The 50 Best Science Fiction Books of All Time

Humans have been looking up at the stars and dreaming since time immemorial, but it was only a few centuries ago that we began to turn those dreams into fiction. What amazing dreams they are—dreams of distant worlds, mystical creatures, parallel universes, artificial intelligence, and more. Today, we call these dreams science fiction.

Science fiction was first conceived in the mid-1600s, when Johannes Kepler and Francis Godwin wrote the seminal stories of voyages to the moon.Some scholars believe that science fiction as we now understand it was really born in 1818, when Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, the first novel of its kind in which events are explained by science rather than mysticism or miracles. Now, two centuries later, science fiction is a massive and lucrative multimedia genre, with countless subgenres such as dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and climate fiction, to name a few. It’s also very porous, allowing for some overlap with genres like fantasy and horror.

Science fiction stimulates our imagination and evokes a sense of wonder, but it also inspires a spirit of questioning. Through the enduring themes of science fiction, we can examine the cultural context and ethical issues of the zeitgeist. Our favorite works of the genre live up to that promise, musing on everything from identity to oppression to morality. As Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing put it, “Science fiction is one of the best social novels of our time.”

It’s not easy to choose the fifty best science fiction books of all time, so in order to do the job, we had to build some guardrails. Although we evaluate single issues as representative of their series, we limit the list to one book per author. We’ve also highlighted books that bring new and innovative to the genre; to borrow a great sci-fi twist, books that “go where no one has gone before”.

Now, in rank order, here are the best science fiction books of all time.

50

echo wifeSarah Gary

49

avalancheNeil Stephenson

48

touchCarl Sagan

47

Leibovitz’s hymnWalter M. Miller Jr.

46

SolarisStanislaw Lem

45

NeuromancerWilliam Gibson

44

book of phoenixNeddy Okorafor

43

Clockwork OrangeAnthony Burgess

42

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams

41

This is how you lose the time warAmal al-Mokhtar and Max Gladstone

40

the moon is a stern mistressRobert A. Heinlein

39

a wrinkle in timeMadeleine L’Engle

38

Time MachineBy HG Wells

37

rose waterBy Ted Thompson

36

boothStephen King

35

son of manBy PD James

34

radiationCatherynne M. Valente

33

red marsKim Stanley Robinson

32

city ​​and cityChina Miville

31

HyperionDan Simmons

30

DahlgrenSamuel R. Delany

29

The long road to an angry little planetBecky Chambers

28

body scoutLincoln Mitchell

27

a districtcolson whitehead

26

1Q84Haruki Murakami

25

The future home of the living GodLouise Erdich

twenty four

AmmonitesNicola Griffith

twenty three

Antelope and CrackerMargaret Atwood

twenty two

Resistersby Gishren

twenty one

SkastaDoris Lessing

20

ruthless ghostRivers Solomon

19

annihilateJeff VanderMeer

18

Titan’s SirenKurt Vonnegut

Dial Press trade paperback

17

the end of childhoodArthur C. Clark

16

complete robotIsaac Asimov

15

How to live safely in a sci-fi universeCharles Yu

14

Brave New WorldAldous Huxley

13

StaffOlga LaVine

12

1984George Orwell

11

three-body problemLiu Cixin

10

Do androids dream of electric sheep?Philip K Dick

9

Eleven StationEmily St. John Mandel

8

exhaleJiang Tide

7

never let Me GoKazuo Ishiguro

6

dark left handby Ursula K. Le Guin

5

relativesOctavia Butler

4

Season 5by NK Jemisin

3

Chronicles of MarsRay Bradbury

1

FrankensteinMary Shelley

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