Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
What are your favourite sci-fi books?
66 points by pskittle on Feb 16, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

Anything by Alastair Reynolds - his Revelation Space series is great, and House of Suns is a fantastic one-off. He's probably the closest to Ian Banks in creating galaxy-spanning civilisations across eons of time.

Ian MacDonald is another good one. My favourite of his is The Dervish House, but his others are definitely worth reading.

Charles Stross is good. Didn't get on with Accelerando, but his Laundry books are a fun mix of HP Lovecraft/Len Deighton/IT Crowd. Halting State and Rule 34 are good explorations of pervasive augmented reality and intelligent algorithms. Also Glasshouse as an exploration of post-singularity society. Never managed to finish a Cory Doctorow book though.

I found William Gibson's Bigend trilogy a slog, but I really enjoyed The Peripheral - it's a fun read.

Enders Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card are fantastic, but the remaining books suffer from diminishing returns (with the possible exception of Ender's Shadow). There are a lot of books in the series, but basically, the series finishes wherever you get bored reading it.

Anything by China Mieville is well worth your time.

Oh, I also really enjoyed Elizabeth Bear's Jacobs Ladder trilogy, set on a generation ship where the inhabitants have forgotten who they are and where they're going.

For some older stuff:

The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester – I was surprised at how good it is and how well it stands up. I couldn't believe it was written nearly 50 years ago.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein - possibly my favourite of his. I want to start a lunar revolution with a sentient mainframe...

I'm currently working my way through all the Hugo Award winners, from 1953 up, and there's some real gems there.

I 2nd _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_.

I have strong opinions about this. My criteria for a book being science fiction and not fantasy is that is must be based on scientific thinking. The author must have done some work to determine whether whats happening in his book is at least plausible according to real science, and then work out the details of how it would actually function. So I regard most "science fiction" books and almost all "science fiction" films as really being fantasy. Essentially they are works of fantasy or dramatic fiction re-skinned with lasers and aliens instead of magic and goblins (to a great or lesser extent).

So dune is a great book but it is 90% fantasy, there is only a little bit of research done by the author on desert ecosystems.

My favourite real science fiction author is Arthur C clarke. some good books by him...


the fountains of paradise

islands in the sky

the sands of mars


songs of distant earth

Also would recommend accelerando by Charles Stross and the mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson

Your opinion is very good. The "and then something magic happens" solution in fantasy is what really turns me off.

But in SF it is sometimes hard to distinct magic from plausible albeit far fetched science. Is FTL possible given the science of tomorrow, or magic?

If you want to have (imho) really, really good SF, chec out Ted Chiang. Very low production, but he takes science in SF very seriosly. His collection of short stories is some of the best I've ever read:


Somebody else mentioned Anathem. And if one want deep mathematics mixed with wild ideas, language theory I strongly recommend it. It is hard to get going (at least it was for me). But very rewarding. Probably the best read the last year.

Finally, if one really wants to go the "no magic" route. I strongly recommend Netptunes Brood by Charles stross. The book is based on the idea that FTL is not possible, and as a consequence how the economics behind interstellar migration and stable exchange currencies works. Bitcoing and slow money. Just that somebody actually has been considering the finance structure behind generation ships makes it worth reading.


Also, a fun fact. Ted Chiang writes manuals for Microsoft products. Here is a good interview with Chiang (which I think has made it onto HN before):


You might like to check out Brandon Sanderson's work (if you haven't yet). It's all fantasy, but it tends to avoid the "and then something magic happens" problem.

I'd interpret the thing you dislike about fantasy as a violation of Sanderson's first law: "The author's ability to resolve conflicts in a satisfying way with magic is directly proportional to how the reader understands said magic."


Sanderson's law is what I feel. Thanks for pointing it out.

I really enjoyed Karl Schroeders Ventus where the population saw technology as magic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ventus

Nuttails Suffiently Advanced Technology is also a good example: http://www.amazon.com/Sufficiently-Advanced-Technology-Inver...

I'm sure you know this, but you never say so which makes it a bit frustrating: what you refer to as "real science fiction" is commonly known as "hard science fiction" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_science_fiction).

The "opposite", i.e. what you refer to as re-skinned fantasy, often falls into the "space opera" subgenre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_opera). For instance, "Star Wars" is often referred to as being space opera.

I've heard it delineated as "SF" and "SciFi". SF being the hard version, and "SciFi" being more likely to be on the similarly named TV channel.

IMHO sci-fi = set assumptions, follow them consistently to conclusion, telling an interesting story as a byproduct.

I don't think all science must be true (otherways old books would lose sci-fi status as we discover things contradicting them), but it must be consistent with the assumptions, and the assumptions should be "elegant".

And if you have technology, that can trivialy be abused for infinite power after 5 minutes of thinking - people in the story should be abusing it too, or there should be reasonable explanation why it doesn't happen.

When I read your comment I'm strongly reminded of myself ten years ago. I held almost exactly the same view on hard scifi, and was similarly obsessed with Arthur C Clarke. But I've since loosened my definition of scifi for a couple of reasons:

a) I now think of scifi as any work intended to do more than tell a story or explore a world. Focussing on just hard scifi causes great works of social and sociology fiction like The Dispossessed to be left without a clear pigeonhole. Which is a great pity, IMO.

Perhaps the biggest chunk that gets miscategorized is cyberpunk; works like Snow Crash and Hardwired are clearly about more than whether the ending is happy or sad, or whether the hero gets the girl. Doesn't seem right to categorize them as fantasy. Better to narrow Arthur C Clarke into the sub-category of hard scifi. Loosening my uptight definition caused me to better appreciate Snow Crash in particular on a second reading a decade later. It's aged wonderfully.

You could even imagine a book with fantasy 'props' that feels scifi-like. I haven't seen it yet, but I have no doubt it can be done. (Any recommendations from others?)

b) Not even everything Arthur C Clarke wrote was hard. Rama series, c'mon! Kim Stanley Robinson is a great author, but I fail to see how he's 'more hard' than Asimov or Heinlein. Somebody described the Red Mars series to me as a reality show with dune buggies, and that seems about right. You certainly couldn't call it 'more hard' than Anathem.

Anyways, for hard scifi readers the top author today is probably Greg Egan. That I think everybody can agree on. I have other recommendations elsewhere on this thread.

Oh, I love some good world-building, and especially when there is a set of rules that's followed to their consequences. [Ayuc sums it up nicely in this comment. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9056594 ]

If you look at it this way, it CAN be done in fantasy. Check out Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker (a great one-off), or the Mistborn series. (There are quite a few similarities between them.)

Or Max Brooks' World War Z was great in this way, I think. Although it's been quite a while since I read that.

(I know this is an older thread, so I hope you'll find this comment. Made a HN account for this. :D )

R.A. Lafferty's Nine Hundred Grandmothers blends fantasy and science fiction, http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/usr/roboman/www/sigma/review/90...

"I can point to two writers who stand outside, who aren't like anyone before them, and whom nobody has really tried to write like since: Cordwainer Smith and R.A. Lafferty. And of the two, Lafferty is the more sui generis ... Lafferty's approach to the universe was somewhat skewed and very much his own. He looked at things in a new, fresh way, and caused his readers to do the same (and often walk away scratching their heads)."

Related writers: http://www.ralafferty.org/related/

You might try Mordant's Need by Stephen Donaldson for a fantasy-skinned, scifi-like approach. The magic in the books is based around mirrors, and a large part of the book is spent researching how the mirrors actually are working, what are their limitations and possibilities.


It occurs to me that the opposite category is also quite interesting. Books like Hammerfall and Snow Queen by Joan Vinge are fantasy with scifi elements that are hard to dismiss.

I agree but I realized that the fantasy opens the door for unconventional thinking for us scientists.

By the way, I got the chance to have tea with Sir. Arthur C. Clarke at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka when I was only 18 years old... He gave me a copy of his article in which he uses physics to show that telecommunication by satellite is possible. It was a great experience.

Once upon a time I would have agreed - but these days I find poor characterisation stalls my suspension of disbelief just as much as dodgy physics.

So my current favourite is Fiasco by Lem. The physics at least sounds convincing and the characters are all too human.

That reminds me of one reviewer who described the weirdest aliens in any science fiction novel as the human characters in a particular Robert L. Forward novel....

That sounds tantalizing. I tried googling around but couldn't figure out which book that might be. Can you try to dig up the name? The only Robert Forward I've read is Dragon's Egg, which was great. I should read more by him.

It was "The Flight of the Dragonfly".

One the other hand the same reviewer described the aliens in the novel as being Californian surfers....

Hard/strong arguments are always strange. Some of my childhood aesthetic favourites bridge the gap (Golden Witchbreed and the like). Some try to be hard sf, and concentrate hugely on one aspect but miss others (Niven, the integral trees). Clarke has his own hand-wavy moments (Cradle?). I'm not sure it's a dichotomy that yields that much value. Le Guin, Pohl, others - often venture into very fantasy settings, and still tell such wonderful tales, that tell us something about the very real, very unscientific and utterly irreducible human nature. Which I think is the true point of SF at all. Fresh landscapes, same paint. New stories.

You might try https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Legacy_of_Heorot - unlike most of the books down by Niven and Purnell, this one tries to keep the science realistic (possibly due to them having a third author for this book - Barnes), and has one of the better descriptions of an alien ecology that I have read. Another Liven and Purnell novel, Footfall, does probably the best job of describing a realistic militaristic exploitation of space that I have read.

How big of an expert on deserts do you have to be that Dune stops being interesting? Unless you still find it valuable emotionally or philosophically and just reject is as 'science fiction' I think it's a bit sad to just flat out get rid of such an interesting book!

Interesting that you mention Dune here. I have a similarly strict approach to classifying works as sci-fi for myself as OP and Dune is the worst offender of everything I consider sci-fi.

To me, Dune is some new-age mumbo jumbo. It's fanatasy in space. Or it is contemporary social criticism (the whole thing is a metaphor for the oil industry, no?), but it's definitely not sci-fi.

By the way, I loved the first half of the book. The world building is fantastic, the characters are interesting (and the villains are really villain-y) but after the Duke dies, the whole book goes down the toilet and becomes a series of random adventure-in-the-desert encounters that couldn't be more shallow and predictable.

That being said, I'm probably too young to get it's larger impact on the "genre" (I heard that it's something like the defining space opera?).

Pretty much the defining space opera, yeah -- I mean, it's set in the year ten thousand, what else can you fairly expect it to be? While I quite like it (and can't abide its sequels), I do concede it takes a peculiar taste to appreciate it on its merits.

the whole thing is a metaphor for the oil industry, no?

No, not really, or at least I think not deliberately; it's much more Lawrence of Arabia in space.

Accelerando is not hard SF.

Philip K. Dick (Ubik, Man in the high castle, Flow my tears the police man said)

Frederik Pohl (Gateway, the Space Merchants)

Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed, Left Hand of Darkness)

Iain M. Banks (Culture novels)

You will find many Sci-Fi treasures by just going through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SF_Masterworks

Those are my favourite two Ursula Le Guin novels too :) Very well thought-through effects of technology on culture.

The Culture Series is definitely some of my favorite reading. You can really feel the humor.

Neal Stephenson "Anathem"

Stanisław Lem "Cyberiad", "Solaris", "Futurologists' convent"

Greg Egan "Permutation City"

Jacek Dukaj "Black Oceans"

Iain M. Banks "Algebraist" (I read some books from culture series, but IMHO culture is just too overpowered to make an interesting story possible - you basicaly read to see at which point they will show their full superiority, and it doesn't work for me)

The Algebraist is my favourite Iain M. Banks book too - the breadth of imagination in it is amazing

I think Surface Detail is my favourite Culture novel. Many Iain Banks books (regular fiction as well as sci-fi) are really just wish-fulfillment stories, but they're so stylish and fun to read that I love them (plus there's usually at least one very insightful rant by a minor character to be found in nearly every book)

My favorite Culture story is actually fanfic - "Culture explores Warhammer 20k universe".

IMB is a yes. All of it. Devour. Much like the works of Steven Erikson (Not SF) they're fantastically detailed, which isn't everyone's taste.

The Cyberiad is a trove of beauty, ridiculous, sublime, educational - touching on things as far apart as philosophy and maxwell's demon. Amazing that they're not even in English given the wonderous translation.

Stumbled across and started reading A. E. van Vogt's "The World of Null-A" last night.

Super trippy.



Null-A is probably the Van Vogt's most famous book, but others are great as well, I loved "Slan" from the same author : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slan

didn't expect anyone to mention this book... but it's been a long time favorite of mine. I first read it in my teens, when I was heavily into asimov, vance, dick and other classics :)

Just finished reading "Fiasco" by Stanislaw Lem. Between that "Cyberiad" I feel like Lem doesn't get enough credit. Maybe part of it is not being in the Western European writer's camp?

At any rate, I would say:

Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein

The Dispossessed, Le Guin

The Stars My Destination, Bester

Childhood's End, Clarke

Stand out as some of my favorites. I'm pretty terrible at making top-5 lists, but those stand out as ones that I would read again in a heartbeat if there weren't already 50 books on the floor next to my bed waiting for me :)

If people knew of him at all, I'm afraid the Solaris films really damaged people's perceptions of Lem's work.

I've been reading his stuff since 1986 and he can be as innovative and experimental as Philip K Dick, JG Ballard, or Thomas Pynchon while still being fun and readable.

Most of Asimov's books, specially:

* Foundation Series / Robot Series / Empire Series

* The Gods Themselves

Anything by Iain M. Banks. Start with "The Player of Games" and "Consider Phlebas".

Anything by Vernor S. Vinge especially "Zones of Thought" series.

"Daemon", "Freedom(tm)", "Kill Decision" and "Influx" by Daniel Suarez.

"The Martian" by Andy Weir.

Anything by Neal Stephenson, especially "Reamde: A Novel" and "Cryptonomicon".

Anything by Hannu Rajaniemi, especially "The Fractal Prince".

I've just finished the first three Culture novels.

Consider Phlebas starts great, but loses a lot during the rest of the book.

The Player of Games is okay, but by far not as good as people told me.

Use of Weapons is excellent. I'll have to re-read it in a few months.

I thought the same thing the first time I read Consider Phlebas. Having now read it over 20 times, it's safe to say I changed my mind.

My key to the novel: it's all about the nature of identity. The very first line is something of deep personal significance, but he's forgotten why. He steals identities. It ends with the mind taking his name.

It's a keeper.

I couldn't agree more. "The Player of Games" also only improved for me with time and depth of context provided by the subsequent Culture novels.

Neal Stephenson, Anathem

Iain M Banks, Use of Weapons

Greg Egan, Diaspora and Permutation City

Frank Herbert, Dune

Kim Stanley Robinson, the Mars trilogy

Vernon Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky

[Note to Hollywood: can we please have a Culture movie?]

> [Note to Hollywood: can we please have a Culture movie?]

The only one I can think of where they might be able to stay more or less true to the source is Consider Phlebas, wherein the 'hero' fights for a monotheistic alien race against a bunch of godless communists.

Plus I would dearly love to see the Clear Air Turbulence's escape from the depths of that GSV rendered on the big screen.

Caveat regarding note to Hollywood: Please only allow Nolan to direct, otherwise we are not interested.

Actually, I always wanted to see Luc Besson (Fifth Element) direct a movie of Consider Phlebas.

Edit: On the subject of Banks movies - one scene I would love to see (in addition to the CAT escaping from The Ends of Invention) is the scene with the Ethnarch and Zakalwe in UoW, might make a splendid cold open.

"I," said the man, "am called Cheradine Zakalwe." He leveled the gun at Ethnarch's nose. "You are called dead."

I just realised how carefully worded that is...

If that means we get Jean Reno as Bora Horza Gobuchul, I'm in.

He's really bad at sci fi.

Inception doesn't make any sense (sense in terms of being sci fi, it's good entertainment).

Nor do the climactic action scenes in the Batman movies: a mega powerful microwave device that only affects the water inside of far away pipes and a portable, self sustaining fusion reactor that blows up when its battery dies.

The Joker's speed with setting up explosives is also a little bit ridiculous, but that's less of an offense against possibility than the above.

I maintain a community created list of Sci-Fi novels worth reading:


Since the OP asked about books not authors my favourite book is "Foundation and Earth" (Isaac Asimov), "Childhood's End" (A.C. Clarke) and Solaris (Stainslaw Lem).

Everything from Asimov.

The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.

The Culture books from Iain Banks.

The Rama series from Clarke although it got tiresome after a while.

The Sparrow and Children of God from Mary Doria Russell.

Contact by Sagan which by the way is one of the very few sci-fi books that were successfully depicted in movies.

Brave new world from Huxley. Old one but still highly relevant.

The first ones from Gibson.

The Enter series by Orson Scott Card.

Bradbury's Farhenheit 451. This one is a classic.

Revelation Space from Alaistair Reynolds who writes the most hardcore sci-fi I've ever come across.

Peter Watts's Blindsight - easily the best SF novel I've read in the last decade. I haven't got round to Echopraxia yet, but I doubt it'll fail to live up to its predecessor.

Also, while I have no use whatsoever for Stross's "Singularity" stuff, his Laundry Files series excels, especially for an inveterate old Lovecraft fan such as myself. If you want a taste, there are some shorts available online -- "Overtime" and "Funny Farm" are good places to start; "Equoid" is the most recent, but it's not representative, and it's also the weakest entry in the series as a whole due to its poor characterization and reliance on shock and gruesomeness rather than the more insidious sort of horror in which the rest of the series specializes.

I'm sort of surprised to see that no one has yet mentioned Heinlein; I know he's a politically divisive figure in the fandom, to say the least, but he's also the great granddaddy of the modern field, and such prominence deserves recognition. (Hell, he was pushing the Rapture of the Nerds before any of its modern adherents was even born!) Granted that his later works tend to bog down in self-referentiality and author tracts on the evils of Communism and the benefits of casual nudism; in his prime, though, he was an author and storyteller practically beyond compare.

In particular, his The Moon is a Harsh Mistress remains a classic among classics; The Puppet Masters even more so, to the extent of spawning practically a whole subgenre of second-rate imitations; and, for a lighter entry, his oft-overlooked The Door into Summer is a sweet story in which all's well that ends well and the importance of feline companionship in a well-rounded life is not overlooked.

You better doubt it, Echopraxia fails to live up to Blindsight. Aren't sequels that match the original the exception rather than the rule?

Sure. On the other hand, I found Watts's Rifters trilogy to be strong throughout, and I'd previously assumed that he'd turn in the same strong performance with his latest series.

In what way does Echopraxia fail to live up to its predecessor? I'm eventually going to get around to it, but if it's going to disappoint me, I'd like to know ahead of time so that I can go into it with my expectations better calibrated.

I wonder why no one mentioned "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy" (Douglas Adams) yet. I died laughing twice while reading it.

Doubtless there'll be lots of strong opinions, and (hopefully, usefully) lots of duplicates that you can then tote up to get a bit of a consensus.

Iain M. Banks - all his Culture books are fantastic, but I'll single out 'Excession' since you seek titles.

Neal Stephenson's 'Anathem'

Stephen Donaldson (most famous for the Thomas Covenant tri-trilogy) wrote a 5-book 'Gap Series'. I have very fond memories of it, though it's been two decades since I read it.

Philip K. Dick wrote a tonne of good stuff (and a bit of meh) but my two favourite are Clans of the Alphane Moon (the first Dick I read), and Valis (a bit more conventional to have on the favourite list)

Ursula Le Guin also has a huge body of excellent work - Left Hand of Darkness, and The Dispossessed are my favourites.

I really loved Roger Zelazny's Lord Of Light, though I understand it's not conventionally considered his best work.

For 22+ years I believed Foundation series by Issac Asimov was unparalleled, since first read when I was 10. It changed after the Three Body Problem, especially the 2nd and 3rd installments, The dark forest, The forever death. I don't expect to add more to the list in my life span.

Kim Stanley Robinson's "2312" carries on from the Mars Trilogy. Stephenson's "REAMDE", "The Diamond Age", "Cryptonomicon" and "Snow Crash" Does alternate history count her? If so, Robinson's "The Years of Rice and Salt" is great

Really surprised to see no mention of H. G. Wells here, so I'm just going to add it :


You can get it at project Gutemberg, so no excuse not to read it.

Any book by French author Barjavel are also worth reading in my opinion, especially "La Nuit des Temps" / "The Ice People" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ice_People_%28Barjavel_nov... ) and "Ravage" / "Ashes, Ashes" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravage_%28novel%29 )

On that note, I highly recommend The Time Ships, by Stephen Baxter. He picks up where The Time Machine leaves off and takes the story into some amazing directions.

PS : DO NOT read the Wikipedia articles if you plan on reading the Barjavel books because they contain spoilers that may ruin the experience for you...

Some which I have re-read recently and still enjoyed:

  William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy

  Frank Herbert's Dune series

  Isaac Asimov's Foundation series

  Frederik Pohl's "Gateway"

  Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a harsh Mistress"
Some which I remember liking when I read them many years ago as a teenager:

  E.E. Doc Smith's Lensman series

  David Brin's Uplift series

  Peter F. Hamilton's Greg Mandel trilogy and The Night's 
Dawn trilogy

  Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game"

  George R. Dickson's "Dorsai!"

One of the read-worthy books which immediately came to mind is Neverness [1] by David Zindell. It is actually the 'prequel' to a series ('A requiem for Homo Sapiens' [2]) which I have yet to read, but it stands by itself as far as I'm concerned.

If you like SF, mathematics and deep ideas, this might be a book for you.

[1] http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/968997.Neverness

[2] http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/399921.David_Zindell

Neverness is not a prequel since it was written before A Requiem For Homo Sapiens.

That sort of sloppy thinking would get you killed as a pilot. :-)

Also, autocorrect really doesn't want to let me type Neverness.

Prequel in the sense of being named 'A Requiem for Homo Sapiens 0'. I think I'll find my way through the manifold yet...

That's definitely retroactive, my old copy says no such thing.

Neverness is a fabulous book though. RfHS also worthwhile, but does sprawl a bit for my taste.

You realize not a single person has mentioned a female author? Let's fix that:

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Among Others by Jo Walton

Feed by Mira Grant

The Hunger Games!

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Grass by Sheri S Tepper

Gate of Ivrael and Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh

And the fabulous space opera:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Several people including myself mentioned Ursula Le Guin, who should be #1 on any list of women authors.

Also, mentioning Mira Grant and Hunger Games on this thread strikes me as blasphemous.

Octavia Butler wrote some amazing stuff too.

So I'm told, although I haven't read any. I understand that quite a lot of it's pretty grim, so I need to be in the mood for it.

There's a reason most of the things listed here are basically adventure stories...

Many of the already mentionned books. Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, in the hard science genre.

As a kid I was absolutely stunned by The Tripods. I highly recommend these books (trilogy) for your kids (10-13 yo).

I'm currently working my way through Stephen Baxter's Manifold trilogy. His writing is incredibly insightful and psychedelic. I'd also suggest the Time Ships (only authorized Time Machine sequel) and anything from the Xeelee universe. Maybe start with Vacuum Diagrams?

David Brin's Uplift series is brilliantly written, and personifies non-human characters wonderfully.

Heinlein has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid, and his writing always makes me giddy.

Arthur C. Clarke: 2001

Arthur C. Clarke: Rendezvous with Rama

Pierce Anthony and Robert E. Margroff: The Ring

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes: The Legacy of Heorot

Stanislaw Lem: The Invincible

Isaac Asimov: The Foundation Trilogy

A couple books that I'd recommend for their attention to biology and genetics as the scientific driver:

Julie Czerneda's Species Imperative Trilogy: Survival, Migration, and Regeneration.

Maragaret Atwood, anything, but recently the MaddAddam trilogy: Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam.

Nancy Kress' Sleepless series: Beggars in Spain, Beggars and Choosers, and Beggars Ride.

I got hooked on SciFi with David Webers Harrington-Series which I found after enjoying the old Hornblower Series. Since then I enjoyed much omthe Kantaki-Cycle of Andreas Eschbach and the Collector/Justifier Series by Markus Heitz, even though they are what I would call typical german SciFi: Humans as nuisance in a peaceful and orderly Galaxy.

Eric Schwitzgebel composed a list of "philosophically interesting" SF from the recommendations of 34 professional philosophers:


It also includes non-printed media.

Poul Anderson's "Technic" stories, e.g. "The Trouble Twisters". Must re-read some.

Somewhat more recent: pretty-much anything by David Brin.

For my taste, a lot of recent sci-fi seems to be a little too focused on politics and society vs. the exhileration of a good technical solution. But do enjoy Charles Stross and John Scalzi.

Haven't seen it mentioned, so I thought I'd chime in. My favorite new series has been 'The Expanse' by James S.A. Corey.


There are some excellent books in this thread (makes sense that the HN community would know their sci fi) - a short story addition to the list is "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster. Totally changed my opinion technology's impact on the modern world.

Hey, I'd say Snow Crash (for history in geekery). The Ender series. Some of Neil Gaiman (I do love TPratchett, though not on this list) ..

At the moment I'm a lot into short stories, and that'd mean Ted Chiang of course, and Greg Evan, as well as some of Vinge Vernor.


Recommendations here that I consider over-rated: Ramez Naam, Daniel Suarez, Reamde. I also couldn't get through Three-body Problem. I might try again, though.

I enjoy The Queendom of Sol series, by Wil McCarthy.

Also, A Fire Upon the Deep / A Deepness in the Sky.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is some of the best science fiction/space opera that I have read in several years (it won both the hugo and nebula).

It is well written and a good story. Its kind of a strange story of revenge with a AI as the protagonist.

The Three-body Problem. It raises the bar of sci-fi literature in China.


Seconded! This is a fantastic book. Be warned: the English translation of the sequel is not yet released (and you will want it).

Dune - Frank Herbert

There's something mystical and very powerful about this book and the theme of conquering fear. It also reads surprisingly well considering how dense some of the political and technical descriptions are.

I agree with many of the recommendations here, but am surprised to see no mention so far of "the three B's": Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and Ben Bova. All excellent hard science fiction authors.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan is one of my favorite books of all time, and if you like it there are 2 more in the series.

Very smart, noir sci-fi with a lot of heady concept play -- some consider it to be genre-defining.

Top 3 for me, would be 1. Ender's Game

2. 2001 Space Odyssey - I sit down with Arthur for Tea at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka - He gave me a copy of his article in which he first described telecommunication via satellites

3. Snow Crash

Lot's of my favorites already listed

Some more good ones: Ilium/Olympos - Dan Simmons Centuries - A. A. Attanasio Callahan's Crosstime Saloon - Spider Robinson Signal to Noise - Eric Nylund

Remarkable consensus regarding Iain M. Banks and Vinge being top choices. Vinge I would have expected due to his background in Computer Science, but M. Banks is a very positive surprise.

What about Lois McMaster Bujold ? 4 Hugo Award gota count for something ! The Vorkosigan serie is space opera so not hard scifi but it's damn good.

A Fire Upon the Deep A Deepness in the Sky

both by Vernor Vinge

Isaac Asimov Foundation (beside mangas!)

Everything from John Scalzi, start with Old Man's War and then read through everything else.

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons.

Hell yes.

Greg Egan - Permutation City

Peter Watts - Blindsight

'Deep Six' (short story anthology) and 'Wind-up Girl' by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Joe Haldeman, The Forever War.

Michael Moorcock, An Alien Heat & Behold the Man.

Prey is a novel by Michael Crichton - @everyone

Snow Crash edit : and Ambient, by Jack Womack

The three stigmata of palmer eldritch

Snow Crash Childhood's End

Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon.

Last and First Men is incredible and one of my favourites. Also because of it's unprecedented time scale.

Lord of the Light




Snow Crash

Use of Weapons

Pandora's Star / Judas Unchained

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact