Best Science Fiction Heist Books

Fortunately, the future has its fair share of charming rogues, tempting targets, and outrageous escapes.

10
The Crown Jewels
by Walter Jon Williams – 1987

Peleng is a planet ripe for the plucking, and Drake Maijstral is an Allowed Burglar rated in the Top Ten by the Imperial Sporting Commission. But what should be a simple case of breaking-and-plundering turns into an intergalactic crisis when Maijstral steals something so rare, so valuable, so utterly desirable, that everyone wants it—everyone including well-armed Imperial spies, gun-toting human militias, a homicidal maniac with a very large sword, and a fanatical countess with a really, really nasty croquet habit.

9
Doorways in the Sand
by Roger Zelazny – 1976

Fred Cassidy leads an idyllic life. As long as he remains a full time college student without a degree, he is provided a very generous stipend from his uncle’s estate.

But after thirteen years of happy undergrad existence everything is about to change.

Cassidy’s home is broken into and ransacked. When he enters, he is assaulted by a former professor wanting to know where the alien artifact known as the star stone is. Cassidy manages to escape, only to discover that he is also being pursued by hired criminals, Anglophile zealots, government agents, and aliens.

Cassidy has no idea where the star stone is but he realizes that unless he finds it, one of these factions will eventually catch up to him and most likely kill him.

“A return toward the power Zelazny once displayed, plus a maturation that runs deeper than witticism.”
—The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

8
Star Wars: Scoundrels
by Timothy Zahn – 2013

Han Solo should be basking in his moment of glory. After all, the cocky smuggler and captain of the Millennium Falcon just played a key role in the daring raid that destroyed the Death Star and landed the first serious blow to the Empire in its war against the Rebel Alliance.

But after losing the reward his heroics earned him, Han’s got nothing to celebrate. Especially since he’s deep in debt to the ruthless crime lord Jabba the Hutt. There’s a bounty on Han’s head, and if he can’t cough up the credits, he’ll surely pay with his hide. The only thing that can save him is a king’s ransom. Or maybe a gangster’s fortune? That’s what a mysterious stranger is offering in exchange for Han’s less-than-legal help with a riskier-than-usual caper. The payoff will be more than enough for Han to settle up with Jabba, and ensure he never has to haggle with the Hutts again.

All he has to do is infiltrate the ultra-fortified stronghold of a Black Sun crime syndicate underboss and crack the galaxy’s most notoriously impregnable safe. It sounds like a job for miracle workers… or madmen. So Han assembles a gallery of rogues who are a little of both, including his indispensable sidekick Chewbacca and the cunning Lando Calrissian. If anyone can dodge, deceive, and defeat heavily armed thugs, killer droids, and Imperial agents alike—and pull off the heist of the century—it’s Solo’s scoundrels. But will their crime really pay, or will it cost them the ultimate price?

“Rapid-fire adventure [that] adds yet another dimension of enjoyment to a rousing galactic romp.”
—Library Journal

7
Broken Angels
by Richard Morgan – 2003

Cynical, quick-on-the-trigger Takeshi Kovacs, the ex-U.N. envoy turned private eye, has changed careers, and bodies, once more… trading sleuthing for soldiering as a warrior-for-hire, and helping a far-flung planet’s government put down a bloody revolution.

But when it comes to taking sides, the only one Kovacs is ever really on is his own. So when a rogue pilot and a sleazy corporate fat cat offer him a lucrative role in a treacherous treasure hunt, he’s only too happy to go AWOL with a band of resurrected soldiers of fortune. All that stands between them and the ancient alien spacecraft they mean to salvage are a massacred city bathed in deadly radiation, unleashed nanotechnology with a million ways to kill, and whatever surprises the highly advanced Martian race may have in store. But armed with his genetically engineered instincts, and his trusty twin Kalashnikovs, Takeshi is ready to take on anything—and let the devil take whoever’s left behind.

“[B]ursts with energy and intelligence… It all adds up to a superior, satisfying cyberpunk noir adventure.”
—Publishers Weekly

6
Provenance
by Ann Leckie – 2017

Though she knows her brother holds her mother’s favor, Ingray is determined to at least be considered as heir to the family name. She hatches an audacious plan: free a thief from a prison planet from which no one has ever returned, and use them to help steal back a priceless artifact.

But Ingray and her charge return to her home to find their planet in political turmoil, at the heart of an escalating interstellar conflict. Together, they must make a new plan to salvage Ingray’s future and her world, before they are lost to her for good.

Provenance takes place in author Leckie’s Imperial Rach world (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, Ancillary Mercy).

“The intricacies and oddities are a delight… A thrill for fans of heists and capers.”
―Washington Post

5
The Quantum Thief
by Hannu Rajaniemi – 2010

Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur….

Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burglar, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds are known throughout the Heterarchy—from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his power—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

“Spectacularly and convincingly inventive, assured and wholly spellbinding: one of the most impressive debuts in years.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

4
Artemis
by Andy Weir – 2017

Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich.

Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. Rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time.

So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the “swagger” part down.

The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems. Because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself.

Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.

Jazz is no hero, but she is a very good criminal.

That’ll have to do.

“Narrated by a kick-ass leading lady, this thriller has it all—a smart plot, laugh-out-loud funny moments, and really cool science.”
—Library Journal, starred review

3
The Stainless Steel Rat
by Harry Harrison – 1961

The Stainless Steel Rat is not an actual metal space rodent, which disappointed me as a young reader. However, he is a futuristic con man, master thief, skilled liar, and all-round rascal.

Jim DiGriz is captured during one of his crimes and forced to work a boring, routine desk job as punishment. Unexpectedly, he discovers that someone is building a battleship, thinly disguised as an industrial vessel.

In the peaceful League, no one has battleships anymore, so the builder of this one would be unstoppable. DiGriz’s hunt for the guilty party becomes a personal battle between himself and the beautiful but deadly Angelina, who is planning a coup on one of the feudal worlds. DiGriz’s dilemma is whether he will turn Angelina over to the Special Corps, or join with her, since he has (of course) fallen in love with her.

2
Against A Dark Background
by Iain M. Banks – 1993

Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilization based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith’s apotheosis, and her only hope of escape is to find (and steal) the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns before the Huhsz find her.

Her journey through the exotic Golterian system is a destructive and savage odyssey into her past, and that of her family and of the system itself.

“There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward to with greater keenness.”
―The Times

1
Neuromancer
by William Gibson – 1984

The book that defined an entire genre (cyberpunk). And Gibson almost didn’t get it published because he was afraid it was too similar to the movie Blade Runner.

Case was the sharpest data-thief in the matrix—until he crossed the wrong people and they crippled his nervous system, banishing him from cyberspace. Now a mysterious new employer has recruited him for a last-chance run at an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, a mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case is ready for the adventure that upped the ante on an entire genre of fiction.

“A revolutionary novel.”
—Publishers Weekly

2 thoughts on “Best Science Fiction Heist Books

  1. Great list ! I have read “Broken Angels”, “The Stainless Steel Rat”, and “Neuromancer” out of the 10. I have “Artemis” in my SBR (strategic book reserve) to be read soon.

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