On June 13, 2014, Reddit user sudevsen posed a question to the Books subreddit: What’s the best stand-alone science-fiction book of the last 25 years?
Reddit responded generously, including some titles that were older than 25 years (science fiction readers can be passionate, and if there’s a book you should read, by god they’re going to tell you, to hell with the rules).
sudevsen ended up with over 2,000 answers.
I was thrilled to discover dozens of new titles and authors, and my reading list probably got longer by an entire year. Which is awesome.
The Top Recommendation
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
The Top Author Recommendations
It’s a four-way tie with four books per author.
- Iain M. Banks: The Algebraist, Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, Use of Weapons
- John Scalzi: Agent to the Stars, Old Man’s War, Redshirts, The Android’s Dream
- Larry Niven (3 books co-authored with Jerry Pournelle): A World Out of Time, The Mote in God’s Eye, Fallen Angels, Footfall
- Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Anathem, Cryptonomicon
The Stand-alone List
I’ve listed the top 85 books below, in no particular order. The descriptions are from Amazon, because the ones from Wikipedia were boring. The symbols don’t mean anything, but they class up the joint a little.
Six million years ago, at the dawn of the star-faring era, Abigail Gentian fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, which she called shatterlings. But now, someone is eliminating the Gentian line. Campion and Purslane-two shatterlings who have fallen in love and shared forbidden experiences-must determine exactly who, or what, their enemy is, before they are wiped out of existence.
2057. Bella Lind and the crew of her nuclear-powered ship, the Rockhopper, push ice. They mine comets. But nothing can prepare them for the surprises in store when Janus, one of Saturn’s ice moons, spins out of control.
Three hundred years from now, Earth has been rendered uninhabitable due to the technological catastrophe known as the Nanocaust.
Archaeologist Verity Auger specializes in the exploration of its surviving landscape. Now, her expertise is required for a far greater purpose.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
Doctor Impossible—evil genius, would-be world conqueror—languishes in prison. Shuffling through the cafeteria line with ordinary criminals, he wonders if the smartest man in the world has done the smartest thing he could with his life. After all, he’s lost every battle he’s ever fought. But this prison won’t hold him forever.
Fatale—half woman, half high-tech warrior—used to be an unemployed cyborg. Now, she’s a rookie member of the world’s most famous super-team, the Champions. But being a superhero is not all flying cars and planets in peril—she learns that in the locker rooms and dive bars of superherodom, the men and women (even mutants) behind the masks are as human as anyone.
In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he predicts its future — and our own.
The Singularity. It is the era of the posthuman. Artificial intelligences have surpassed the limits of human intellect. Biotechnological beings have rendered people all but extinct. Molecular nanotechnology runs rampant, replicating and reprogramming at will. Contact with extraterrestrial life grows more imminent with each new day.
Struggling to survive and thrive in this accelerated world are three generations of the Macx clan: Manfred, an entrepreneur dealing in intelligence amplification technology whose mind is divided between his physical environment and the Internet; his daughter, Amber, on the run from her domineering mother, seeking her fortune in the outer system as an indentured astronaut; and Sirhan, Amber’s son, who finds his destiny linked to the fate of all of humanity.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, THE SEATTLE TIMES, AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity’s history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.
But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin — barely of age herself — finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history’s darkest hours.
Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He’s been shuttling between the 21st century and the 1940s searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop’s bird stump. It’s part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.
But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right–not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself.
Jules is a young man barely a century old. He’s lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies…and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.
Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the keeping of a network of “ad-hocs” who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.
Now, though, the “ad hocs” are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents, and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself.
Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It’s only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it’s war….
Are smart phones really humanity’s most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century–fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common disease, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances–have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that seemed imminent in the 1960’s failed to arrive?
Perhaps it did arrive…but only for a select few.
“One hell of a novel . . . has what sci-fi readers want these days; intelligence, action, and an epic scale”.
–Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.
Old age can never kill him now.
The only problem is, everything else still can . . .Imagine a near future where a cure for aging is discovered and-after much political and moral debate-made available to people worldwide. Immortality, however, comes with its own unique problems-including evil green people, government euthanasia programs, a disturbing new religious cult, and other horrors. Witty, eerie, and full of humanity, The Postmortal is an unforgettable thriller that envisions a pre-apocalyptic world so real that it is completely terrifying.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
Since the Introdus in the 21st century, humanity has reconfigured itself drastically. Most chose immortality, joining the polises to become conscious software.
Others opted for gleisners: Disposable, renewable robotic bodies that remain in contact with the physical world of force and friction. Many of these have left the Solar System forever in fusion drive starships.
And there are the holdouts. The fleshers left behind in the muck and jungle of Earth — some devolved into dream-apes; others cavorting in the seas or the air; while the statics and bridges try to shape out a roughly human destiny.
The good news is that you have just awakened into Eternal Life. You are going to live forever. Immortality is a reality. A medical miracle? Not exactly.
The bad news is that you are a scrap of electronic code. The world you see around you, the you that is seeing it, has been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. You are a Copy that knows it is a copy.
The good news is that there is a way out. By law, every Copy has the option of terminating itself, and waking up to normal flesh-and-blood life again. The bail-out is on the utilities menu. You pull it down…
The bad news is that it doesn’t work. Someone has blocked the bail-out option. And you know who did it. You did. The other you. The real you. The one that wants to keep you here forever.
The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances’ foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action.
The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.
The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman’s life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.
Ferociously intelligent, both witty and horrific, USE OF WEAPONS is a masterpiece of science fiction.
The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.
Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
As Mother India approaches her centenary, nine people are going about their business — a gangster, a cop, his wife, a politician, a stand-up comic, a set designer, a journalist, a scientist, and a dropout. And so is Aj — the waif, the mind-reader, the prophet — when she one day finds a man who wants to stay hidden.
In the next few weeks, they will all be swept together to decide the fate of the nation.
Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach.
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.
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 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.
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, with the chance to serve on “Away Missions” alongside the starship’s famous senior officers.
Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to realize that 1) every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces, 2) the ship’s senior officers always survive these confrontations, and 3) sadly, at least one low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier crew members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs.
Then Andrew stumbles on information that transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
A human diplomat creates an interstellar incident when he kills an alien diplomat in a most…unusual…way. To avoid war, Earth’s government must find an equally unusual object: A type of sheep (“The Android’s Dream”), used in the alien race’s coronation ceremony.
To find the sheep, the government turns to Harry Creek, ex-cop, war hero and hacker extraordinaire, who with the help of Brian Javna, a childhood friend turned artificial intelligence, scours the earth looking for the rare creature. And they find it, in the unknowing form of Robin Baker, pet store owner, whose genes contain traces of the sheep DNA.
But there are others with plans for the sheep as well: Mercenaries employed by the military. Adherents of a secret religion based on the writings of a 21st century science fiction author. And alien races, eager to start a revolution on their home world and a war on Earth.
To keep our planet from being enslaved, Harry will have to pull off the greatest diplomatic coup in history, a grand gambit that will take him from the halls of power to the lava-strewn battlefields of alien worlds. There’s only one chance to get it right, to save the life of Robin Baker — and to protect the future of humanity.
The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish.
So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal.
Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
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.
This is a remarkable novel of the horror, the courage, and the aftermath of combat-and how the strength of the human spirit can be the greatest armor of all.
A devastating new novel of innocence, knowledge, and loss. As children Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special–and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together.
Jaybee Corbell awoke after more than 200 years as a corpsicle — in someone else’s body, and under sentence of instant annihilation if he made a wrong move while they were training him for a one-way mission to the stars.
But Corbell picked his time and made his own move. Once he was outbound, where the Society that ruled Earth could not reach him, he headed his starship toward the galactic core, where the unimaginable energies of the Universe wrenched the fabric of time and space and promised final escape from his captors.
Then he returned to an Earth eons older than the one he’d left…a planet that had had 3,000,000 years to develop perils he had never dreamed of — perils that became nightmares that he had to escape…somehow!
The Mote In God’s Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind’s first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre.
They first appear as a series of dots on astronomical plates, heading from Saturn directly toward Earth. Since the ringed planet carries no life, scientists deduce the mysterious ship to be a visitor from another star.
The world’s frantic efforts to signal the aliens go unanswered. The first contact is hostile: the invaders blast a Soviet space station, seize the survivors, and then destroy every dam and installation on Earth with a hail of asteriods.
Now the conquerors are descending on the American heartland, demanding servile surrender–or death for all humans.
In contemporary London, Michael Kearney is a serial killer on the run from the entity that drives him to kill. He is seeking escape in a future that doesn’ t yet exist—a quantum world that he and his physicist partner hope to access through a breach of time and space itself. In this future, Seria Mau Genlicher has already sacrificed her body to merge into the systems of her starship, the White Cat. But the “inhuman” K-ship captain has gone rogue, pirating the galaxy while playing cat and mouse with the authorities who made her what she is. In this future, Ed Chianese, a drifter and adventurer, has ridden dynaflow ships, run old alien mazes, surfed stellar envelopes. He “went deep”—and lived to tell about it. Once crazy for life, he’s now just a twink on New Venusport, addicted to the bizarre alternate realities found in the tanks—and in debt to all the wrong people.
Haunting them all through this maze of menace and mystery is the shadowy presence of the Shrander—and three enigmatic clues left on the barren surface of an asteroid under an ocean of light known as the Kefahuchi Tract: a deserted spaceship, a pair of bone dice, and a human skeleton.
In the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress but with a healthy dose of cyberpunk: Radio Freefall is about a plot to take over the Earth by power-mad, sociopathic computer-geek billionaire, Walter Cheeseman. It’s up to a strange cast of rock stars and oddballs to stop him.
Aqualung, a mysterious blues musician who also has superhuman tech skills, might be the catalyst for the resistance–or he might just be the pawn of artificial intelligences.
To thwart the takeover, the orbitals and the moon colonies secede from Earth. And then something like the Singularity happens, but no one is quite sure.
This is a novel of cyberpunk and rock and roll, of technology, artificial intelligence, and wild riffs off of Heinlein all mixed into an explosive debut.
In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.
It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour.
Every attempt to destroy it has failed.
And we are the prey.
Only once in a great while does a writer come along who defies comparison—a writer so original he redefines the way we look at the world. Neal Stephenson is such a writer and Snow Crash is such a novel, weaving virtual reality, Sumerian myth, and just about everything in between with a cool, hip cybersensibility to bring us the gigathriller of the information age.
In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse. Snow Crash is a mind-altering romp through a future America so bizarre, so outrageous…you’ll recognize it immediately.
In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy’s fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.
Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse’s crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a “data haven” in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe’s tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty…or to universal totalitarianism reborn.
Iron is the promise of freedom — which may never be fulfilled as Lanik uncovers a treacherous conspiracy beyond his imagination.
Now charged with a mission of conquest — and exile — Lanik devises a bold and dangerous plan… a quest that may finally break the vicious chain of rivalry and bloodshed that enslaves the people of Treason as the Offworld never could.
A century from now, thanks to a technology allowing instantaneous travel across light-years, humanity has solved its energy shortages, cleaned up the environment, and created far-flung colony worlds. The keys to this empire belong to the powerful North family—composed of successive generations of clones. Yet these clones are not identical. For one thing, genetic errors have crept in with each generation. For another, the original three clone “brothers” have gone their separate ways, and the branches of the family are now friendly rivals more than allies.
Or maybe not so friendly. At least that’s what the murder of a North clone in the English city of Newcastle suggests to Detective Sidney Hurst. Sid is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand off this hot potato of a case. The way he figures it, whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career.
Two months have past since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since—until 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 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. . . .
One night in October when he was ten years old, Tyler Dupree stood in his back yard and watched the stars go out. They all flared into brilliance at once, then disappeared, replaced by a flat, 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 effect is worldwide. The sun is now a featureless disk—a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain. Not only have the world’s artificial satellites fallen out of orbit, their recovered remains are pitted and aged, as though they’d been in space far longer than their known lifespans. As Tyler, Jason, and Diane grow up, a space probe reveals a bizarre truth: The barrier is artificial, generated by huge alien artifacts. Time is passing faster outside the barrier than inside—more than a hundred million years per year on Earth. At this rate, the death throes of the sun are only about forty years in our future.
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 new religion out of the fears of the masses.
Earth sends terraforming machines to Mars to let the onrush of time do its work, turning the planet green. Next they send humans…and immediately get back an emissary with thousands of years of stories to tell about the settling of Mars. Then Earth’s probes reveal that an identical barrier has appeared around Mars. Jason, desperate, seeds near space with self-replicating machines that will scatter copies of themselves outward from the sun—and report back on what they find.
In the distant past, Earth, the alien’s home planet, and the home planet of another alien species, all experienced the same five cataclysmic events at the same time (one example: the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs). Both alien races believe this proves the existence of God: i.e., he’s obviously been playing with the evolution of life on each of these planets. From this provocative launch point, Sawyer tells a fast-paced, morally and intellectually challenging story of ambitious scope and touching humanity. Calculating God is SF on a grand scale.
In Stephen King’s “most ambitious and accomplished” (NPR) and “extraordinary” (USA TODAY) #1 New York Times bestselling novel, time travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
Dallas, 11/22/63: Three shots ring out.
President John F. Kennedy is dead.
Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.
A classic science fiction novel by one of the greatest writers of the genre, set in a future world where one man’s dreams control the fate of humanity.
In a future world racked by violence and environmental catastrophes, George Orr wakes up one day to discover that his dreams have the ability to alter reality. He seeks help from Dr. William Haber, a psychiatrist who immediately grasps the power George wields. Soon George must preserve reality itself as Dr. Haber becomes adept at manipulating George’s dreams for his own purposes.
The Lathe of Heaven is an eerily prescient novel from award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin that masterfully addresses the dangers of power and humanity’s self-destructiveness, questioning the nature of reality itself. It is a classic of the science fiction genre.
Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where 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.
Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.
After thousands of years searching, humans stand on the verge of first contact with an alien race. Two human groups: the Qeng Ho, a culture of free traders, and the Emergents, a ruthless society based on the technological enslavement of minds.
The group that opens trade with the aliens will reap unimaginable riches. But first, both groups must wait at the aliens’ very doorstep for their strange star to relight and for their planet to reawaken, as it does every two hundred and fifty years….
Then, following terrible treachery, the Qeng Ho must fight for their freedom and for the lives of the unsuspecting innocents on the planet below, while the aliens themselves play a role unsuspected by the Qeng Ho and Emergents alike.
More than just a great science fiction adventure, A Deepness in the Sky is a universal drama of courage, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of love.
Winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for Best Novel and widely considered one of the most accomplished, powerful, and enduring classics of modern speculative fiction, Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz is a true landmark of twentieth-century literature — a chilling and still-provocative look at a post-apocalyptic future.
In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infant rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From here the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes. Seriously funny, stunning, and tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable, A Canticle for Leibowitz retains its ability to enthrall and amaze. It is now, as it always has been, a masterpiece.
Mycora: technogenic life. Fast-reproducing, fast-mutating, and endlessly voracious. In the year 2106, these microscopic machine/creatures have escaped their creators to populate the inner solar system with a wild, deadly ecology all their own, pushing the tattered remnants of humanity out into the cold and dark of the outer planets. Even huddled beneath the ice of Jupiter’s moons, protected by a defensive system known as the Immunity, survivors face the constant risk of mycospores finding their way to the warmth and brightness inside the habitats, resulting in a calamitous “bloom.”
But the human race still has a trick or two up its sleeves; in a ship specially designed to penetrate the deadly Mycosystem, seven astronauts are about to embark on mankind’s boldest venture yet–the perilous journey home to infected Earth!
Yet it is in these remote conditions, against a virtually omnipotent foe, that we discover how human nature plays the greatest role in humanity’s future.
The Matrix is a world within the world, a global consensus- hallucination, the representation of every byte of data in cyberspace . . .
Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employees crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on an adventure that ups the ante on an entire genre of fiction.
Hotwired to the leading edges of art and technology, Neuromancer ranks with 1984 and Brave New World as one of the century’s most potent visions of the future.
27 thoughts on “Reddit’s Favorite Stand-alone Science Fiction Novels”
Very well done! I appreciate the amount of work you put into condensing all the comments on reddit into this fine list of literature. I will tell the readers of my blog about it and will surely come back from time to time for recommendations.
Thanks! What other kind of things do your blog readers like? I tried to find out for myself, but my German is not so good.
There is no real focus I guess. My last review was about Metro 2033 and 2034 and I am currently reading “The Forever War” so there might be a slight SciFi focus at the moment.
Would be cool to see this in a Goodreads bookshelf.
I have posted all these books into a list on goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/77616.Reddit_s_Favorite_Stand_alone_Science_Fiction_Novels
PS. Can’t thank the author of the list enough, very good collection
Excellent! Thanks for doing that.
I really wish there were more arictles like this on the web.
Bad enough that he only has one book on the list, but putting Queen of Angels under Greg Egan instead of its actual author, Greg Bear… Shameful.
Also, I’m not sure how you’re defining “stand alone” but several of the above books have sequels, frequently more than one. Not that it diminishes their quality at all.
Good catch on Queen of Angels. Thanks! I fixed it.
The books on this list are what I culled from a Reddit post, and not all the commenters played by the rules. You’re absolutely right in that there are books in this list that are definitely not stand-alone, and others are older than 25 years (A Canticle for Leibowitz was published in 1959). I decided to keep the most-upvoted recommendations as they were in the interest of accurately portraying what Reddit voted for.
One Greg Bear is about 10 Bears too many.
great list but where was Paul Hardy and his fabulous Inquisitor’s Progress and the Last Man on Earth Club? Original, literary, incredible characters (a rarity in scifi) and not derivative,
Perhaps I am too old for all of this… No Bradbury? No Philip K. Dick? No Asimov? I admit this is a great list, but…
I was surprised by that, too. The population of Reddit seems to be pretty young, so maybe they haven’t spent as much time with the grand masters as we have.
Blood Music should have made this list.
I read a scifi as a young man, it spoke of a city like new york where a second ice age appear,s to be coming but it turns out to be a failed military experiment at climate control but i can find anyone who,s ever heard of it
Please remove Hyperion. It is book one of 4 book series. I highly recommend the book, but not to someone looking for a single book. Hyperion ends in a rather brutal cliffhanger. I’m almost through the sequel “Fall of Hyperion” right now. I’ve seen some people say to just stop there, but I’m sure I’ll finish up the series.
Also, I have not read it yet, but Old Man’s war is also the first in a series of 6 books so far.
How is Terry Pratchett not on this list?!? At least an honorary mention pls!!!
Great fucking awesome list!!!!!!!!!!!
Hi, you may be able to help me. I am looking for a book I read years ago. Author and title unknown. I only remember scraps of the story – maybe you might be able to point me in the right direction?
What I remember of the story:
Premise was that humanity as a civilisation is bouncing between Mars and Earth but each time there’s some disaster than means we loose our historical knowledge of the other planet and assume we evolved on the one we happen to be on.
It has a female protagonist but multiple story lines and/or timeliness covering both planets.
At some point of the female protagonist falls in love with an android that subsequently ends up just being a head in some accident or attack.
At one point the protagonist is in some club where there’s a description of a woman who has had surgery to remove one leg in order to make sex better… That bit was weird.
That’s about all I remember.
Can anyone think of the title?
I am looking for a book I read last year. It starts out with some kind of blast from the sun leading to breakdown of electricity in a city in the US and eventually ends up with some kind of solar parasol being used to protect planets from earth to mars from such solar blasts. It somehow involves the moon. Is this description too vague?
I need your help. Years ago, I read a novel I can t remember or find back the title or author of. The hero is a woman who goes, to an island I think, from which contact has been lost, to investigate what happened. Turns out to be a place where experiments were being made on humans on the basis that psychopaths are actually the next evolution of homo sapiens, a mutation triggered by nature to get rid of humans…I kind of remember that they are classified in several categories, one being vampires (cold, intelligent, calculators), and I think one being werewolf (brutal, machine like)…and there is one or two others…but it is not a story of vampires and wolves, just a way of labelling the psychological profile. Heeeelp
Oryx and Crake is also not stand alone. The other two books are The Year of the Flood and Maddaddam. They are all very good.
No Philip K. Dick or Arthur C. Clarke….
That’s because the question posed to Reddit readers was “What’s the best stand-alone science-fiction book of the last 25 years?” PKD and Clarke are older than that.
Can anyone help me? I read a novel ten to twenty years ago from someone who the back cover said was the next Isaac Asimov. It was about some unknown objects that were destroying planets. One was headed to earth in a few hundred years. They eventually figured out these objects were in some sort of synchronized movement, and deduced they were part of a cosmic fireworks show by creators unknown. Could someone tell me the author and book?
Very well done! I appreciate the amount of work you put into condensing all the comments on reddit into this fine list of literature. I will tell the readers of my blog about it and will surely come back from time to time for recommendations.