The 16 Best Science Fiction Books of All Time (Infographic)
Science fiction is the future, and it always has been.
Whether it’s focusing on artificial intelligence, aliens, technology, time travel, space exploration, or other unknown creatures and worlds, all science fiction shares the common theme of examining experiences that no human has ever actually faced before.
We could argue all day what exactly defines the science fiction genre, but most agree that it differs from speculative fiction like Orwell’s “1984” and Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, and their possible dystopian futures.
It also differs from the fantasy genre which can be based in completely fictional worlds. Science fiction stories usually exist in settings some way connected to our current human experience. Sci-fi also almost always features some sort of scientific or technological advancement that significantly influences the story line.
Science fiction is an inherently controversial genre, not only because it features stories that delve into the unknown, but also because its story lines are often metaphors used to critique present day society.
It’s the type of fiction that asks; what’s next for humanity if we continue down our current path?
For the past 200 years, science fiction has created some of the most profound, compelling, and popular novels in the world by examining how emotional, irrational, primal human beings fare in the face of powerful scientific advances they create.
Also, there’s aliens. Not always, but a lot of the time.
Basically, great sci-fi takes the human experience and adds rocket boosters.
To celebrate Science Fiction Day on 2 January 2020, Global English Editing have created an infographic featuring (what we believe) are the 16 best science fiction books of all time.
Check it out below.
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The history of science fiction
There’s no doubt that science fiction is an extremely popular genre today, but where did it all begin?
‘The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz’ by Johann Valentin Andreae is considered the first ever science fiction novel and was published in 1616. In fact, it predates some of the well-known titles, such as Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and more.
The story itself follows a man who travels to a mysterious royal wedding. Divided into seven days, or seven journeys, we follow Christian Rosenkreutz as he goes into a castle full of miracles to assist in the wedding of the king and queen.
The genre has significantly grown since then, which has led to the writing of these 16 amazing titles that are the best sci-fi books of all time. Let’s explore them in greater detail below.
Top books in science fiction
There’s a reason each and every one of these titles has made it on our list. They are incredible works that were well ahead of their time, that have left us questioning everything we know about the world. Most of them still hold up in today’s society and are just as relevant as they were back then.
Happy reading – or watching, since most have been made in TV series or films since being published. Remember, a film is never as good as the book, so make sure you pick up a copy.
1. ‘Dune’ 1965 by Frank Herbert
This well-loved book is considered a masterpiece by many. Despite being set in 1965, this is a book that resonates with any time and any era, which is what has made it so popular still today. While there is no doubt it has weathered in the decades since it was written, there is still plenty one can get from this book today.
2. ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams
This is a title that you’ve no doubt heard of, considering it is still famous today. This book is the first of six in the series, which make up the comedy science fiction by Douglas Adams. There has since been a movie that was released in 2005, which has kept the name alive and fresh for people today. But if you ask us, it’s well worth heading back and reading the original. Like any title, the book is always better!
3. ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ by Kurt Vannegut
This book manages is the perfect blend of funny and suspenseful, combining war, history and science fiction all in one. It does bring with it an almost text-book type vibe with all the details of history brought in, but mixed with a little time travel and it keeps you guessing to the end.
4. ‘The Martian Chronicles’
If you love aliens, then this title is a must-read. It was turned into a mini series in 1980, dealing with exploration to Mars and nuclear war on Earth, leaving us to question everything we know in the process.
5. ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley
If you haven’t heard of this one, then you must have been living under a rock. Written in 1818, this title will have you questioning your morals and redefining the word monster. It’s a book that still remains relevant today.
6.‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley
Some of us were lucky enough to study this title in our school years. And for good reason too. The writing is exceptional and the book itself has so much to teach us. As we head into a Utopian society, we face a world that is entirely emotionless and explore what this means for society. A page turner that is set in 2054 – so we are yet to see if it bears any truth… time will tell.
7.‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card
This 1985 military science fiction novel was turned into a movie in 2013. It’s a race against time to defend Earth from an alien invasion. While the book has been extremely popular (and the movie that followed) the politics involved have been questioned. That didn’t stop the novel been translated into 34 languages.
8. ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ by Madeline L’Engle
This title likely rings a bell due to the recent movie made in 2018. The famous book has been recreated into a family-friendly sci-fi adventure that probably focuses more on the emotions and less on science fiction. The book itself won a Newbery Award and has become an iconic masterpiece.
9. ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’ by Philip K. Dick
Surely the title of this one says it all. If you haven’t heard of it, perhaps you recognise the film adaptation that was born from it: ‘Blade Runner’. There’s war, android slaves and much more that makes us question what really makes us human.
10. ‘Neuromancer’ by William Gibson
This book is one of the best-known works in the cyberpunk genre and the only novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award and the Hugo Award. It was William Gibson’s debut novel in his successful career.
11. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Arthur C. Clarke
An epic science-fiction masterpiece, this book was written alongside a film version – and was actually released after the film. Both Clarke and Kubrick worked on the book together, but only Clarke ended up as the official author.
12. ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov
A fabulous collection of short stories that convey a number of complex ideas about our world. It has since being adapted into film, changing the world’s view of artificial intelligence – all the way back in the 1950s.
13. ‘The Time Machine’ by H.G. Wells
This book is generally credited with the popularisation of time travel that we now seen occurring in books and films alike. In fact, the term ‘time machine’ is one that was coined by Wells and is now used in every day language. The power of the written word.
14. ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne
The novel was originally serialised from March 1869 to June 1870 in Pierre-Jules Hetzel’s fortnightly periodical, the Magasin d’éducation et de récréation. It’s a thrilling tale and an epic adventure all in one that has definitely stood the test of time, still being enjoyed today.
15. ‘The War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells
Another H.G. Wells title to make it into this epic list, and for good reason too. Like the title above, it was first serialised in 1897 by Pearson’s Magazine in the UK and by Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. It was then published as a novel in 1898 and has come out as a film and a TV series since then.
16. ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir
The 2-15 film directed by Ridley Scott and staring Matt Damon is a must-watch. It has been adapted from the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, exploring life in space and surviving against the odds.
This incredible list of titles shows just has amazing the science-fiction genre is and how much it has evolved over time. Though you will note, when it comes to the best books out there, most of them were written well before our time with authors who had great imagination when envisioning these worlds.
Scroll down to check out our infograph full of fun facts about these famous titles and for a synopsis on each one.