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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
58 thoughts on “23 Best Science Fiction Book Series”
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
Thanks! These are great additions.
ok, help me out here, I’m trying to remember a series with at least 3 books, primarily about a cocky young ship captain/smuggler. It involved an evil presence taking over a world that humans were colonizing. Another world where our here the ship captain bedded the King’s wife AND daughter separately, and then fled before the King could find out. This smuggler had a ship full of the hardest trees ever.
Written by a man. I had just started it a long time ago, and then never finished, and I’ve lost track of it. Ring any bells? Please contact me if so! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you very much
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.
Yes! I’m looking at Titan on my bookshelf right now.
Great list. I would add the riverworld saga by Philip José Farmer.
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.
I concur on the Ender series!
This is a chronological list of the Enderverse series from Wikipedia:
The Hive (TBA)
The Queens (TBA)
Ender’s Shadow (Note: The events of Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow take place in roughly the same time period.)
A War of Gifts (Note: This takes place during Ender’s Game/Ender’s Shadow.)
Children of the Fleet
Shadow of the Hegemon
Shadow of the Giant
Ender in Exile (Note: Beginning takes place during Shadow of the Hegemon and through Shadow of the Giant)
Shadows in Flight
Speaker for the Dead
Children of the Mind
Shadows Alive (TBA)
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
Great Sky River too
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).
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!
I much prefer the Covenant books to Gap. I would love to see them made into movies.
A deal was made to make Lord Foul’s Bane into a movie…but it never moved forward.
want to second “Species Imperative” de Julie E Czerneda
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.
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!
Saga of seven suns: best saga I’ve ever read:)
Better than foundation IMO.
Riverworld series Philip Jose Farmer
World of Tiers Philip Jose Farmer
Amber Series Roger Zelazny
Forever War trilogy Joe Halden
Heechee Series Frederick Pohl
Yes, you are right, these are good
I really need to find the author of these books featuring Vardo… It also features interplanetary, brutal sports where bionic humans play a kind of futuristic football game and people die… Please help me find these titles I read as a teenager 30 years ago!
Are you talking about the Vardo series? First book is The Game by David Wood and Phyllis Edwards.
A question: Does anybody know of a current sci-fi trilogy, of which the first book has come out but not the next two and has something to do with rings or the word ring? I saw it at the library, a big book, and can’t remember the name now but it looked good! Please let me know if you have any ideas (ps. it’s not Ringworld or Lord of the Rings)
I really enjoyed Holdstock’s Mythago books, or do Fantasy books not belong on this list?
This is strictly a science fiction book site. Once in a blue moon, a fantasy book is mentioned, but I prefer to stay focused on SF.
I was revisiting in memory sci-fi series that I have loved.
I also recommend the Three Body Problem trilogy, by Cixin Liu.
Terrific and believable Sci Fi.
Absolutely! That’s a fantastic trilogy.
Richard Morgan got on a roll with Takeshi Kovacs and each succeeding book was better than the one before. Classic hard SF. #theBestSF
Not exactly SF but consider Justin Cronin
City of Mirrors
He wrote this series based upon his daughter’s request for him to write a story about how a little girl saves the world.
Great info site, Thanks!
Books recommended above seems so interesting. I would like to recommend the Maze Runner and Divergent series. They’re superb. Enjoy reading
Others I’ve enjoyed.
1. Lost Fleet series
2. Honor Harrington Series
3. Destroyermen (marries Sci Fi, Fantasy, and my love of WWII Naval history)
The Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson should be on the list.
3. Tactics of Mistake
4. Spirit of the Dorsai
5. Lost Dorsai
6. Soldier, Ask Not
7. The Final Encyclopedia
8. Chantry Guild
9. Young Bleys
Two other Dickson references could be added:
The Dorsai Companion (a collection of shorter pieces)
Lulungomeena (a piece written in 1954 which I haven’t found yet, but is said to be the first piece that Mr. Dickson wrote in this universe)
Thank you! One of the best I’ve read!
I really have enjoyed Saberhagen’s Berserker series, as well as his Book of Swords series, Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series, Clarke’s Rama series, van Vogt Null-A and isher series, James Hogan Giant series, Piper’s Fuzzy series, and on and on and on…
Good list. Most of the series you picked are great. I was really excited to read the lensman when I saw it was the runner up to the Foundation. Worst mistake ever! Horrible books! I pushed through to Grey lensman but stopped half way. Just unreadable. I know these were written a long time ago but honestly the way he writes women characters is so distracting it’s impossible to get through. Just the language in general is horrible. You can imagine a time thousands of years in the future but not that they wouldn’t speak the same way the do in the 50’s. I have never in my forty years of reading stopped reading a series that I had started but I just couldn’t get through this dribble. Now I know why I had never heard of it before.
I like the list. It was helpful.
Thanks will be reading these in the near future. Anyone ever read the Malazan books? my favorite just above the Dune series.
you have to include sci fantasy otherwise you miss too many good writers and their books. try: Anne Mccaffery , Elizabeth Moon, L.E. Modesitt jnr. Joel Shepherd , Raymond E. Feist, Jean Johnson, John Birmingham, Trudi Canavan, Katherine Kerr ( Try the book – Snare), Robert Jordan, David Weber, for some very good reading and entertainment.
The Quantum Thief (trilogy) by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Queendom of Sol (four-part series) by Wil Mccarthy
Orthogonal (trilogy) by Greg Egan
Please consider the Star Doc series by S.L. Viehl. Have read this series numerous times.
Plague of Memory
Dream Called Time
Wow! I didn’t realize there were so many good SF series around. Thanks for the list. Most of my favorites are either already on your list or in following suggestions by other responders. All except one of them — The Helliconia series by Brian Aldiss. It is really, really good.
Helliconia Spring – 1982
Helliconia Summer – 1983
Helliconia Winter – 1985
Patrick Tilley’s Amtrak Wars was a fine read if you’re after a dystopian future with a mix of sci fi and fantasy elements
There is another series that I read in the 90s that is superb but name escapes me.
Featured a monkish assassin as the key catalyst in a mid-future mercantile family run galaxy – sort of Dune without any spice or worms. Terrifically absorbing.
If anyone knows the series I’m thinking of – pls post for other’s benefit
Why has not one suggested the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh as one of the best series? Along with many of the ones on the list suggested, I have reread this one several times.
A test of time seems to be whether one would re-read the books in the series and constantly find something missed on a previous reading or consider what might have been happening in the background that’s unwritten (i.e. the depth of the writing). First place by far is the Culture Series by Banks (I purchased the whole set and read it in a cyclical sequence and am constantly amazed by the depth), then Hyperion Cantos by Simmons, then Vernor Vinge, followed by the original Foundation Trilogy (for sheer wonder). Other series seem just to tell a good story, but are ultimately forgettable. How did Silverberg get on this list? For individual SF books Heinlein Hugo/Nebulas are great, and Armor by John Steakley (the story oozes into the consciousness until it screams). A final thought – it seems digital books don’t give the same impact as the print books – perhaps they are slightly modified for various reasons. Anyone else notice this? For example, if I read a Banks Culture series books on Kindle, then read the print book, I come away with a way more satisfying read from the print book).
Please add James Alan Gardner’s series EXPENDABLE to your best list. Festina Ramos is the best heroine ever. The gender-bending exploration in COMMITMENT HOUR was phenomenally ahead of its time. Actual science, originality, great character development, and richly detailed plotting make these stories some of the most reread volumes on my shelf of favorites.
Did you forget Gene Wolfe’s New Sun series?
This is a great list, and fairly comprehensive. A couple of other entries that I noticed the absence of:
– Sector General series, James White.
– Tom Corbett, Space Cadet
– Tom Swift series
That said, many of the series given are not to my taste, but that in no way diminishes their quality. When reading books in the genre, which span a century or more of writing, I always try to take into context the temporal context of the writing. A book written in the 1940’s is going to be sociologically quite different from something written in the 2010’s.
Helliconia series by Brian Aldiss is a favorite of mine, as is the Saga of the Pliocene series by Julian May. Highly recommended. For kids, Tripods and Prince in Waiting series by John Carpenter are excellent.
Red rising is a great scifi war epic. Maybe more exciting and less intellectual than other books on this list. Definitely a page turner. One more book to go, so will see if the ending sticks the landing.
I loved Dune, but it was painfully boring at times. The Expanse was great. Felt nostalgic and sad for a couple of days after I finished it.
Thanks for all the recommendations!
Silverberg – Meh.
List should include Tales of Continuing Time [Series], Daniel Moran-Keys (by far one of the best, ranks up there with Bank’s Culture Series, but by some accounts more entertaining – I periodically re-read the series.
Piers Anthony – Blue Adept.
Great combo of sci-fi/fantasy :).
ok, so if you recognize this, then email me or make comment but hopefully email at email@example.com
so written by a male author, from pre 2000. Series of 3 I think. What I remember is colonists getting to a world, a mother and daughter in the story at first, mother kept a learning machine with her. Mom killed saving the girl from some impending evil doom arising on the planet. Meantime, other parts of the story are about a space captain/smuggler who grabs a hold full of these incredibly tough trees from colony world, transports them to a civilized world and sells the whole shipful, making history, and allowing him to bed both the king’s wife, and his daughter, before fleeing. That’s all I remember – lost track of it, trying to find. Ring any bells? Thanks!
It wouldn’t be Witches of Karres would it?
I’ve really enjoyed Jamie Sawyer’s The Lazarus War series. He’s written another series, The Eternity War, in the same universe which I haven’t read yet.
The Lazarus War: Artefact
The Lazarus War: Legion
The Lazarus War: Origins
The Eternity War: Pariah
The Eternity War: Exodus
The Eternity War: Dominion