In this post, we’ll take a look at the best modern sci-fi books of all time, popular modern fiction authors and their books, and the best sci-fi books of the past years.
What Is Sci-Fi?
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “science fiction”? Shortened as sci-fi, this genre can refer to books, films, and even cartoons that intend to describe imagined developments in science and their effect on life in the future. Often dealing with such topics as advanced technology, space exploration, time travel, and extraterrestrial life, sci-fi books have always attracted a lot of admirers. Dubbed as the literature of ideas, it is particularly popular among book adventure lovers and fantasy books readers. It can be intimidating to find books that are definitely worth reading since science fiction is such a vast genre, so we decided to cover the best modern sci-fi books to read in this literature category. Please, find below our BooksRun choice of the top 10 sci-fi books. We divided our sci-fi book selection into two categories—science fiction classics and modern fiction books to make your navigation and search as easy as possible. If you like other genres, we still have something for you—check our collection of best non-fiction books or get inspired by Bill Gate’s reading list!
Famous Sci-Fi Books—Classics
“Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”—Isaac Asimov
Profound science fiction quotes like the one above indicate very well the spirit of the original
Roadside Picnic Tale of the Troika
By Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
Roadside Picnic Tale of the Troika written by Soviet authors, the Strugatsky Brothers, is one of the best-selling sci-fi books of all time. The story is centered around Red Schuhart, a stalker, who ventured illegally into the Zone. The events take place in the book as the aftermath of the Visitation, the event that happened in several separate locations around the Earth over a two-day period.
This book served as the inspiration to one of the best movie directors of all time (rated by IMDb) Andrei Tarkovsky for his film Stalker. The screenplay was actually written by the Strugatsky Brothers themselves with a slight altering of the plot: in the movie, an illegal guide helps a writer and a scientist to find their way into the devastation in order to find a mythical place known as The Room. Stalker, rated as one of the best sci-fi movies, conveys the true fantasy atmosphere of the story. The movie is full of interesting visual findings and is an example of real psychedelic art.
Trailer of Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky:
The Left Hand of Darkness
By Ursula K. Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness, written by the renowned US writer Ursula K. Le Guin, is a part of the Hainish Cycle, one of the best fantasy series ever written. It is a collection of short stories and novels all set in the fictional Hainish universe, first introduced with the book The Dowry of the Angyar. The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of Genly Ali, who comes from Terra but was sent to the planet of Gethen as the Ekumen’s envoy. His mission is to persuade the Gethen’s nations to join the Ekumen. This novel was among the first books written in the genre known as feminist science fiction.
The Sirens of Titan
By Kurt Vonnegut
Rated as one of the best sci-fi books of all time, The Sirens of Titan comic science fiction novel examines the issues of free will, omniscience, and the purpose of human history. The story is centered around a Martian invasion of Earth. It was announced in 2017 that the novel would be adapted as a TV series under the director Dan Harmon.
The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury
Listed among the top 10 sci-fi books, The Illustrated Man represents a collection of 18 short stories by one of the most famous American writers—Ray Bradbury. The recurring theme uniting all these stories is the conflict between technology and the psychology of people. As one of the best fantasy books series, it was nominated for the International Fantasy Award in 1952. The Illustrated Man is a former member of a carnival freak show, and he has all his body tattooed. These tattoos were allegedly created by a woman traveling in time and every one of them tells a different story.
By Isaac Asimov
Foundation is written by the best-selling American sci-fi writer—Isaac Asimov. Written as a part of the original Foundation trilogy, the story is based on the ideas expressed by Edward Gibbon in his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Asimov developed the concepts of the collapse of the Galactic Empire and how the science of psychohistory can foresee many alternative events. He described these ideas through the events that happen in Seldon’s life.
Best Modern Sci-Fi Books
Books in the modern science fiction category are written by post-1980s authors. It was the time of change in science fiction celebrated by the release of Star Wars in the late 1970s, which marked a renewed interest in the epic. In fact, it has created an inextricable link between sci-fi cinema and sci-fi literature, creating such popular movements as New Hard SF and New Space Opera. These forms have reinvigorated the most traditional forms of the sci-fi genre and brought to light some of the best sci-fi fantasy books ever written.
The Calculating Stars
By Mary Robinette Kowal
Recognized as one of the best modern sci-fi books, The Calculating Stars is a part of the audio anthology called The Lady Astronaut of Mars. It is the story of space exploration involving the Apollo program. After an asteroid devastates the Earth, humanity has to establish a foothold off-world. The book is listed among the best sci-fi books and describes the alternate world with very acute social issues from race relations to gender equality arising as the aftermath once the humans set their presence far away from the Earth. Such social dualism makes this book particularly relevant for our ambiguous times.
By Kim Stanley Robinson
One of the most recommended sci-fi books, Aurora is definitely on our list of the top 10 sci-fi books! The novel tells the story of a generation ship that is traveling to Tau Ceti with the intention of establishing a human colony. This starship is launched from Saturn in 2545 and contains twenty-four self-contained biomes as well as a population of two thousand people. A lot of description in the novel is dedicated to the artificial intelligence of the starship, which makes it extremely resonant with the modern-day AI revolution. Other major themes in the novel concern interpersonal psychology, human migration, and whether star travel is feasible.
By Andy Weir
The Martian, written by Andy Weir, is one of the great examples of the best modern sci-fi books that are heavy on science. It’s a story about the fictional NASA astronaut stranded all alone on Mars and his complex mission to survive the doom and gloom in the harsh environment of the Red Planet. This book is ranked among the top 10 sci-fi books and it is no wonder that it inspired the science fiction movie veteran Ridley Scott to star Matt Damon as Watney for his eponymous adaptation of the book.
Trailer of The Martian by Ridley Scott:
By Dan Simmons
Hyperion is written by the famous American writer Dan Simmons who won the Hugo Award in 1989. He created a whole fantasy book series called the Hyperion Cantos which features multiple characters and timelines. In its structure, it’s reminiscent of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The story in the book evolves after the scientific accident which destroyed the Earth. The actions occur in the 29th century when most of the galaxy was colonized by the Hegemony of Man. This Hegemony maintains an alliance with the TechnoCore, which is the mysterious civilization of self-aware Als who were able to invent all existing high technology.
Old Man’s War
By John Scalzi
A renowned American science fiction author John Scalzi is the winner of the Hugo award in 2008 and in 2013 and is also known for his blog Whatever to which he has been contributing since 1998. He is also the former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Old Man’s War belongs to the military science fiction movement and is on the best modern sci-fi books list. This story revolves around John Perry, who is celebrating his 75th birthday. He did two things on this day: first, he visited his wife’s grave, and second, he joined the army. The old man lives at the time when the humans finally made it to interstellar space, which is the good news. The bad news is that there are not enough planets to live on; moreover, the alien races are trying hard to fight humans.