The best military science fiction isn’t just a bunch of space battles and cigar-chomping armed combat (although those are fun). The most interesting books also examine what life in the military actually involves, and what combat can do to a person’s mind.
Earth is introduced to extraterrestrial life by the Galactics, who tell world leaders that an invasion by another alien race, the Posleen, is coming, and they are bringing with them a terrible book cover.
A Hymn Before Battle is the first book in Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata series, which already has twelve books, and at least two more planned.
“An exceedingly impressive first novel… executed with skill, verve, and wit.”
As Alex Benedict investigates a mysterious project his uncle had been working on at the time of his death, he’s drawn deep into the history of a war between human civilization and a neighboring alien civilization. He uncovers secrets that challenge the foundation of the current human government.
A Talent for War is a good example of science fiction mystery. In fact, it’s probably best described as a mystery in a far-future setting. If you’re looking for a wild, spaceship-exploding adventure, this isn’t it. However, if you’re intrigued by what mysteries may occur in the military in ten thousand years and enjoy getting into character’s heads, give this book a try.
Some critics claim this is not McDevitt’s best novel. It is, however, arguably his most famous, and sets the stage for several well-regarded sequels.
Original title: Ōru Yū Nīdo Izu Kiru
All You Need Is Kill has been adapted into manga, a graphic novel, and the film Edge of Tomorrow.
When the alien Mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he gets a message from a mysterious ally—the female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji’s escape or his final death?
Armor has some similarities with Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (such as the military use of exoskeletons and insect-like alien enemies) but concentrates more on the psychological effects of violence on human beings rather than on the political aspects of the military, which is the focus of Heinlein’s novel.
Felix is an Earth soldier, encased in special body armor designed to withstand Earth’s most implacable enemy—a bioengineered, insectoid alien horde. But Felix is also equipped with internal mechanisms that enable him, and his fellow soldiers, to survive battle situations that would destroy a man’s mind.
Dauntless is the first book of the six-volume series The Lost Fleet (there’s also seven spin-off novels).
Captain John “Black Jack” Geary’s legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic “last stand” in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance Fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndic.
Appalled by the hero worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance’s one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic “Black Jack” legend…
“Jack Campbell” is the pseudonym for John G. Hemry, a retired Naval officer.
Sven Tveskoeg, an ex-sergeant demoted for insubordination and sentenced to death, is a vicious killer with a stubborn streak of loyalty. Sven possesses a fierce if untutored intelligence and a genetic makeup that is 98.2 percent human and 1.8 percent . . . something else. Perhaps that “something else” explains how quickly he heals from even the worst injuries or how he can communicate telepathically with the ferox, fearsome alien savages whose natural fighting abilities regularly outperform the advanced technology of their human enemies. Perhaps it is these unique abilities that bring Sven to the attention of OctoV.
Drafted into the Death’s Head, the elite enforcers of OctoV’s imperial will, Sven is given a new lease on life. Armed with a SIG diabolo–an intelligent gun–and an illegal symbiont called a kyp, Sven is sent to a faraway planet, the latest battleground between the Uplifted and OctoV. There he finds himself in the midst of a military disaster, one that will take all his courage–and all his firepower–to survive.
But an even deadlier struggle is taking place, a struggle that will draw the attention of the United Free. Sven knows he is a pawn, and pawns have a bad habit of being sacrificed.
But Sven is nobody’s sacrifice. And even a pawn can checkmate a king.
It’s interesting to note that the multiple attempts to contact David Gunn, his publisher, his agent, or any of the number of companies he’s associated with have all failed (attempts by others, not by me). There are internet rumors that there is no real David Gunn: instead, his real name is possibly John Courtnay Grimwood and he’s never served in any military capacity. All of the preceding came from a forum on the internet, so it must be true.
First-time novelist Gunn, a Brit who’s served his country by undertaking mysterious military or espionage “assignments,” delivers a hilarious far-future shoot-’em-up featuring a flawless antihero… Those looking for hard-bitten military SF will be disappointed. Those who love schlock that stops just short of parody will be delighted.
The amazon.com description of this book starts with the sophisticated subtlety of a weasel that just burrowed though a grain silo of cocaine:
“THE OVERWHELMINGLY POPULAR #1 BESTSELLER!!! ****ONE OF THE HIGHEST-RATED MILITARY SCI-FI NOVELS ON AMAZON!!***”
Despite this overly enthusiastic hard sell, Forging Zero is a good, fast-paced “you are the chosen one” adventure with well-drawn characters.
14-year-old Joe Dobbs is in a post-apocalyptic universe following a massive alien invasion of Earth. The oldest of the children drafted from humanity’s devastated planet, Joe is pressed into service by the alien Congressional Ground Force—and becomes the unwitting centerpiece in a millennia-long alien struggle for independence. Once his training begins, one of the elusive and prophetic Trith appears to give Joe a spine-chilling prophecy that the universe has been anticipating for millions of years: Joe will be the one to finally shatter the vast alien government known as Congress. And the Trith cannot lie… But first Joe has to make it through bootcamp.
Apparently, there is a tabletop game out there called Warhammer 40,000 with a serious cult following. The game involves armies of humans, aliens, and robots spread across the galaxy. There are multiple spin-offs from the Warhammer 40k universe, including over 350 books.
Reportedly, the best book of all of these is Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding, which one reviewer called “a great airplane read. The heroes are always in peril, violent action erupts every few pages, and the characters are drawn with enough complexity and humanity that you actually care what happens to them.”
Playing the Warhammer game is not a requirement for enjoying the book, but it probably wouldn’t hurt. And if you like it, there are fourteen more books in the series.
Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding is actually an omnibus edition of the first three Gaunt’s Ghosts novels that follows the story of the Tanith First-and-Only regiment (nicknamed the Ghosts) and their charismatic commissar, Ibram Gaunt. As they travel from warzone to warzone in the Chaos-infested Sabbat Worlds system, the Ghosts must not only carry out the most dangerous of missions but also survive the deadly politics of the Imperial Guard.
Hammer’s Slammers is a short story collection that follows the career of a mercenary tank regiment called Hammer’s Slammers, after their leader, Colonel Alois Hammer.
“Drake, a Vietnam vet who served in the Blackhorse Regiment, uses prose as cold and hard as the metal alloy of a tank to portray the men and women of Hammer’s Regiment.”
The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets that are fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So we fight, both to defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, and unyielding.
Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.
On his 75th birthday John Perry did two things: First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the CDF. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect, because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.
Having made a superior look foolish, recent graduate Honor Harrington is exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace, and her demoralized crew blames her for their ship’s humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station.
Parliament isn’t sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling; the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called “Republic” of Haven is Up To Something; the aborigines of the system’s only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with woefully inadequate armament.
But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They’ve made her mad.
Kenneth Chinran commanded the elite unit assigned to take out an entire planet in a terrible war. Millions died; billions more perished in the aftermath. One doesn’t send a sociopath on such a mission, because a sociopath might not stop. Chinran did stop—but in the process nearly lost his sanity and his soul.
But one of Chinran’s men was a sociopath going in. Now he’s a trained sociopath with the knowledge and firepower to take out entire tactical teams, evaporate through security cordons, and change identity at will. Who do you send after a killer like that? There’s only one answer: the man who trained him.
Satirical, surreal, and darkly funny, Slaughterhouse-Five is Vonnegut’s most important (i.e., influential) and popular work. One can argue that no time travel actually occurs since the main character (in addition to the narrator) are unreliable witnesses to their own lives. One can also argue “Who cares?” It’s a great story.
“There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters…”
Heinlein wrote Starship Troopers while taking a break on Stranger in a Strange Land. Robert and his wife Virginia Heinlein created the small “Patrick Henry League” in an attempt to create support for the U.S. nuclear testing program. Heinlein found himself under attack both from within and outside the science fiction community for his views, so he wrote Starship Troopers to clarify and defend his military and political views at the time.
The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to two thousand calories of badly flavored soy every day:
You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service.
With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price…and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.
“Military science fiction is tricky because it either intends to lampoon the military industrial complex or paints it in such a way that you must really have to love guns to enjoy the work. Terms of Enlistment walks that fine line by showing a world where the military is one of the few viable options off a shattered Earth and intermixes it with a knowledge of military tactics and weapons that doesn’t turn off the casual reader.”
The Forever War is a science fiction allegory for the Vietnam War, written from the perspective of a reluctant participant in the middle of a seemingly endless war while the world back home changes beyond recognition.
“To say that The Forever War is the best science fiction war novel ever written is to damn it with faint praise. It is, for all its techno-extrapolative brilliance, as fine and woundingly genuine a war story as any I’ve read.”
—William Gibson, author of Neuromancer
The Forge of God features a character, Lawrence Van Cott, that is modeled on science fiction author Larry Niven, whose full name is “Laurence van Cott Niven”.
On July 26, Arthur Gordon learns that Europa, the sixth moon of Jupiter, has disappeared. Not hiding, not turned black, but gone.
On September 28, Edward Shaw finds an error in the geological records of Death Valley. A cinder cone was left off the map. Could it be new? Or, stranger yet, could it be artificial? The answer may be lying beside it—a dying guest who brings devastating news for Edward and for Planet Earth.
As more unexplained phenomena spring up around the globe—a granite mountain appearing in Australia, sounds emanating from the Earth’s core, flashes of light among the asteroids—it becomes clear to some that the end is approaching, and there is nothing we can do.
In the year 3016, the Second Empire of Man spans hundreds of star systems, thanks to the faster-than-light Alderson Drive. No other intelligent beings have ever been encountered, not until a light sail probe enters a human system carrying a dead alien. The probe is traced to the Mote, an isolated star in a thick dust cloud, and an expedition is dispatched.
Robert A. Heinlein, who gave the authors extensive advice on the novel, described the story as “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.”
The Praxis is the first novel in the Dread Empire’s Fall trilogy.
The empire of the Shaa had lasted 10 millennia. 10,000 years of terror, infinite violence and oppressive, brutal order, legitimized by The Praxis, the harsh code of ethics that they imposed on the races they conquered. But the Shaa began to commit ritual suicide when it became clear that their near immortality came at a price they were unwilling to pay.
The death of the last of the Shaa leaves the galaxy-wide empire leaderless, and into this power vacuum flow the pretenders to the throne: the Naxids, oldest client race of the Shaa, who believe themselves inheritors of the empire; and a frail alliance of the remaining races, including humanity. And so, the story of a dread empire’s fall begins…
“Williams is a skillfully literate addition to the stylish new generation of science fiction writers.”
The undead Emperor has ruled his mighty interstellar empire of eighty human worlds for sixteen hundred years. Because he can grant a form of eternal life-after-death, creating an elite known as the Risen, his power is absolute. He and his sister, the Child Empress, who is eternally a little girl, are worshipped as living gods.
The Rix are machine-augmented humans who worship very different gods: AI compound minds of planetary size. Cool, relentless fanatics, their only goal is to propagate such AIs. They seek to end the Emperor’s prolonged rule, and supplant it with an eternal cybernetic dynasty. They begin by taking the Child Empress hostage. Captain Laurent Zai of the Imperial Frigate Lynx is tasked with her rescue.
Separated by light years, bound by an unlikely love, Zai and pacifist Senator Nara Oxham must both face the challenge of the Rix, and both will hold the fate of the empire in their hands.
“…exceptionally smart and empathetic novel…Keeping the reader constantly off-balance, Westerfeld skillfully integrates extreme technologies with human characters.”
The granddaddy of alien invasion stories, The War of the Worlds was classified as “scientific romance,” as was Wells’s earlier book, The Time Machine.
Wells appears to have enjoyed the idea of obliterating his neighborhood. In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “I’m doing the dearest little serial for Pearson’s new magazine, in which I completely wreck and sack Woking — killing my neighbors in painful and eccentric ways — then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity.”
The Warrior’s Apprentice is book #2 in the 16-novel-long (and counting) Vorkosigan Series.
Discharged from the Barrarayan academy after flunking the physical, a discouraged Miles Vorkosigan takes possession of a jumpship and becomes the leader of a mercenary force that expands to a fleet of treasonous proportions.
Staff Sergeant Tobin Kerr was a battle-hardened professional, so when she was yanked from a well-deserved leave for what was supposed to be “easy” duty as the honor guard for a diplomatic mission to the non-Confederation world of the Silsviss, she was ready for anything.
At first, it seemed that all she’d have to contend with was bored troops getting into mischief, and breaking in the new second lieutenant who had been given command of her men.
Sure, there had been rumors of the Others—the sworn enemies of the Confederation—being spotted in this sector of space. But there were always rumors. The key thing was to recruit the Silsviss into the Confederation before the Others either attacked or claimed this lizard-like race of warriors for their own side. And everything seemed to be going perfectly. Maybe too perfectly.
“Huff delivers the goods. Valor’s Choice…is incredibly fun.”
-Science Fiction Weekly
111 thoughts on “23 Best Military Science Fiction Books”
I can hardly believe your military sf list. You must have not read these books. Starship Troopers and The Forever War are not in the top ten. Sorry, but this list is ridiculous, in my opinion. Ringo is number one, really. Please explain to me your reasoning on not including Heinlein and Haldeman’s masterpieces in your top TEN?
I’ve sort of got to agree. Although I wouldn’t entirely dis my output. (Don’t think Hymn is my best book by the same token.) But I’d suggest Starship Troopers much higher. Probably at the top. It’s the usual referent of all modern combat SF. You may love it or hate it but you’re still using it as a touch point. Armor is about where it should be. And it’s entirely missing Ender’s Game. Probably bump up Drake as well. (Should say the same for Honor Harrington but David’s ‘take’ on the military has always been a bit too reverential. I’d put it below the top ten. Although Path of the Fury I’d put higher. But he’s choosing one well known book from each author.)
List is alphabetical. Gah! Stupid authors! 🙂
Feel free to delete both comments when moderated.
And it’s only technically alphabetical at that. All of the novels with titles beginning with “THE” are lumped under ‘t’. While some find this acceptable, they should consider, if they want to lookup THE moon or THE speed of light or THE heebeejeebees in some reference book, I doubt that they would appreciate having to look under THE!
And would it have killed them to have labeled the list, “listed alpha by title”?
All are alphabetical even the books that start with “the” are still in following alphabetical order.
“Starship Troopers” must be read with an understanding of the time When it was written. (Much like his “Sixth Column”) Plus, it was a ground breaker in military science fiction. Notice it’s the oldest book on the list.
It was the first Heinlein story I ever read. Years later, in my own basic training, I went through much of the same soul search his protagonist did.
The greatest blow against the novel has been those terrible movies that have been cranked out.
“Starship Troopers”” is *not* the oldest book in the list. It was written much later than, say, H. G. Wells “The War of the Worlds.”
Neither Dune nor Ender’s game are on the list…..so…that’s not a good sign.
The first Starship Troopers movie is not horrible. You simply have to realize that the director hates Heinlein and said he couldn’t get through the book because it was so paternalistic. Given that he lived under Nazi occupation you can understand why he might not like message of the book. So the movie Starship Troopers is a parody/satire of militarism designed to be a antithesis to the book.
When I finally got around to reading the book….well let’s just say it wasn’t what I was expecting. I wouldn’t have called it “good” for all that it was influential, similar to Lord of The Rings ( though LoTR was written as a refutation of militarism) I am completely unable to enjoy it because, any elements that were once groundbreaking are so common place that they were cliche before I was born and I absorbed them as part and parcel of general sci-fi and pop culture.
The message of Starship Troopers (book) is you get what you put the effort in for. No free handouts. All the Troopers are volunteers and everyone fights, even the cooks.
They are fully trained with all weapons (even mini-nukes) but only use the weapons needed to do the job.
Their war is (mainly) against an army of insects (alright arachnids really) for whom casualties really don’t matter, you have to find another way to win the war.
It also shows the virtues of unit cohesion, even to people you don’t really like.
Why people think its militaristic or right-wing, beats me.
Your stuff is definitely state of the art and well-grounded in the classics, even Sluggy Freelance. Keep cranking them out! I hate that Beam Piper isn’t even mentioned; he was a huge influence on Pournelle at least.
Holy shit John Ringo.
I’ve read all of your series. In my opinion Troy is the best. The posleen having turned out to have been under the control of self aware inventory management software…well it felt a little machina ex dias.
Ender’s game being missing along with the shadow series is a fairly large omission. I’d probably have included Taylor Anderson, SM Stirling, Eric Flint and William R. Forstchen. I really enjoy those reinventing the wheel stories, which is why I probably enjoy the Troy Series so much.
Do you have any suggestions of books for readers? I’m starting to think I’ve read every Military SciFi Book there is.
Try Peter f Hamilton
Having read all of Webber’s work I’d rate Path of the Fury as his penultimate work as well. However, Honor is well… Honor. The fact that I can still care about her and think of her as a person and not Super Woman after all she’s been through is, I think, the greatest testament to his ability to write a “war hero” central character.
Pretty certain they are listed in alphabetical order…
The list is in alphabetical order, chief.
Forever war is definitely deserving of a top 10 place
exactly, please read and amend post haste
Ben, it looks like the list is alphabetical…
Your intro for Forging Zero made me spit out my drink. Interesting list, plenty of books I haven’t heard of. Think I’ll check out Deaths head, I like my sci fi to be ridiculous once in a while.
You should – It is my favourite military science fiction trilogy. You can’t help but relate to Sven
really enjoy the blog
Thanks! It likes you, too.
Great list, thanks alot, I didn’t know almost all of these (of course apart Haldeman and Heinlein). I’ve bought a good 5 scifi books with the help of this list. And I… well, don’t care if Starship and Forever war are not in “top 10”. There is no valid reason for them to be top ten in ANY list, they are not immortal, their aesthetic is not god-made, they are not gods of scifi. Simply put, these are opinions and I think a list is more believable if those books are exactly NOT in top positions becasue that would mean that scifi has not developed after them. Which is logically incoherent and very unlikely. But let me say that you could add The Night’s Dawn trilogy which has some incredibly action packed moments, and why not the good old Hyperion: just try to kill the Shrike, woun’t you 😉
Neither the Night’s Dawn TRilogy nor Hyperion are Mil Sci Fi. The only Peter Hamilton work I can think of that might be Mil Sci Fi is Fallen Dragon.
I have most of these books, but I must say I cannot agree with some of the choices. I think John Ringo has a few dozen books that could be on this list. They have a military plotline more-so than a few of these. And the one book you have on this list is not necessarily his BEST of the genre. IMHO, of course.
Any list of MILITARY sf has to begin with STARSHIP TROOPERS and its antidote, FOREVER WAR. The genre is born with the first and comes of age with the second; every piece of military sf after them is influenced by them, whether or not you’ve read them.
What about a list in alphabetical order? Y’know, like this one
Tremendous list! I read a fair amount of Military Science Fiction and I have previously read about 60% of the books listed here. Well, in the past month or so I read the other 40% and they were all excellent. Thank you for this excellent list!
I am about halfway through it and have not been disappointed yet. Never heard of some of these and really enjoyed Dauntless… which expanded into reading all 11 books in the Lost Fleet series and now I’m working on the Lost Stars spinoff.
Thank you for introducing this books \ authors.
I’m a huge fan of the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, so I’m glad to find that in here. I’ve picked up a couple of books from this list. This was fun.
How in the name of all that is holy is this list missing Leckie’s ANCILLARY trilogy? I know the third one isn’t out for a few weeks but the first two staggered the scifi-reading universe, I think I’ve read them both like 15 times: the author won BOTH the Hugo and the Nebula for ANCILLARY JUSTICE alone.
Do you honestly think that the Ancillary books belong side such books as “Warrior’s Assistant”, “Forever War”, “War Of The Worlds” , or you just fangirling because it has a Hugo and Nebula?
Staggered the universe with how awful and unoriginal it was, you mean. It’s a great illustration of how neither the Hugo nor the Nebula Awards are the guides to quality SF that they used to be.
They didn’t “stagger” the “scifi-reading universe”. Both were obviously liked by the SFWA and members of one convention (WorldCon) enough to be nominated, and one to win. I personally didn’t find either of them all that notable or particularly good, regardless of the gimmick (but that’s one guy’s opinion–your mileage has varied).
“Ancillary Justice” wasn’t bad, but definitely not in this league. It “staggered the sci-fi reading universe” because it pushed a bunch of buttons on a politically-correct checklist.
“Ancillary Sword” stunk. Nothing happens, for the first 150 pages. The most exciting thing in the book is some spoiled brat, shattering a 3,000 year old tea set.
I’ll read “Mercy”, just to see if she pulls out of the dive. Probably NOT going to nominate it for the Hugo. Incidentally, “Mercy”‘s title was so predictable, I figured it out before I’d finished “Justice”.
It is missing because Hugo win notwithstanding it is at best a mediocre book.
Maybe because they’re just awful, and recommending them is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment.
What happened to Hugo and Nebula award winning novel Ender’s Game? An amazing sci fi novel.
The movie wasn’t bad, either; not as good as the book, but not bad.
I’m excited to see a few books I haven’t heard of. I’ll be adding them to my queue tonight. I can also suggest Poor Man’s Fight and Koban.
Somewhere in there I would put Sten (and it’s sequels) by Allen Cole and Chris Bunch
Good books, but as I recall Sten was more like an agent than a soldier?
John Ringo’s “A Hymn Before Battle” is available in the Baen Books FREE Library!!
Good list. It includes many of my favorites, and several books I have not read. Missing is: Trading in Danger – Vatta’s War – Elizabeth Moon; A Soldier’s Duty – Their’s Not to Reason Why – Jean Johnson; Legion of the Damned – Legion – William Dietz.
I second the Legion of the Damned.
Dietz’s Legion books are a good read and he rarely disappoints. Moon’s Serrano and Suiza books beat Weber IMO though her fantasy books are unreadable. I don’t know how Ian Douglas’s Star Carrier series got left out. He’s also got three trilogies and the Warjack series. A lot of good reading there. And what about Saberhagen’s Berserker series?
H Beam Piper’s Space Vikings would be a good add to this list too…..While not as militarily intense as some of the books here,it is a good overview of a civilizations slide to barbarism.
SPACE VIKING is a seminal classic. His stolen starship was the Enterprise. He mentions the ice planet Hoth. These are not coincidences. Trask overturns the balance of power on world after world, reviving half-dead planets by attacking them, and then forges treaties with them. I’d also mention LORD KALVAN OF OTHERWHERE, who finds himself in a backwards world where gunpowder can be made only by the priests of the cult, who have cut off his allies. Suddenly they not only have the secret of making gunpowder, but the leadership of a man who has studied military tactics, and the cult is in panicked retreat.
Great list. I have read the majority of the these. I would add Stirlings “The General” series to this. Along the same lines, Eric Flints “Bellisarius” series is also a good read.
I don’t think most people would think of the “Belisarius” books as Sci-Fi.
Definitely Belisarius! And Ender’s Game.
You should definitely have something by Tom Kratman on the list. “A Desert Called Peace” or “Caliphate” would be good ones to start. Bujold is more Space Opera and not really mil sci-fi.
Kratman should always be left out. It is an overly glorified retelling of 9/11 with a huge slant in the writing, and a glorification and condonement of torture
The Bolos books by Keith Laumer et al should be included. The Starfist series by Dan Cragg and Charles Sherman as well.
Yes. Starfist. Sad there has been nothing from them lately.
I agree with all the choices and have read most of them (except for the manga, I think that’s the only one).
However, you need to include AT LEAST the first book of The Deed of Paksenarrion series. Even if its set in a fantasy world, the set up of military training and first battle is pretty spot on.
I’ve read and been inspired in my own writing from a few on the list, mainly John Ringo. I wonder what the criteria was when making the list? Glad to see they did not try to rank them from perceived best.
Not a big fan of hubbard but “Final Blackout” is at least worth considering.
Ender’s Game really was a good read when I was young, closing in on twenty years of military service I find the whole premise more and more absurd.
And at least an honorable mention for pure entertainment; Kevin O’Donnell Jr, for “ORA:CLE” and “Fires on the Border” and Eric Flint and Dave Freer for “Rats, Bats, and Vats”
the Berserker series by Fred Saberhagen are not on this list.
but I will definitely make use of it – and of the comments below.
The BERSERKERS series covers a wide range; some are barely about combat, others are nothing but. IF you haven’t read them, go get them. Berserkers are an ancient ultimate weapon, automated deathstars programmed to kill all life; they’ve succeeded until they met humans. Humans are too full of life to be exterminated, and they actually thrive on this challenge.
No Dorsai??? Seriously?
Dorsai would be a good addition to the list. I don’t so much want to take anything off, just make it longer.
I agree 1000%
Everyone has a favorite they’d prefer to see on the list. Myself, I’m happy to see things I haven’t seen before. If Ender’s Game or Starship Troopers were on the list – like every other list – I wouldn’t have something new to go read.
No Gordy Dickson? No Poul Anderson?
Thanks for the list. Always good to have some ideas of good books out there. Very cool to have John Ringo himself commenting.
I have a lot of other SF books that I really enjoy that are not on the list. However, let me say how much I enjoy the Dauntless series. I’ve re-read the entire series several times. John Hemry does a tremendous job of giving a real “naval” feel to futuristic combat. Professionals act professional. Combat makes sense given vastness of solar systems and the limitations of sub-light speed. It gives a sense of what huge fleet battles in space would really be like. I highly recommend this series.
I do think Hemry is the mil scifi writer out there.
Lots in interesting items on the list and the comments – I’d also recommend Falkenberg’s Legion and the Draka series for people that enjoy these ones.
hemrys geary series are good, but his best is starkes war, a 11 on a scale o to 10.
and i miss jean johnson, evan currie and ann leckie.
but that would be then 26 authors …..
Ian Douglas’s Star Corpsman series was good, as was Eric Flint and David Drake’s Raj Whitehall series. I have found Eric Flint to be an exceptionally good author, with many good ideas.
Shame on you, no mention of Bill the Galactic Hero 🙂
How bout Ian Douglas’s Star Carrier and Heritage (space marines) series? Enjoyed them!
The Eternity Brigade – Stephen Goldin
Missing the best space war book I have ever read, Richard C. Meredith, *We All Died at Breakaway Station*.
Always difficult to judge ‘best’ when it comes to books as the choice is so personal but just to include a few other books I recommend to friends: Robert Frezza’s Fire In A Faraway Place and A Small Colonial War plus H Paul Honsinger’s Man Of War series (yes that series owes a huge amount to a certain fictional series set in the Napoleonic era but is quite readable despite that). I also regularly reread David Weber’s Armageddon Inheritance even if it is just a _tad_ overblown 🙂
Where the hell are:
The science fiction novels of Gordon R. Dickson’s Childe Cyclee:
Dorsai! (alternate title: The Genetic General) (1959)
Necromancer (1962) (issued under the title No Room for Man between 1963-1974)
Soldier, Ask Not (1967)
Tactics of Mistake (1971)
The Final Encyclopedia (1984)
The Chantry Guild (1988)
No self respecting list should be without them! I also agree that The Forever War and Starship Troopers should be in the Top Ten of any list, anywhere
^^^^^ What he said.
a man of taste
If you are a student of military history, especially naval history, try Taylor Anderson’s Destroyer Men series. More fantasy than sci-fi, but could go either way.
A perfect marriage of my love for WWII naval history and sci-fi/fantasy.
Thanks, great list, great ideas for additions. I fell into this page while trying to determine the title & author of a book I read at least 30 years ago, which had as a frontice-piece a quote about a Roman Legion being sent off into the hinterland, to fight and never be heard from again. I know that is off topic, but if anyone recalls said novel, would appreciate the memory jog.
Was that Andre Norton, Star Rangers? I think that I remember the foreword being almost exactly that, sent by Caligula.
BTW would really like a follow on to the 3 extant ‘Troy Rising’ books!
David Weber and John Ringo’s Empire of man series’ “The March up County” , “March to the Sea” , March to the stars” and “We few”. basically a coming of age set ona hell hole planes a young fop, of a prince, through trial and tribulation, and the various battles and loss of his men , is reborn as a leader and warrior.
How could you not have Falkenberg’s Legion or Prince of Sparta on the list?
A great list,most of which I have read,but many many thanks to the commentators here who have mentioned authors I have never seen before.time to explore!!
nothing by E E Doc Smith there?
Yes, the books are a bit ‘dated’, but they are coming up to 70 years old. And for many, were the forerunners (and inspiration) of what we like to read today.
I stumbled across this looking for something to read while I wait for the next book in the FrontLines series, if which Terms Of Enlistment is the first. It’s honestly my favorite invasion series. Those lankies are done smart mf’ers
Lots of interesting comments. My favorite authors among them is Drake. He’s been there, he’s done it, his take is real. I find it interesting that Heinlein was a naval academy grad while Haldeman was a draftee. I thought Starship Troopers was cartoonish in many ways, Forever War was real in its first chapters, . Increasingly surreal in its later chapters. As an officer Major Mandela was pathetic. Much of the Vorkosi g an saga wasn’t mill sci fi but Warriors Apprentice definitely was.
The greatest literature of the 19 th century was Russian; that of the first half of the 20th century was American, and since the 1960’s it has been Spanish. Not just my opinion, but also that of the world’s leading academics on novel level literature. Novel being a term of art in the Art of Literature.
Fully a dozen of David Webers’ last twenty Novels meet or exceed the standards set by the greatest Novelests’ of the last 190 years.
As for the comments above, virtually every book mentioned was a terrific read.
But when you reach the level set by the great Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, and Mr. Weber has done so, you have become one of The Worlds’ great historical Writers.
That Mr. Webers’ settings involves humanity in a future, fictional setting is irrelevant. The humanity of his leading characters and the intellectual and emotional turmoil in their own minds and in their conversations with others are frequently, staggeringly
moving and insightful.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”, “Anna Karenina” and “The Grapes of Wrath” are each great novels. Mr. Webers’ latest series includes at least five novels in their class.
He is the first GREAT WRITER, of many to come during the next 200 years, whose novels take place in our galaxy, because humanity has finally begun the great push out and up, rather than over and across land and water. He will go down in history,
just as did Pushkin , when he started it all with his 1820 Novel, “Ruslan and Ludmila”.
Steve White & David Weber in the Starfire series. If you haven’t, read ‘In Death Ground’.
This list should be split into modern and classic mil scifi. Just too much to choose from.
This list is gold! I second the ~classic~ and ~modern~ clarification though. Starship Troopers really is very hard to live up to.
I am a little disturbed by the inclusion of The Mote in God’s Eye on this list. I would not classify it as military sci-fi. It is a story of first contact, of intercultural communication, not of war, conflict, or life in the military. Just because a story includes soldiers, doesn’t make it military sci-fi. And yes, I am aware that there is some fighting in the story; however, that fighting is not central to the plot, but serves as a consequences of the misunderstanding between the two races. Categorizing this story as Military sci-fi does little justice to either its brilliance or that of any book that is actually military sci-fi.
I disagree. The story begins as the human empire is in the final stages of quelling a rebellion and it then sends a joint military and scientific mission to meet the “Moties”, a necessarily aggressive and expansionist alien race. The “misunderstanding” between the two races is entirely due to the Moties’ efforts to hide their true nature from the humans, and it is only as a result of Admiral Kutuzov’s hard-line stance that this becomes clear and the subsequent blockade is established.
The sequel, The Mote Around Murcheson’s Eye, continues in much the same vein, with fighting very much central to the plot.
Don’t forget David Mace: “Demon-4” and “Firelance”.
Any halo fan would demand that starhammer by Christopher Rowley should be included
Great list – should contain ever so many more – The Dune and Foundation series to name a couple (which I may have missed)
Great list, Starship Troopers definitely shouldn’t be in the top 2, because over half of it is nothing but Fox News pandering and in classrooms, literally. Barely any alien interaction, you learn nothing of the aliens. The entire show and all episodes of Rico’s Roughnecks is actually better overall than the Starship Troopers novel. Forever War was the best.
You should add:
Halo – Fall of Reach.
A really really great transhuman super soldier story.
Aliens – Berserker
Aliens vs Predator series by Steve Perry
The Land Leviathan by Micheal Moorcock
No Gordon R. Dickson? Expand the list…
Timothy Zahn Cobra and/or Black Collar
i like this list it is pretty cool and accurate and stuff som yea
Great list! Lots of my favorite books on here.
Their Master’s War – Mick Farren
Have read all of the noted books, while I’ve read and enjoyed Weber’s works, he is a ‘Boy’s Own’ writer who expands all his 300 page books into 600+ with the addition of puerile phrases. If he uses “but then again”once to add an unneeded make-weight comment, he uses it a hundred times et al….
Where is David Drake’s Lt. Leary – arguably one of the best three ever?
How do you not include:
BERSERKER SERIES BY FRED SABERHAGEN
Dorsai! and CHILDE CYCLE BY GORDON R. DICKSON
“In Death Ground” and “The Shiva Option” by David Weber and Steve White. This is by far the most intense SciFi military set of books I have ever read. Epic battles, an implacable enemy, and strong characters make it my number one pick.
Alphabetical by authors. Any redundancy with previously discussed authors/titles is unintentional.
Titles not put forth as contenders. Believed to better than more than most (and consistent with this category). Thought there would just be one or two, I’d mention. If I copy and paste into this post maybe there will a better chance of catching spelling errors. Give other kinds of mistakes an opportunity.
Thank you for the new-to-me-authors. (And the tempting descriptions.)
W. C. Bauers Unbreakable
Greg Bear Anvil of Stars
Frank Chadwick Chain of Command
C. J. Cherryh (the) Faded Sun Trilogy
Gordon R. Dickson Dorsai
David Drake Seas of Venus
Harry Harrison the Hammer and the Cross
Mack Reynolds Frigid Fracas
Melissa Scott the Game Beyond
Dana Stabenow Second Star
John Varley Wizard
Vernor Vinge A Fire Upon the Deep
Paul O. Williams the Breaking of the Northwall
Sean Williams Echoes of Earth
Roger Zelazny the Guns of Avalon