Best Modern Science Fiction Book 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.

 

19
The Honors
by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre – 2018

In the series:

Honor Among Thieves
Honor Bound
Honor Lost

First book synopsis

This YA novel is surprisingly inventive with a great, trouble-causing, mouthy protagonist, the kind you can’t wait to see what she does next.

In the near future, a young, smartass, homeless street thief steals the wrong thing from the wrong person and gets into an incredible amount of trouble just before she becomes instantly famous when she is chosen as an Honor, one of the few chosen to ride around for a year in a Leviathan, a giant alien space creature.

That’s just the setup.

It may sound a little goofy, but this is an action-packed novel with great world-building and excellent characters that features as much personal growth as space travel.

“Keenly wrought characters, imaginative worldbuilding, and an inventive plot engage and gratify while urging readers to stay curious, question authority, and fight injustice.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

18
Chaos Walking
by Patrick Ness – 2008

In the series:

The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men

First book synopsis

This YA book has a great premise: on a distant planet, in a town with only men, everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts. Todd, the youngest person in town and a month away from manhood, slowly learns that everyone is keeping a horrible secret from him. He is forced to flee with his only friend, a talking dog. They discover the most surprising thing Todd’s ever seen: a living girl.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is wild, dramatic, and funny. It’s a page-turner with moments of brutality and poetry.

“Narrated with crack dramatic and comic timing… The cliffhanger ending is as effective as a shot to the gut.”
—Booklist, starred review

17
Bas-Lag
by China Miéville – 2000

In the series:

Perdido Street Station
The Scar
Iron Council

First book synopsis

Perdido Street Station borrows from steampunk, cyberpunk, fantasy, and a few other genres that couldn’t run away fast enough.

Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to no one—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory.

“Miéville’s canvas is so breathtakingly broad that the details of individual subplots and characters sometime lose their definition. But it is also generous enough to accommodate large dollops of aesthetics, scientific discussion and quest fantasy in an impressive and ultimately pleasing epic.”
—Publishers Weekly

16
Imperial Radch
by Ann Leckie – 2013

In the series:

Ancillary Justice
Ancillary Sword
Ancillary Mercy

First book synopsis

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.

“A double-threaded narrative proves seductive, drawing the reader into the naive but determined protagonist’s efforts to transform an unjust universe.”
―Publishers Weekly

15
Uglies
by Scott Westerfeld – 2005

In the series:

Uglies
Pretties
Specials
Extras

First book synopsis

Uglies is a YA book set in a post-scarcity world in which everyone is turned “Pretty” by extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching age 16.

Under the surface, Uglies speaks of high-profile government conspiracies and the danger of trusting the omnipresent Big Brother. While the underlying story condemns war and all the side effects thereof, the true thrust of the story is that individual freedoms are far more important than the need for uniformity and the elimination of personal will.

14
Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins – 2008

In the series:

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

First book synopsis

In this wildly popular YA story, the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

“A violent, jarring, speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense… I couldn’t stop reading.”
—Stephen King

13
Wayfarers
by Becky Chambers – 2014

In the series:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
A Closed and Common Orbit
Record of a Spaceborn Few
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

First book synopsis

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

“A quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism.”
—The Guardian

12
Old Man's War
by John Scalzi – 2005

In the series:

Old Man’s War
The Ghost Brigades
The Last Colony
Zoe’s Tale
The Human Division
The End of All Things

First book synopsis

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First, he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight, 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, 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.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea of 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.

“Scalzi’s astonishingly proficient first novel reads like an original work by the late grand master [Heinlein]… This virtuoso debut pays tribute to SF’s past while showing that well-worn tropes still can have real zip when they’re approached with ingenuity.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review

11
The Southern Reach Trilogy
by Jeff VanderMeer – 2014

In the series:

Annihilation
Authority
Acceptance

First book synopsis

In the dream-like Annihilation, a section of the Californian coast has turned so weird that it’s now called Area X. This happened thirty years ago, and no one on the outside knows why everyone inside Area X died, why there are weird structures inside, or why there’s a border you can’t get through except through one invisible entrance. Is it a slow alien invasion, a mass hallucination, or something else?

Annihilation covers the twelfth expedition into Area X, where the members have given up their names and refer to each other only by profession: the biologist, the linguist, and so on. All the previous expeditions into Area X have ended in death, madness, or cancer.

This book is a gentle ride into subtle weirdness. You don’t get too many straight answers about what Area X is or is even like on the inside. Some things are normal, some fantastical, and most of it messes with your head. It all feels truly alien and you get the sense that this is going to be impossible to understand, no matter how many facts you have at your disposal.

A gripping fantasy thriller, Annihilation is thoroughly suspenseful.
—Booklist, starred review

10
Singularity
by Charles Stross – 2003

In the series:

Singularity Sky
Iron Sunrise
Accelerando

First book synopsis

In the twenty-first century, man created the Eschaton, a sentient artificial intelligence.

It pushed Earth through the greatest technological evolution ever known, while warning that time travel is forbidden, and transgressors will be eliminated.

Distant descendants of this ultra high-tech Earth live in parochial simplicity on the far-flung worlds of the New Republic. Their way of life is threatened by the arrival of an alien information plague known as the Festival.

As forbidden technologies are literally dropped from the sky, suppressed political factions descend into revolutionary turmoil. A battle fleet is sent from Earth to destroy the Festival, but spaceship engineer Martin Springfield and U.N. diplomat Rachel Mansour have been assigned rather different tasks. Their orders are to diffuse the crisis or to sabotage the New Republic’s war-fleet, whatever the cost, before the Eschaton takes hostile action on a galactic scale.

9
The Inhibitor Trilogy
by Alastair Reynolds – 2000

In the series:

Revelation Space
Redemption Ark
Absolution Gap

First book synopsis

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 de force… Ravishingly inventive.”
—Publishers Weekly

8
Firefall
by Peter Watts – 2006

In the series:

Blindsight
Echopraxis

First book synopsis

A derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there, but not to us. Who should we send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn’t want to meet?

Send a linguist with a multiple-personality disorder and a biologist so spliced with machinery that he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find—but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them…

“Watts explores the nature of consciousness in this stimulating hard SF novel, which combines riveting action with a fascinating alien environment. Watts puts a terrifying and original spin on the familiar alien contact story.”
―Publishers Weekly, starred review

7
Lady Astronaut
by Mary Robinette Kowal – 2018

In the series:

The Calculating Stars
The Fated Sky
The Relentless Moon

First book synopsis

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

“In The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal imagines an alternate history of spaceflight that reminds me of everything I loved about Hidden Figures.”
―Cady Coleman, actual astronaut

6
Ready Player
by Ernest Cline – 2011

In the series:

Ready Player One
Ready Player Two

First book synopsis

If you’re a child of the 80s, reading Ready Player One is like mainlining heroin-strength nostalgia. It’s so ridiculously fun that I frequently imagined author Ernest Cline giggling and saying to himself, “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!”

In the dystopian future, teenage Wade Watts searches for a mysterious Easter egg in a worldwide video game called the OASIS. Finding the Easter egg will cause him to inherit the ownership of the OASIS and billions upon billions of dollars. Of course, he’s not the only one looking for it.

I listened to the audiobook version of Ready Player One, and loved it. Narrator Wil Wheaton nailed it.

“As one adventure leads expertly to the next, time simply evaporates.”
—Entertainment Weekly

5
The Expanse
by James S. A. Corey – 2011

In the series:

Leviathan Wakes
Caliban’s War
Abaddon’s Gate
Cibola Burn
Nemesis Games
Babylon’s Ashes
Persepolis Rising
Tiamat’s Wrath
Leviathan Falls

First book synopsis

Space opera combined with noir. I love this book and the whole Expanse series.

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

4
Spin Trilogy
by Robert Charles Wilson – 2005

In the series:

Spin
Axis
Vortex

First book synopsis

One night when he was 10, Tyler stood in his backyard and watched the stars go out. They flared into brilliance, then disappeared, replaced by an empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.

The “sun” is now a featureless disk—a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. The world’s artificial satellites have fallen out of orbit. Eventually, space probes reveal that the barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time passes faster outside the barrier, more than a hundred million years per day on Earth. At this rate, the death of the sun is only about forty years away.

Jason, now a promising young scientist, devotes his life to working against this slow-moving apocalypse. Diane throws herself into hedonism, marrying a sinister cult leader who’s forged a religion out of the fears of the masses.

Earth sends terraforming machines, then humans, to Mars… and immediately an emissary returns with thousands of stories about the settling of Mars. Then an identical barrier appears around Mars.

Life on Earth is about to get much, much stranger.

“Robert Charles Wilson is a hell of a storyteller.”
—Stephen King

3
Takeshi Kovacs
by Richard K. Morgan – 2002

In the series:

Altered Carbon
Broken Angels
Woken Furies

First book synopsis

In the twenty-fifth century, humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. While divisions in race, religion, and class still exist, advances in technology have redefined life itself. Now, assuming one can afford the expensive procedure, a person’s consciousness can be stored in a cortical stack at the base of the brain and easily downloaded into a new body (or “sleeve”), making death nothing more than a minor blip on a screen.

Ex-U.N. envoy Takeshi Kovacs has been killed before, but his last death was particularly painful. Dispatched one hundred eighty light-years from home, re-sleeved into a body in Bay City (formerly San Francisco, now with a rusted, dilapidated Golden Gate Bridge), Kovacs is thrown into the dark heart of a shady, far-reaching conspiracy that is vicious even by the standards of a society that treats “existence” as something that can be bought and sold.

“A fascinating trip… Pure high-octane science fiction mixes with the classic noir private-eye tale.”
—Orlando Sentinel

2
The Broken Earth
by N. K. Jemisin – 2015

In the series:

The Fifth Season
The Obelisk Gate
The Stone Sky

First book synopsis

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.

“[I]ntricate and extraordinary.”
—The New York Times

1
Remembrance of Earth's Past
by Cixin Liu and Ken Liu – 2008

In the series:

The Three-Body Problem
The Dark Forest
Death’s End

First book synopsis

Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the superior beings and help them take over a world seen as corrupt, or to fight against the invasion. The result is a science fiction masterpiece of enormous scope and vision.

“Remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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