14 Books Like Dune

Sometimes, you’re just in a Dune mood, whether that means palace intrigue, epic quests, scheming villains, hostile planets, tough native populations, or wild aliens.

 

14
Involution Ocean
by Bruce Sterling – 1977

The powerful narcotic Flare comes from only one source: the oil of the gargantuan whale-like beasts that swim the dust sea of Nullaqua. It was John Newhouse’s addiction to the substance that made him a dealer and forced him to move to this airless, inhospitable planet. But when the all-powerful galactic Confederacy declares Flare illegal, the needs of Newhouse and his clientele leave the desperate off-worlder no choice but to sign on as an able seaman aboard a dustwhaler and hunt the giant creatures himself. Joining a crew of junkies and misfits, including a mad captain with his own dark and secret agenda and a bewitching, batlike alien woman who is pained by human touch, Newhouse sets out across the silica ocean at the bottom of a seventy-mile-deep crater in search of release and redemption . . . and sails toward a fateful confrontation between man and beast that could lead to catastrophe.

“An absolutely stunning tour de force.”
—Harlan Ellison

13
Jaran
by Kate Elliott – 1992

One of the only humans ever granted nobility by the Chapalil, Charles Soerenson once led a failed rebellion against the alien overlords. Now his sister, Terese, has abandoned her homeworld, impelled by a broken heart, to seek a new life among the worlds her brother rules.

On Rhui, a planet off-limits to interstellar voyagers, Tess stumbles upon a dangerous Chapalil conspiracy—and only the timely arrival of the Jaran saves her from near-certain death in the wilderness. A tribe of nomadic humans roaming the plains of Rhui, the Jaran have long forgotten their ancient Earth history and heritage. Intrigued by their world and their ways, Tess shares an immediate emotional connection with Ilya, the Jaran’s brilliant, charismatic leader, a man of extraordinary passion and vision.

But despite her growing loyalties to this proud chieftain and his people, Tess must take care. For Ilya’s ambitions threaten to trigger violent planetary upheaval. And the Jaran have been chosen to play an unwitting role in a plot that could have powerful repercussions far beyond the nomads’ volatile world.

12
Ancillary Justice
by Ann Leckie – 2013

The Justice of Toren was a colossal starship run by an artificial intelligence. That intelligence also linked thousands of human soldiers, each soldier’s mind completely run by the AI. These AI-run soldiers are known as ancillaries.

In an act of treachery, the Justice of Toren is destroyed, and the AI—now going by the name of Breq—is a single human body filled with unanswered questions and a burning desire for vengeance.

Ancillary Justice is the only novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. Newspapers nationwide heaped praise on it.

And you know what? It’s a really good book. Clever, fun, inventive, occasionally shocking, and overall a great read with fascinating characters. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

However, I was disappointed because all that praise made me think it was going to be one of the most amazing science fiction books ever written, and that my life would be fundamentally different after reading it. It was good, but it wasn’t that good.

So just make sure your expectations are a little more realistic than mine were, and you’ll probably love Ancillary Justice.

11
Luna: New Moon
by Ian McDonald – 2015

The Moon wants to kill you. Whether it’s being unable to pay your per diem for your allotted food, water, and air, or you just get caught up in a fight between the Moon’s ruling corporations, the Five Dragons. You must fight for every inch you want to gain in the Moon’s near-feudal society. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon’s newest “dragon,” Adriana has wrested control of the Moon’s Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family’s new status. Now, at the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation, Corta Helio, surrounded by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana’s five children must defend their mother’s empire from her many enemies… and each other.

“McDonald creates a complex and fascinating civilization featuring believable technology, and the characters are fully developed, with individually gripping stories.”
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

10
Red Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson – 1992

For centuries, the barren, desolate landscape of the red planet has beckoned to humankind. Now a group of one hundred colonists begins a mission whose ultimate goal is to transform Mars into a more Earthlike planet. They will place giant satellite mirrors in Martian orbit to reflect light to the surface. Black dust sprinkled on the polar caps will capture warmth and melt the ice. And massive tunnels drilled into the mantle will create stupendous vents of hot gases. But despite these ambitious goals, there are some who would fight to the death to prevent Mars from ever being changed.

“A staggering book . . . the best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written.”
—Arthur C. Clarke

9
The Windup Girl
by Paolo Bacigalupi – 2009

Winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel

Anderson Lake is AgriGen’s Calorie Man, sent to work undercover as a factory manager in Thailand while combing Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories.

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. Emiko is not human; she is an engineered being, grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in this chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits and forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly-acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.

“This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best … clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

8
The Stars are Legion
by Kameron Hurley – 2017

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution. As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation—the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction—and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

“In a universe where the word for spaceship is the same as for world, two women struggle to escape a perpetual war in this dystopic yet hopeful space opera. This gripping book is both hard to read and easy to appreciate.”
—Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

7
The Shadow of the Torturer
by Gene Wolfe – 1980

Severian is a torturer, born to the guild and with an exceptionally promising career ahead of him, until he falls in love with one of his victims, a beautiful young noblewoman. Her excruciations are delayed for some months and, out of love, Severian helps her commit suicide and escape her fate. For a torturer, there is no more unforgivable act.

His punishment is exile from the guild and his home city to the distant metropolis of Thrax, with little more than Terminus Est, a fabled sword, to his name. Along the way he has to learn to survive in a wider world without the guild—a world in which he has already made both allies and enemies. And a strange gem is about to fall into his possession, which will only make his enemies pursue him with ever-more determination . . .

“[A] masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis.”
—Publishers Weekly

6
Hyperion
by Dan Simmons – 1989

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the reach of galactic law, waits a creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.

On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands.

“Simmons’s own genius transforms space opera into a new kind of poetry.”
—The Denver Post

5
Lord of Light
by Roger Zelazny – 1967

Winner of the Hugo award

Earth is long since dead. On a colony planet, a band of men has gained control of technology, made themselves immortal, and now rules their world as the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Only one dares oppose them: he who was once Siddhartha and is now Mahasamatman. Binder of Demons. Lord of Light.

4
Grass
by Sherri S. Tepper – 1989

Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. Over time, they evolved a new and intricate society. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It, too, had developed a culture. . . .

Now, a deadly plague is spreading across the stars. No world save Grass has been left untouched. Marjorie Westriding Yrarier has been sent from Earth to discover the secret of the planet’s immunity. Amid the alien social structure and strange life-forms of Grass, Lady Westriding unravels the planet’s mysteries to find a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.

“One of the most satisfying science fiction novels I have read in years.”
—The New York Times Book Review

3
The Fifth Season
by N. K. Jemisin – 2015

Winner of the Hugo award

This is the way the world ends…for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

“Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.”
―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

2
Revelation Space
by Alastair Reynolds – 2000

Revelation Space is a sprawling, hard-SF tale with enough original ideas for three thick novels. Seriously, it’s overflowing with the stuff. And it’s written by a guy with a PhD in astronomy, so all the science feels solid.

It’s got aliens, artificial intelligence, megastructures, colonized planets, ancient mysteries, cyborgs, big-ass spaceships, intrigue, betrayal, and murder. Reads don’t get much more satisfying than this.

“[A] tour deforce… ravishingly inventive.”
—Publishers Weekly

1
Leviathan Wakes
by James S.A. Corey – 2011

Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

“This is the future the way it was supposed to be.”
—The Wall Street Journal

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