Looking for a good book? Enjoy having your imagination stretched to new limits? Opting for a science fiction novel may be just what the doctor ordered. That said, deciding on the next title to add to your list can be quite daunting with an endless number of choices. To help you in your quest, StudyFinds set out to find the five best science fiction books that reviewers can’t stop recommending.
It’s hard to foretell the future. Not even the best science fiction books have always accurately done so. Nor should we expect them to: Science fiction is a speculative genre; its authors are visionaries, not futurologists.
As for futurologists, one of them, Dr. James Bellini, predicts that “from about 2030 onwards you’ll see the Mars programs kicking in, and the possibility [of] within that decade, men and women landing on Mars and creating self-sustaining economies.” While this sounds exciting, there are darker aspects to the future as well: “We’re going to be very short on water in the years to come,” Bellini warns.
With predictions like the latter, it’s understandable that most Americans are worried about the future. Dangerous behaviors should seemingly be non-existent with machines. Racism, for example, is a big concern, even with artificial intelligence. “We’re at risk of creating a generation of racist and sexist robots, but people and organizations have decided it’s OK to create these products without addressing the issues,” expresses postdoctoral fellow Andrew Hundt at Georgia Tech his frustration.
As for the average person, the top tech predictions of what will be mainstream in 2050 include self-stocking fridges, robotic housekeeping, and flying cars. Some predictions, like autonomous, self-driving cars and lab-grown meat, seem well underway.
But you didn’t come here for the average Joe’s opinion. StudyFinds visited 10 expert websites to provide you with a list of the best and most recommended science fiction books (with a dash of fantasy mixed in). What future do their authors envision for us? Read on to find out.
List: The Best Science-Fiction Books, According to Experts
1. How High We Go in the Dark, by Sequoia Nagamatsu
Scientists in Siberia are investigating the melting permafrost and discover a deadly virus, “accidentally unleashing a plague that will devastate and reshape humanity for generations (Business Insider).” Blending the issues of climate change and pandemics, How High We Go in the Dark “weaves together numerous narratives across centuries of space and time as humanity struggles to survive and rebuild itself in the wake of a plague brought on by melting glaciers,” summarizes P. S. Hoffman.
The reason why this novel made it to the top of our list: Books and Bao calls How High We Go in the Dark “the next step in science fiction. This is one of the best modern sci-fi novels you’ll ever read; a bold new approach to the genre of science fiction. [..] It’s beautiful and makes for a very addictive read.”
2. Babel, by R.F. Kuang
Academia goes rogue in this one. In Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution, “linguist nerds gain magical abilities from the work of translation, exploiting the subtle differences between words in two languages to transform the world,” as the Washington Post puts it.
But there’s more to this novel than ivy league magic. Author Kuang “sharply critiques British imperialism and the bureaucratic institutions that hold it up — particularly academic scholarship and monarchy,” outlines Polygon.
Set in a fictitious past, Babel is arguably more fantasy than science fiction but is nonetheless frequently featured in the science fiction top ten for this year. Why? Per Barnes and Noble, Babel is “smart, witty, and terrifying; the type of book you can’t stop reading and can’t stop recommending!”
3. Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel
The three protagonists of Sea of Tranquility are separated not only by space but also by time: One lives in the past, in 1912, the other two in different futures, in the 22nd century and a more distant hereafter.
Business Insider describes Sea of Tranquility as “a playfully dynamic novel that begins with quickly shifting timelines but transforms into a masterful and gripping narrative.” Eventually, “all three stories come together when a time traveler tries to discover the truth behind the strange anomalies that occur in each place and time,” reveals ProWritingAid.
Sea of Tranquility made it to the top of multiple Best Science Fiction Books lists as “every page of this narrative is lovingly, masterfully crafted, and it will sweep you off your feet and into a world full of nostalgia, cities on the Moon, plagues, and the meaning of life throughout the wilderness of time itself (P. S. Hoffman).”
4. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, by Becky Chambers
Finally robots! A Prayer for the Crown-Shy takes place in a future where humans and robots live mostly separately, with robots living independently in the wilderness; its story “follows Sibling Dex, a tea monk, and Mosscap, a robot, who journey together across the moon (ProWritingAid).”
In A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, Chambers explores the “themes around our relationships with the people and the things in our lives — and what, exactly, a kinder society looks like,” writes The Washington Post.
If you need a break from dystopian settings, Chambers is the sci-fi author for you. Her “stories are bright and heart-warming, deeply undercut with the greatest philosophical questions that science fiction has to offer,” praises P. S. Hoffman.
5. The Candy House, by Jennifer Egan
The Candy House essentially is a sci-fi novel about social media. In the future, new technology “allows you to access your memories and share them in exchange for access to the memories of others,” explains ProWritingAid the premise.
Egan’s writing style in The Candy House is most intriguing (and one reason why it made the Best Science Fiction Books lists): According to P. S. Hoffman, it “elevates this book to a new level. A masterfully-crafted narrative saga, with social media, gaming, and alternate reality at the focus, this story shifts points of view from first person, to omniscient, to epistles and tweets, and so many more.”
While science fiction, The Candy House is eerily realistic: “Above all, The Candy House explores both the danger and the sublime in humans’ compulsion to share their lives with others. […] it’s a sobering reminder that the connective technology — the “social media” — that could either save or ruin us is already here (Polygon).”
- The Washington Post
- Barnes and Noble
- Business Insider
- P. S. Hoffman
- Books and Bao
- Five Books
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.
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Solaris annihilates every other title up there