, romances and epic battles in outer space
New Weird Brings a more current science fiction, with elements of mystery, horror, fantasy or police plot

What is dystopia and how is it treated in science fiction books?

As we briefly mentioned in the previous section, one of the themes addressed in modern science fiction books is dystopia. While utopia describes a relatively perfect society, dystopia represents life in an unbalanced society with a tyrannical government, cruel laws and/or persecution of minorities.

Some of the stories take place on other planets or in parallel realities, but most of them take place on planet Earth, after some environmental disaster, health breakdown, civil war or the rise to power of a totalitarian group.

Is it worth watching movies based on science fiction books?

Many of the classic science fiction books have been adapted into movies, some have countless versions, released at different times - for example, H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds was adapted for the big screen in 1953 and 2003.

So, if you have enjoyed a film of this genre, it is very possible that you will enjoy the book on which it is based and which gives an in-depth version of the story and the characters. You can also read the book first and watch the film later, to see how the story was portrayed on the big screen.

Ilustração do universo.

Sci-fi book adaptations are visually stunning. (Source: Kellepics/ Pixabay.com)

Buying criteria: How to compare different science fiction books

Science fiction is the genre that addresses issues related to the impact of science and technology on humanity. To choose the best science fiction book analyse the sub-genre, theme, year of publication and brief author biography.

We recommend that you start with the classics, so you will be able to easily understand modern science fiction books. Choose a title based on the buying criteria listed below:

We will detail each of the topics throughout this section. We hope you enjoy!

Science fiction sub-genres

As we introduced and detailed in the section "What topics are covered in the best science fiction books?",this literary genre encompasses several sub-genres that can blend together.

The most common themes are aliens, robots and androids, parallel universes, interstellar travel, time travel, dystopias, cyberpunk, afrofuturism, Space Opera, Soft Sci-Fi, Hard Sci-Fi and New Weird.

Imagem de um cenário futurista.

Science fiction books feature narratives set in the near or distant future. (Source: Larry Teo/ Unsplash.com)

Year of publication

Science fiction books use a fictional narrative to analyse scientific, technological and social advancements as per current scenario, but in a slightly exaggerated manner. In this sense, analyse the year of publication of the book.

A futuristic narrative written in 1900 will be very different from one written in the 2000s, but you will find some similarities. With the reading, you will be able to analyse which aspects advanced and which went backwards and how the advances were seen by the society of the time.

Author

Among the main science fiction novelists, we can mention the following authors, both male and female, who are renowned for their respective works:

  • H.G. Wells: The War of the Worlds (extraterrestrial invasion), The Invisible Man (technological invention) and The Time Machine (time travel);
  • Isaac Asimov: I, Robot (relationship between humans and robots), The Steel Caves (robots) and Foundation Trilogy (dystopia);
  • Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth - both have adventure elements;
  • Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale - dystopia;
  • Mary Shelley: Frankenstein - science fiction with elements of horror;
  • Arthur C. Clarke: 2001: A Space Odyssey (interstellar travel), The End of Childhood (alien invasion) and Rendezvous with Rama (space race);
  • Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (dystopia) Electric Dreams (short stories) and A Reflection in the Dark (dystopia);
  • George Orwell: The Animal Revolution and 1984 - both are dystopian.

You do not have to read only the books of the established authors, but the chances of choosing a rather interesting book are higher. And if you like one of the books of these authors, you will probably like the other works of the writer.

Paperback or hardback

You can find science fiction books in two versions: Paperback and hardback. The paperback book is cheaper but less sturdy, so be very careful when handling it.

The hardback, on the other hand, is more resistant, as it doesn't crumple or tear easily, keeping it preserved for many years. However, hardback is heavier and more expensive.

Imagem de um homem lendo um livro.

You can buy a book with a hardback or a paperback cover. (Source: Lou Levit/ Unsplash.com)

Edition

You can find many classic science fiction books that are re-released in commemorative editions when they reach 25 or 50 years since their first release.

Commemorative editions can usually be found in single or boxed versions, with hardcover or removable cover, on different paper, with illustrations, collector's items and more.

(Featured Image Source: Karolina Grabowska/ Pexels.com.com)

Reviews