There are so many astounding science fiction books out there that this has been one of the hardest lists for me to put together.

I have added and culled but finally I have a list of the best 15 Science Fiction Books of all time.

I realise that not everyone will be satisfied with this list - so please use the comments to add the books that I couldn’t due to space and time.

In no particular order…


1. The Time Machine H G Wells


The Time Machine was first published in 1895, making it the oldest book on this list.

Considered by many to be one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, this book coined the term “Time Machine” which is almost exclusively used to refer to any device that allows humans to move through time.

The book’s main character is an amateur inventor who lives in London. He is never identified, instead being referred to simply as “The Time Traveller”.

Having demonstrated to friends that time is a fourth dimension, and that a suitable device can move back and forth in this fourth dimension, he completes the building of a larger machine capable of carrying himself.

He immediately sets off on a journey into the future.

Buy it at Amazon


2. Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlein


Stranger in a strange land tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by Martians on the planet Mars, upon his return to Earth in early adulthood.

The novel explores his interaction and transformation of Earth culture. Typically of Heinlein, this book cover a variety of human taboos, including homosexuality, nudism, and cannibalism.

The book introduces the character of Jubal Harshaw who is a central figure in many later books by Heinlein.

It won the 1969 Hugo award and has not been out of print since the first publication.

Eventually Stranger in a Strange Land became a cult classic, attracting many readers who would not normally have read a work of science fiction.

Buy it at Amazon


3. The Lensman Series E E “Doc” Smith


I remember one summer in my childhood when all the other kids were busy hanging out at the movies and playing video games, that I spent every day lying in the backyard all day reading every book that E E Smith wrote (luckily my dad is a keen Sci-Fi fan so he had them all).

Doc Smith was my introduction to Science Fiction - and what an introduction it was! The Lensman series was the first set of science fiction novels conceived as a series.

It was also the original source which introduced many innovative concepts into science fiction, and a variety of ideas newly introduced in the series later were taken and used to solve non-fictional problems.

In this sense the series was ground-breaking and defined an entire genre.

Buy it at Amazon


4. 2001 - A Space Odyssey Arthur C Clarke


Interestingly, this book was developed concurrently with Stanley Kubrick’s film and published after the release of the movie.

In the background to the story, an ancient and hidden alien race uses a mechanism with the appearance of a large crystal Monolith (black in the film) to investigate worlds all across the galaxy and to encourage the development of intelligent life.

This novel was followed by three others: 2010 (also made into a movie), 2069, and 3001. As yet no plans exist for the remaining two to be made in to films.

Buy it at Amazon


5. Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 Book Cover

The novel presents a future in which all books are banned and critical thought is suppressed.

The central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a “fireman” (which, in this case, means “book burner”).

451 degrees Fahrenheit is stated as “the temperature at which book-paper catches fire, and burns …” It was originally published as a shorter novella, The Fireman, in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.

Fahrenheit 451 takes place in an unspecified future time in a hedonistic and rabidly anti-intellectual America that has completely abandoned self-control and bans the possession of books.

People are now only entertained by in-ear radio and an interactive form of television.

The protagonist, Guy Montag, is a fireman, certain that his job—burning books, and the houses that hold them, and persecuting those who own them—is the right thing to do.

Buy it at Amazon


6. The Foundation Series Isaac Asimov


The term ‘Foundation Series’ is often used to include the Robot Series and Empire Series, which are set in the same fictional universe.

In total there are fourteen novels and dozens of short stories written by Asimov, and six novels written by other authors after his death.

The series is highly acclaimed, deservedly winning the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1965.

The premise of the series is that scientist Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept devised by Asimov.

Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone for anything smaller than a planet or an empire.

Using these techniques, Seldon foresees the fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting thirty thousand years before a second great empire arises.

These books are captivating and if you start book one, you won’t stop until you finish book fourteen.

Buy it at Amazon


7. Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut

J Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse-Five; or, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death is a 1969 novel by Kurt Vonnegut.

Widely regarded as a classic, it combines science fiction elements with an analysis of the human condition from an uncommon perspective, using time travel as a plot device and the bombing of Dresden in World War II, the aftermath of which Vonnegut witnessed, as a starting point.

A disoriented and ill-trained American soldier named Billy Pilgrim is captured by German soldiers and is forced to live in a makeshift prison.

Billy has become “unstuck in time” for unexplained reasons so he randomly and repeatedly visits different parts of his life, including his death.

He meets, and is later kidnapped by, aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, who exhibit him in a Tralfamadorian zoo with Montana Wildhack, a pornographic movie star.

Buy it at Amazon


8. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science fiction comedy series created by Douglas Adams.

The series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman who, with his friend Ford Prefect, an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, escapes the demolition of Earth by a bureaucratic alien race called the Vogons.

Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin and part-time Galactic President, unknowingly saves the pair from certain death.

He brings them aboard his stolen spaceship, the Heart of Gold, whose crew rounds out the main cast of characters: Marvin, the Paranoid Android, a depressed robot, and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party who he soon realises is the only other survivor of Earth’s destruction.

After this, the characters embark on a quest to find the legendary planet of Magrathea and the Question to the Ultimate Answer.

Buy it at Amazon


9. Dune Frank Herbert


Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965, and is frequently cited as the best-selling science fiction novel in history.

Dune is set far in the future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble Houses that owe allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino.

The novel tells the story of young Paul Atreides as he and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the only source of the spice melange, the most important and valuable substance in the universe.

In a story that explores the complex interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, the fate of Paul, his family, his new planet and its native inhabitants, as well as the Padishah Emperor, the powerful Spacing Guild, and the secretive female order of the Bene Gesserit, are all drawn together into a confrontation that will change the course of humanity.

Buy it at Amazon


10. Neuromancer William Gibson


This ’80s novel caused a sensation when it was published. Set in a near-future world, this novel helped to popularize the cyberpunk genre.

The novel uses visual power and imagery it’s predecessors were not able to achieve.

The main character of Neuromancer is Case, a console cowboy, who, by linking his brain directly with computers, pirates data kept in the cyberspace matrix.

This is simulated by a worldwide database with a crippled nervous system.

With the aid of Molly (who has concealed cybernetic weapons), they embark on a violent adventure.

Buy it at Amazon


11. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K Dick


Published in 1968, this novel, even today, is years ahead of its time. Set in the future, the World War had obliterated millions with entire species extinct.

This causes the humans to look for a new home planet. However, large corporations build artificial animals, which look extremely realistic, and are successful in creating artificial humans, used for slave labor.

This causes great fear amongst the human population and the androids are subsequently banned.

The androids are on the run, and Rick Deckard is brought in to hunt down the escapees to “retire” them.

This book was the inspiration for Blade Runner.

Buy it at Amazon


12. Gateway Frederik Pohl


Winner of both the Hugo, and Nebula Awards, Gateway is the story of the ultimate futuristic goldrush! Set in the 21st century, Gateway – a large asteroid - has been found; containing hundreds of ancient space ships.

All of these ships have pre-programmed courses set. Little is known about the builders of these ships, the Heechee.

The curious humans explore the destinations that are preset which result in either vast wealth, or death.

The two main characters are Robinette Broadhead, who becomes a prospector, and Sigrid, his digital psychotherapist.

Much of the novel consists of Broadhead’s conversation with Sigrid, interspersed with his memories of Gateway and the journeys he has taken in the Heechee ships.

A slow moving thinking person’s novel which builds to an amazing crescendo.

Buy it at Amazon


13. Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game

Taken from home at the tender age of 7, surrounded by enemies, with no hope and impossible odds, he is Earth’s last hope. Ender excels in the field of combat.

The invasion of the alien insects ‘buggers’ looms over the Earth. Ender is put to the test when he leads Earth’s defensive and retailitory attack against the aliens.

The dialogue, visuals, and details bond you to the characters and make this story incredible.

Buy it at Amazon


14. 1984 George Orwell


George Orwell wrote 1984 a year before his death to show the world the grim and bleak future of a society subject to totalitarianism.

It’s a disturbing and chilling story of Big Brother, where sex is frowned upon and only to be used for reproductive purposes.

It was written in 1949, four years after the end of WWII and the paranoia and fear that arose from that time, as well as the threat of communism, gave birth to 1984.

In the novel the world has been grouped into three opposing forces: Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.

Winston Smith, of Oceania, is living in London, a society where you are monitored constantly through telescreens which are in every room.

Even if you are physically alone, you are always being watched and individualism is forbidden.

The government provides the ‘entertainment’: movies and music. Crime is monitored by the Thought Police, an elite and secretive government organization that can erase you and all records of your existence.

Buy it at Amazon


15. Brave New World Aldous Huxley


Huxley is one of my favourite writers. Brave New World is set in a dystopian future which anticipates developments in reproductive technology, biological engineering, and sleep-learning that combine to change society.

The world the novel describes is a utopia, though an ironic one: humanity is carefree, healthy and technologically advanced.

Warfare and poverty have been removed and everyone is permanently happy.

The irony is that all of these things have been achieved by eliminating many things that humans consider to be central to their identity — family, culture, art, literature, science, religion, and philosophy.

It is also a hedonistic society, taking pleasure from promiscuous sex and drug use, especially the use of soma, a powerful drug taken to escape pain and bad memories through hallucinations.

Buy it at Amazon

I must, of course, give a tip of the hat to Jules Verne who should be on the list but I just couldn’t decide who to cut in his favor.



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Date: 2 Feb 2009 | Author: mesmerX | Category: News, Pictures | Views: 54815

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Comments: 26

i believe that the icarus hunt by timothy zahn should be on this list, it combines a good detective/mystery and a sci fi plot that is well fleshed out

Canticle for Leibowitz, Miller
The Faded Sun, Cherryh
Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin
Hyperion, Simmons
Stainless Steel Rat, Harrison
Clockwork Orange, Burgess

I am amazed that Verne never makes any of these lists. At least one of his works should be at the top. The Time Machine is at least a fairly good nomination for number 1 though.

I second the nomination for the Hyperion Cantos and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Also I like Speaker for the Dead better than Ender, but Ender is more popular, so I understand.

Why is it that these lists are always overloaded with ancient books that, while great and groundbreaking in their time, have since been surpassed a thousand times.

Lensman? Give me a break.

E. N.
I feel that Simmons' Hyperion should be considered.


New science fiction explores reality of intergalactic space travel

David Schramm’s Black Market Memories tells the story of a community struggling to find the meaning of endless life in deep space

RIVERVIEW, Fla. – Black Market Memories by David Schramm depicts a realistic scenario of how humans become intergalactic space explorers and settlers in a compelling tale of science and adventure.

Black Market Memories records significant events that happen in the third and fourth millennium, 250 light years from Earth. The new community of Jamestown is established and is attempting to understand and adjust to its new life in deep space. The government and its citizens work to establish an economy and stable politics while wrestling with technological, environmental and social challenges as a criminal underworld emerges.

Schramm describes Black Market Memories as a piece of history from our future in deep space. Frustrated by other intergalactic adventures that rely upon fantasy science such as Faster Than Light and Warp Drives, Worm Holes, and Star Gates, Schramm shows us a future based on real physics and achievable engineering. Black Market Memories also stresses the importance of emotional relationships among humans and the vital connection we have with all life on Earth.

Black Market Memories is available online at and other channels.

About the Author
David Schramm studied physics and mathematics at Rutgers University. After a career with IBM, he invented milestone artificial intelligence software and went on to work for NASA until 1986. He then created large-scale computer system architectures for many of our largest corporations. Since retiring, Schramm has been traveling the world on his boat, Jenny.

David Schramm



Enders game should be #1

Thank you for a great list. I'm definitely going to pick up the ones here and in the comments that I haven't read yet. It's nice to have an individual list instead of the sterile, based on book sales or awards type lists you get at the NYTimes and other place like that. Obviously those are useful, but I'd rather get a recommendation from someone who's been influenced by the books and can speak to their greatness. Even if it's not the same list I would have made :)

Nice list - but what about Olaf Stapledon and his works of Star Maker and Last and First Men for which Arthur C. Clarke claimed to be "Probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written." These 2 books should definitely be on the list. I think you need a top 20! :) Thanks :D

Ender's Game is a great choice for the list.
Fahrenheit 451 makes all these lists but I found it hard to read years ago. Maybe I should give it another try. Thanks for the write up!


smile wink wassat tongue laughing sad angry crying

I adore The Time Machine. It's my favorite book.
Stranger in a Strange land is also amazing!!!

I would include "nSpace" by Dovin Melhee
Lots of new ideas -- Completely out-of-the-box.

wassatI would have inserted Gene Wolf's Shadow of the Torturer?

More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K LeGuin
The total story of the Instrumentality by Cordwainer Smith
Phil Dick's Man in a High Castle
should head that list...
others like writers C.M. Kornbluth and Fred Brown...
have been ignored...

I would not include The Time Machine. It is good but not that good and I would rather have War of the Worlds.
2001? Wow, not even one of Clarke's better novels. Very average novel.
Enders Game is wildly overrated and has not aged very well.
Not a terrible list but there are much better SF novels than most on this list.

dune sucked

J.S. Mills
Overall a great list. I've read them all, with the exception of the E.E. Smith. That'll be rectified shortly.

My personal additions would be Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger Tiger) which I consider my favorite of all time, and Cat's Cradle, which I rank slightly higher than SH5.

Mr. Ed: everyone's list would be different, no? So create your own.

As for as Vonnegut, most of his books "seem" science fictiony (made up fictiony) whether he intended them so. I used to read "literary fiction" and claimed myself that Vonnegut wasn't a SF writer. But I now correct myself. He was a literary science ficion writer!

Douglas Adams is on his list because the author wants it to be, not because he's popular. HGttG is definetely in my top 50.

Le Guin is a great writer. But none of her books are in my top 15, or even top 50 probably. Again, it's a personal choice.

I'll check out the authors you said at the bottom of your post. Going to the used bookstore today!

And of your 2nd post, Mr. Ed, I think that SiaSL is by far the best Heinlein book, with Starship Troopers coming in second. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is quirky and the narration often grated on my nerves. Sort of like if Jubal Hershaw would have narrated is how it sounded.

Although there are hundreds of books that could have been included, I have to mention that A Clockwork Orange should be in here. Also Douglas Adams, while not great in a traditional sense, was a comic genius.

wassatPerhaps this is not the best arguement, as TWILIGHT is popular. But I was going to say, why is Adams popular? Because he is great. However there are so many horrid authors that become popular.

I'd add "This Perfect Day" by Ira Levin

Mr Ed
I wanted to add that i thought a better choice of books by Heinlein would have been The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

This books depicts a " Fairly " accurate moon colony - decent realistic space war - minning for ice on the moon ( which Nasa is now talking about ) and alot of world problems that look alot closer to the truth than they did back when it was published

Jagmeet Singh Hanspal
How about "Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions", an 1884 Novel. Although, considered difficult to comprehend and imagine by many.

Mr Ed
Kurt Vonnegut has often stated that he is not a Sci Fi writer and only used it as a plot device

Douglas Adams only gets on the list due to popularity not greatness

Ursula Le Guin's should be added to this list either The Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed or The Lathe of Heaven or even the Wizzard of EarthSea Books

Not to even mention CJ Cherryh or Andre Norton or Norman Spinrad off the top of my head

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