Best Science Fiction Books with Numbers in the Title

Some book lists are just for the heck of it.

 

17
I Am Number Four
by Pittacus Lore – 2009

John Smith seems like an ordinary teenager, living a normal life with his guardian Henri in Paradise, Ohio. But for John, keeping a low profile is essential, because he is not an ordinary teenager. He’s an alien from the planet Lorien, and he’s on the run. A group of evil aliens from the planet Mogadore, who destroyed his world, are hunting anyone who escaped.

Nine Loric children were sent to Earth to live in hiding until they grew up and developed their Legacies, powers that would help them fight back—and help them save us. Three of them are now dead. John is Number Four, and he knows he’s next…

“Terrifically propulsive.”
—Booklist

16
Hull Zero Three
by Greg Bear – 2010

A starship hurtles through the emptiness of space. Its destination unknown, and its purpose a mystery.

A man wakes up. Ripped from a dream of a new home—a new planet and the woman he was meant to love in his arms—he finds himself wet, naked, and freezing to death. The dark halls are full of monsters but trusting the other survivors he meets might be the greater danger.

All he has are questions: Who is he? Where are they going? What happened to the dream of a new life? What happened to Hull 03?

All will be answered, if he can survive the ship.

“Not for those who prefer their space opera simpleminded, this beautifully written tale where nothing is as it seems will please readers with a well-developed sense of wonder.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

15
The Fifth Wave
by Rick Yancey – 2013

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

“Yancey’s heartfelt, violent, paranoid epic, filled with big heroics and bigger surprises, is part War of the Worlds, part Starship Troopers, part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and part The Stand… a sure thing for reviewers and readers alike.”
—Booklist, starred review

14
Zero Sum Game
by S.L. Huang – 2014

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…

She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

“A fast-paced, darkly humorous read with a lot of heart for fans of action and urban fantasy, as well as lovers of Wolverine and other morally ambiguous, gritty superheroes with a mysterious past.”
―Booklist, starred review

13
11/22/63
by Stephen King – 2011

It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore.

12
1Q84
by Haruki Murakami – 2009

1984, Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

1Q84 is a love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, and a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s.

“Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers… But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it’s the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.”
—The New York Times Book Review

11
Year Zero
by Rob Reid – 2012

Low-level entertainment lawyer Nick Carter thinks it’s a prank, not an alien encounter, when a redheaded mullah and a curvaceous nun show up at his office. But Frampton and Carly are highly advanced (if bumbling) extraterrestrials. The entire cosmos, they tell him, has been hopelessly hooked on American pop songs ever since “Year Zero” (1977 to us), resulting in the biggest copyright violation since the Big Bang and bankrupting the whole universe.

Nick has just been tapped to clean up this mess before things get ugly. Thankfully, this unlikely galaxy-hopping hero does know a thing or two about copyright law. Now, with Carly and Frampton as his guides, Nick has forty-eight hours to save humanity—while hoping to wow the hot girl who lives down the hall from him.

“Reid’s extreme imagination never wanes as he builds an entire universe solely on how alien societies would react to our music and culture. Nothing is typical or obvious. Reid uses the lens of an outsider to unleash a sarcastic—and hilarious—rant on how obsessed we are with technology and greed.”
—Associated Press

10
Ninefox Gambit
by Yoon Ha Lee – 2016

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician, Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao—because she might be his next victim.

“A tight-woven, complicated but not convoluted, breathtakingly original space opera.”
—New York Times

9
Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel – 2014

I’m not usually a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories, but Station Eleven is a great story and exceptionally well-written.

A virus sweeps through the world and quickly kills off 95% of humanity, ending all comforts of civilization. The book’s protagonist is Kirsten, a young woman traveling with a band of musicians and actors who move from town to town, playing music and putting on Shakespeare plays. They hunt for food and tread carefully in a dangerous world, but even they can’t avoid a deadly and insane prophet.

Author Emily St. John Mandel flings the reader back and forth in time, examining characters both before and after the pandemic by jumping from thirty years before the virus to twenty years after and back again. But she does so with such a deft touch that these transitions feel natural and illuminating.

“Possibly the most captivating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel you will ever read.”
—The Independent (London)

8
Tau Zero
by Poul Anderson – 1970

Hard science fiction with a hell of an idea: what would happen if your light-speed engine malfunctioned and instead of slowing down, you just went faster and faster? Tau Zero does a masterful job of dealing with the consequences of near-light-speed, and the reaction of the humans trapped in the ship.

7
The Twelve
by Justin Cronin – 2012
This is the sequel to The Passage, so you’ll probably want to read that book first.

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that within connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation… unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

“[A] literary superthriller.”
—The New York Times Book Review

6
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne – 1870

Highly acclaimed when released and even now, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is regarded as one of the premiere adventure novels in literature and one of Verne’s greatest works, along with Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Verne himself has been the second most-translated author in the world since 1979, sandwiched between the English-language writers Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare.

While some classics can be something of a pain to slog through, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea holds up well.

5
Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline – 2011

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.

4
Slaughterhouse-Five
by Kurt Vonnegut – 1969

This American classic is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

“Very tough and very funny… sad and delightful… very Vonnegut.”
—The New York Times

3
1984
by George Orwell – 1949

Ideas from science fiction rarely make it into the public consciousness, but 1984 has been referenced in Supreme Court cases, and “Big Brother” has a spot in the Oxford English Dictionary.

1984 is the rare book that is both commonly assigned to students and still a pleasure to read.

2
2001: A Space Odyssey
by Arthur C. Clarke – 1968

This allegory about humanity’s exploration of the universe—and the universe’s reaction to humanity—is a hallmark achievement in storytelling that follows the crew of the spacecraft Discovery as they embark on a mission to Saturn. Their vessel is controlled by HAL 9000, an artificially intelligent supercomputer capable of the highest level of cognitive functioning that rivals—and perhaps threatens—the human mind.

1
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury – 1953

Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires…

The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames. He never questioned anything, until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.

2 thoughts on “Best Science Fiction Books with Numbers in the Title

  1. Out of the 17, I have read “I Am Number Four”, “The 5th Wave”, the awesome “Ready Player One”, “1984”, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, and “Fahrenheit 451”. I do have “The Twelve” in my SBR (strategic book reserve).

    I have seen the movie versions of “I Am Number Four”, “The 5th Wave”, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, the awesome “Ready Player One”, and the amazing “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

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