23 Best Science Fiction Book Series

series

Discovering a new book series is a fantastic feeling. Here’s hoping you find something new below.

If none of these is enough for you, look into the Perry Rhodan series. A new novella has been published weekly since 1961, and there are currently over 2700 stories. If that’s still not enough of a challenge for you, they’re also in German.

 

1
2001: A Space Odyssey
by Arthur C. Clarke

The 2001: A Space Odyssey screenplay was written by Clarke and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick jointly, based on the seed idea in Clarke’s story “The Sentinel,” where an alien civilization has left an object on the Moon to alert them (the aliens) to mankind’s attainment of space travel.

Clarke wrote the book in parallel with the screenplay, and there’s a distinct difference: in the novel, the voyage was to the planet Saturn. During production of the film, it was decided that the special effects for Saturn’s rings would be too expensive, so the voyage in the film is to Jupiter instead. The second book, 2010, alters the storyline of the first book to make the destination Jupiter as seen in the film.

Books:

2
A Fire Upon the Deep
by Vernor Vinge

Thousands of years from now, a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space—from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these “regions of thought,” but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.

Books:

3
Altered Carbon
by Richard K. Morgan

Brutal and noir, Alerted Carbon is generally considered the best of this brutal cyberpunk series, but I also loved Broken Angels, which is a little more space-y.

Lately, author Morgan has turned his hand to fantasy in The Steel Remains, which, if reviews are true, is at least as gruesome as his SF.

Books:
Broken Angels2003
Woken Furies2005

4
Consider Phlebas
by Iain M. Banks

I first learned about Iain M. Banks from a drunken swing dancer whom I had just done a “Death Drop” to, amazingly without injury. I’ve been a huge fan of the Culture books ever since, up until Banks’s untimely death from gallbladder cancer in 2013 (he lived only two months after his diagnosis, poor guy).

The Culture books take place in a post-scarcity future (i.e., no one needs to have a job) where a happy, semi-anarchist humanity is benignly managed by wildly advanced artificial intelligences.

Books:
Excession1996
Inversions1998
Matter2008

5
Doomsday Book
by Connie Willis

Author Connie Willis can be a polarizing figure. Some readers cannot get enough of her beautiful, gripping gems and count her as their favorite author, while others can’t stomach the stories. Note that these books involve a fair amount of time travel to the past, so you’ll be learning more about gritty human history than warp drives.

Books:
Doomsday Book1992
Blackout2010
All Clear2010

6
Dune
by Frank Herbert

Dune is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, and has spawned a huge franchise (I think we’re past “series” at this point). Oddly enough, no one’s been able to tell Dune visually (no, I’m not counting Lynch’s Dune. He tried, but it wasn’t good).

Whoever can crack the Dune visuals and create a film or show that fans embrace will make shocking amounts of money. In the meantime, enjoy Dune and God Emperor of Dune (the others are iffy). The other books by Frank’s son Brian and Kevin J. Anderson lack the depth of the original Dune, but are all entertaining reads.

Books:
Dune1965
Dune Messiah1969

 

by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson:
Paul Of Dune2008

7
Foundation
by Isaac Asimov

For nearly thirty years, this series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966. Asimov began adding to the series in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.

Books:
Foundation1951

 

by other authors:
Foundation’s Friends (short stories by various authors)- 1989
Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford – 1997
Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear – 1998
Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin – 1999

8
Gateway
by Frederik Pohl

The Heechee are portrayed as an exceedingly advanced star-travelling race that explored Earth’s solar system millennia ago and then disappeared without a trace before humankind began space exploration. When we found their technology, we acted like humans: not having any idea how it worked, we started pressing buttons and yanking levers.

Books:
Gateway1977
The Gateway Trip (short stories) – 1990

9
Hyperion
by Dan Simmons

The Hyperion universe originated when author Dan Simmons, an elementary school teacher at the time, told an extended tale at intervals to his young students.

Those of you who have read Hyperion and know what a nasty piece of work the Shrike is cannot help but wonder what kind of emotional troubles those young students ended up with.

Books:
Hyperion1989
Endymion1996

10
Lord Valentine's Castle
by Robert Silverberg

This series contains a mixture of elements of science fiction and fantasy and takes place on the planet Majipoor, where all manner of alien species have been settling for thousands of years. There are remnants of advanced technology, but not much is still useful—most denizens are essentially agricultural peasants.

Books:
Majipoor Chronicles (short stories) – 1982
The Seventh Shrine (novella)- 1998

11
Neuromancer
by William Gibson

With Neuromancer, author William Gibson made cyberpunk grow up. The trilogy takes place in a world controlled by corporations and infused with computers at every point. The unintended consequences of so much technology is examined in all the books.

Books:
Neuromancer1984
Count Zero1986

12
Raft
by Stephen Baxter

Like much of author Stephen Baxter’s work, the Xeelee Sequence is hard SF space opera. The novels span several billions of years, describing the future expansion of humanity, its war with its nemesis, an alien race called the Xeelee, and the Xeelee’s own war with dark matter entities called Photino Birds.

(Two famous alien series in this list, and they’re “Heechee” and “Xeelee”? What are the odds?)

Books:
Raft1991
Ring1993/4
Flux1993
Resplendent2000-2004
Coalescent2003
Transcendent2005
Exultant2005
Starfall2009

13
Red Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Mars Trilogy follows the settlement and terraforming of Mars by following the personal tribulations of a wide number of characters over a couple centuries. There’s some really excellent hard SF here, plenty of believable characters, and perhaps a little too much talking at the end of the third book, but it’s still immensely satisfying to follow the colonization of Mars for such a long period of time.

Books:
Red Mars1992
Green Mars1993
Blue Mars1996

14
Revelation Space
by Alastair Reynolds

The Revelation Space universe is set in a future version of our world, with the addition of a number of extraterrestrial species and advanced technologies that are not necessarily grounded in current science. Nonetheless, it is somewhat “harder” than most examples of space opera, relying to a considerable extent on science Reynolds believes to be possible; in particular, faster-than-light travel is absent.

While a great deal of science fiction reflects either very optimistic or dystopian visions of the human future, the Revelation Space universe is notable in that human societies have not departed to either positive or negative extremes, but instead are similar to those of today in terms of moral ambiguity and a mixture of cruelty and decency, corruption and opportunity, despite their technology being dramatically advanced.

Books:
Chasm City2001
The Prefect2007

15
Ringworld
by Larry Niven

This series revolves around the Ringworld, a megastructure artifact 600 million miles in circumference around a sun.

Readers are encouraging to read these books in order—they depend on each other.

Books:
Ringworld1970

16
Rocannon's World
by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Hainish Cycle is set in an alternate history/future history in which civilizations of human beings on a number of nearby stars, including Terra (Earth), are contacting each other for the first time, establishing diplomatic relations, and setting up a confederacy under the guidance of the oldest of the human worlds, peaceful Hain.

In this history, human beings did not evolve on Earth but were the result of interstellar colonies planted by Hain long ago, which was followed by a long period when interstellar travel ceased. Some of the races have new genetic traits, a result of ancient Hainish experiments in genetic engineering, including a people who can dream while awake, and a world of androgynous people who only come into active sexuality once a month, and can choose their gender.

In keeping with Le Guin’s soft science fiction style, the setting is used primarily to explore anthropological and sociological ideas.

Books:
The Telling2000

17
Shards of Honor
by Lois McMaster Bujold

All the novels in the Vorkosigan Saga include humor and comedy, though sometimes quite dark and juxtaposed with tragic deaths or losses. Author Bujold mixes military adventure, political thriller, romance, and the whodunit in various proportions.

I couldn’t get into Shards of Honor, but the series has a huge number of devoted fans, so it’s probably worth a shot.

Books:
Falling Free1988
The Vor Game1990
Barrayar1991
Mirror Dance1994
Cetaganda1995
Memory1996
Young Miles1997
Komarr1998
Miles Errant2002
Miles in Love2008
Cryoburn2010

 

e-books:
Weatherman2011
Labyrinth2011

18
Spin
by Robert Charles Wilson

I’m a fan of author Robert Charles Wilson, and I loved Spin. The combination of intriguing characters and wild SF was a home run for me. The other two novels in the trilogy continue the trend. Strongly recommended.

Books:
Spin2005
Axis2007
Vortex2011

19
Startide Rising
by David Brin

In the Uplift universe, an intergalactic civilization called the Five Galaxies, comprising a multitude of sentient races, has existed for billions of years. This civilization is perpetuated by the act of Uplift, in which a “patron” species genetically modifies a Pre-sapient “client” species until it is sapient. The client species is typically indentured to its patron species for 100,000 years. A patron species gains considerable status, and patrons and clients often unite into powerful clans. Patron status can be lost due to extermination, or gross crimes against the galactic civilization.

When humans get involved with Uplift, do we screw things up? Yes. Yes, we do.

Books:
Sundiver1980

20
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the funniest book written in the English language. The sequels are not quite as good, but they’re still pretty fantastic.

Books:

21
The Real Story
by Stephen Donaldson

The Gap Cycle is an series set in a future where humans have pushed far out into space in the name of commerce.

Like his earlier Chronicles of Thomas Convenant the Unbeliever, the Gap Cycle is dominated by a dark and bleak atmosphere. It’s not for kiddies.

Books:

22
Wild Seed
by Octavia Butler

This series details a secret history continuing from the Ancient Egyptian period to the far future that involves telepathic mind control and an extraterrestrial plague.

Books:
Wild Seed1980
Clay’s Ark1984
Patternmaster1976
Seed to Harvest (all four novels above in one volume)

23
Triplanetary
by Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith

The Lensman Series was a runner-up for the Hugo award for Best All-Time Series, and was beaten by some nobody named Isaac Asimov who wrote something called Foundation, which is possibly about concrete.

In the not too distance future, while fleets of commercial space ships travel between the planets of numerous solar systems, a traveler named Virgil Samms visits the planet Arisia. There he becomes the first wearer of the Lens, the almost-living symbol of the forces of law and order. As the first Green Lantern Corps Lensman, Samms helps to form the Galactic Patrol, a battalion of Lensmen who are larger than life heroes. These solders are the best of the best, with incredible skills, stealth, and drive. They are dedicated and incorruptible fighters who are willing to die to protect the universe from the most horrific threat it has ever known.

Books:
Triplanetary1948
First Lensman1950
Gray Lensman1951


 

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15 thoughts on “23 Best Science Fiction Book Series

  1. I really like your site. I often find new books browsing on it. I want to make some additions to this list.

    – Expanse Series by James Corey
    – The Way Trilogy by Greg Bear
    – Moties Trilogy by Larry Niven
    – Rifters Trilogy by Peter Watts
    – Company Wars Series by C.J. Cherryh
    – Old Man’s War Series by John Scalzi
    – Robot Series by Isaac Asimov
    – Agent Cormac Series by Neal Asher
    – Paradox Series by Rachel Bach
    – Imperial Radch by Ann Leckie
    – Sand Series by Hugh Howey

  2. Love the list but have you ever read John Varley’s Titan trilogy? Titan, Wizard and Demon are my favourite science fiction books hands down. Give them a try if you haven’t.

  3. Great list, I’ve never heard of some of these so this is exactly what I needed. One question though. Why no Enderverse? I’ve always considered Orson Scott Card’s series to be one of the best book series period.

  4. Another great author, Gregory Benford.

    The Galactic Center Saga:
    1977 In the Ocean of the Night
    1984 Across the Sea of Suns
    1989 Tides of Light
    1994 Furious Gulf
    1995 Sailing Bright Eternity

  5. Is ti just me, or am I missing “Honorverse” books by David Weber? Beginning with “On Basïlisk station” and continuing sci-fi blast for another 25 books (counting in spin offs).

  6. I’ve read many of these series. One author who writes excellent space opera is Peter F Hamilton. Both his “Night’s Dawn” series and his “Commonwealth Saga” are amazing. Both series contain those moments where you actually shout or laugh out loud from something you just read. The audiobooks were also very well read too.

    Glad to see the Gap series by Donaldson here. So many sci-fi readers never read it. Dark yes, but it just gets better as it goes!

  7. Hey; would you consider Niven/Lerner’s ‘Fleet of Worlds’ series, as part of the ‘Ringworld’ series? Or would you consider it more part of ‘Known Space,’ in general? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleet_of_Worlds Another: the ‘Man-Kzin Wars’ series is absolutely awesome. Again, ‘fleshing out’ Known Space.’ Also- don’t forget KSR’s ‘The Martians,’ a collection of shorts about the various cast members in the R-G-B trilogy….
    An awesome series, tragically, ‘under the radar:’ John Varley’s ‘Thunder and Lightning’ series:
    Red Thunder – 2003
    Red Lightning – 2006
    Rollling Thunder – 2008
    Dark Lightning – 2014
    They are an homage to Heinlein’s juveniles, following four generations, from Earth, to the stars. The first was touted as a YA novel, but Varley does the J.K.Rowling thing: in each successive volume, the narrative and characterization becomes more sophisticated. Wonderful series to bring those ‘bright teens’ into the genre! It’s such a shame that there hasn’t been more references about it in the online SF community.
    You should read ’em, and speaad the word.

    Thanks for a good site. I just found it [9_15], why is reply is to an older post.
    Namaste!

  8. I find this site to be a very good reference for future reads since I enjoy reading sci-fi novel series.

    Just to share, I personally read and like the following series :
    1) Saga of The Seven Suns – Kevin J. Anderson
    – Mix of sci-fi and fantasy
    2a) The Lost Fleet – Jack Campbell
    2b) The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier – Jack Campbell
    – Sci-fi military warfare with space dog fights and encountering aliens.

    Have a good read people!
    Cheers!

  9. Riverworld series Philip Jose Farmer
    World of Tiers Philip Jose Farmer
    Amber Series Roger Zelazny
    Forever War trilogy Joe Halden
    Heechee Series Frederick Pohl

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