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The best science fiction books have futuristic narratives that introduce scientific or technological discoveries and their possible developments in a utopian or dystopian society.
The narrative can be presented in a believable or unfeasible manner, depending on the theme, year of release and author of the work. Learn about the best science fiction books – classic and contemporary – in this article.
- 1 Summary
- 2 The best science fiction books: Our picks
- 3 Buying Guide
- 3.1 What are the characteristics of a science fiction book?
- 3.2 How to start reading science fiction books?
- 3.3 What themes are covered in the best science fiction books?
- 3.4 What is dystopia and how is it treated in science fiction books?
- 3.5 Is it worth watching movies based on science fiction books?
- 4 Buying criteria: How to compare different science fiction books
- The themes dealt with in classic and contemporary science fiction books are not very different, what changes is the perspective of the narrative, because over the past 200 years, the relationship between science and society has changed a lot.
- The most popular themes in science fiction books are alien invasions, relationship between humans and robots, existence of parallel universes, interstellar travel and time travel.
- Nowadays, science fiction books have gained new sub-genres such as Afrofuturism, Cyberpunk, Dystopias, Soft Sci-Fi, Hard Sci-Fi, New Weird and Space Opera, we will talk more about these genres throughout the article.
The best science fiction books: Our picks
One of the most widely read fictional literary genres by young and old alike is science fiction. Reading a book of this genre is capable of transporting you to a futuristic utopian or dystopian setting.
Books in this genre deal with themes related to science, technology, alien creatures, space race, time travel and parallel universes. Find out more information about science fiction books in this Buying Guide.
What are the characteristics of a science fiction book?
Generally, the conflicts between science and humanity are projected in the distant future and in different scenarios such as parallel universes and other planets, giving a fantastic tone to science fiction narratives.
The characters can be human beings, extraterrestrial beings, robots, humanoids, frightening creatures, among others. It is also common for elements of fantasy, horror or drama to be incorporated into science fiction narratives.
How to start reading science fiction books?
The themes dealt with in classic and contemporary books are basically the same: Extraterrestrial invasions, coexistence of humans and robots, discovery of parallel universes, travel between galaxies and time travel.
But science fiction books make extrapolations about technology, human and biological sciences based on the time when the narrative was written, that is, according to the scientific and technological advances of the time.
What themes are covered in the best science fiction books?
|Extraterrestrial||Alien beings invade planet Earth|
|Parallel universes||Completely different universes or alternative timelines|
|Intergalactic travel||Can occur inside or outside the Solar System|
|Time travel||Through time machines or wormholes|
|Cyberpunk||Characteragen in a technological but decadent future|
|Robots and Androids||Conflicts arising from the relationship with artificial intelligences|
In addition to the themes listed above, more modern science fiction books deal with slightly different themes that have emerged over the years. We have prepared a second table to present them:
|Afrofuturism||Combines science fiction with African mythologies|
|Dystopias||Portrays societies that are technologically advanced but suffer from serious social problems|
|Soft Sci-Fi||Portrays more human dramas than scientific issues|
|Hard Sci-Fi||Brings technical language based on experimental science|
|Space Opera||Portrays adventures, romances and epic battles in outer space|
|New Weird||Brings a more current science fiction, with elements of mystery, horror, fantasy or police plot|
What is dystopia and how is it treated in science fiction books?
Some of the stories take place on other planets or in parallel realities, but most of them take place on planet Earth, after some environmental disaster, health breakdown, civil war or the rise to power of a totalitarian group.
Is it worth watching movies based on science fiction books?
So, if you have enjoyed a film of this genre, it is very possible that you will enjoy the book on which it is based and which gives an in-depth version of the story and the characters. You can also read the book first and watch the film later, to see how the story was portrayed on the big screen.
Buying criteria: How to compare different science fiction books
Science fiction is the genre that addresses issues related to the impact of science and technology on humanity. To choose the best science fiction book analyse the sub-genre, theme, year of publication and brief author biography.
We recommend that you start with the classics, so you will be able to easily understand modern science fiction books. Choose a title based on the buying criteria listed below:
We will detail each of the topics throughout this section. We hope you enjoy!
Science fiction sub-genres
As we introduced and detailed in the section “What topics are covered in the best science fiction books?”,this literary genre encompasses several sub-genres that can blend together.
The most common themes are aliens, robots and androids, parallel universes, interstellar travel, time travel, dystopias, cyberpunk, afrofuturism, Space Opera, Soft Sci-Fi, Hard Sci-Fi and New Weird.
Year of publication
Science fiction books use a fictional narrative to analyse scientific, technological and social advancements as per current scenario, but in a slightly exaggerated manner. In this sense, analyse the year of publication of the book.
A futuristic narrative written in 1900 will be very different from one written in the 2000s, but you will find some similarities. With the reading, you will be able to analyse which aspects advanced and which went backwards and how the advances were seen by the society of the time.
Among the main science fiction novelists, we can mention the following authors, both male and female, who are renowned for their respective works:
- H.G. Wells: The War of the Worlds (extraterrestrial invasion), The Invisible Man (technological invention) and The Time Machine (time travel);
- Isaac Asimov: I, Robot (relationship between humans and robots), The Steel Caves (robots) and Foundation Trilogy (dystopia);
- Jules Verne: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth – both have adventure elements;
- Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale – dystopia;
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein – science fiction with elements of horror;
- Arthur C. Clarke: 2001: A Space Odyssey (interstellar travel), The End of Childhood (alien invasion) and Rendezvous with Rama (space race);
- Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (dystopia) Electric Dreams (short stories) and A Reflection in the Dark (dystopia);
- George Orwell: The Animal Revolution and 1984 – both are dystopian.
You do not have to read only the books of the established authors, but the chances of choosing a rather interesting book are higher. And if you like one of the books of these authors, you will probably like the other works of the writer.
Paperback or hardback
You can find science fiction books in two versions: Paperback and hardback. The paperback book is cheaper but less sturdy, so be very careful when handling it.
The hardback, on the other hand, is more resistant, as it doesn’t crumple or tear easily, keeping it preserved for many years. However, hardback is heavier and more expensive.
You can find many classic science fiction books that are re-released in commemorative editions when they reach 25 or 50 years since their first release.
Commemorative editions can usually be found in single or boxed versions, with hardcover or removable cover, on different paper, with illustrations, collector’s items and more.
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