John Scalzi, one of my favorite authors, consistently writes fun, inventive, thoughtful, and fast-paced science fiction. If you haven’t picked up any of his books, I strongly recommend you fix this disastrous state of affairs.
The Interdependency―humanity’s interstellar empire―is on the verge of collapse. The extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible is disappearing, leaving entire systems and human civilizations stranded.
Emperox Grayland II of the Interdependency is ready to take desperate measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth―or at the very least an opportunity for an ascension to power.
While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war. A war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will between spaceships and on battlefields.
The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, as are her enemies. Nothing about this will be easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its consuming fire.
“Another fast-paced romp through Scalzi’s imagination, bearing hallmarks of his humorous slant on sf tropes.”
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.
“With plenty of alien gore to satisfy fans of military SF and inventive jabs at pretend patriotism and self-serving civil service, Scalzi delivers an effervescent but intelligent romp.” ―Publishers Weekly
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.
“With a plot that starts out as the rough life of a young agent in Hollywood and rapidly metamorphoses into B-movie territory as a remarkably intelligent first-contact yarn, this book is absurd, funny, and satirically perceptive.”
Note that this is Book 2 of the Old Man’s War series. Book 1, Old Man’s War, is also on this list.
The Ghost Brigades are the Special Forces of the Colonial Defense Forces, elite troops created from the DNA of the dead and turned into the perfect soldiers for the CDF’s toughest operations. They’re young, they’re fast and strong, and they’re totally without normal human qualms.
The universe is a dangerous place for humanity―and it’s about to become far more dangerous. Three races that humans have clashed with before have allied to halt our expansion into space. Their linchpin: the turncoat military scientist Charles Boutin, who knows the CDF’s biggest military secrets. To prevail, the CDF must find out why Boutin did what he did.
Jared Dirac is the only human who can provide answers. A superhuman hybrid, created from Boutin’s DNA, Jared’s brain should be able to access Boutin’s electronic memories. But when the memory transplant appears to fail, Jared is given to the Ghost Brigades.
At first, Jared is a perfect soldier, but as Boutin’s memories slowly surface, Jared begins to intuit the reasons for Boutin’s betrayal. As Jared desperately hunts for his “father,” he must also come to grips with his own choices. Time is running out: The alliance is preparing its offensive, and some of them plan worse things than humanity’s mere military defeat…
“The sequel to Old Man’s War combines taut military action with keen insights into the moral issues revolving around developing technologies. Scalzi has a finely tuned sense of balance between personal drama and the ‘big picture’… Highly recommended.”
—Library Journal, starred review
ZaraCorp holds the right to extract unlimited resources from the verdant planet Zarathustra―as long as the planet is certifiably free of native sentients. So when an outback prospector discovers a species of small, appealing bipeds who might well turn out to be intelligent, language-using beings, it’s a race to stop the corporation from “eliminating the problem,” which is to say, eliminating the Fuzzies―wide-eyed, ridiculously cute small furry creatures―who are as much people as we are.
“In a genre flooded with bloated epics, it’s a real pleasure to read a story like this, as compactly and directly told as a punch to the stomach.”
―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Book 1 of The Interdependency trilogy.
Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster than light travel is impossible―until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.
Riding The Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war―and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.
The Flow is eternal―but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals―a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency―must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.
“Political plotting, plenty of snark, puzzle-solving, and a healthy dose of action… Scalzi continues to be almost insufferably good at his brand of fun but think-y sci-fi adventure.”
Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever, and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent—and nearly five million souls in the United States alone—the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.
A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “integrator”—someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.
But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery—and the real crime—is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture.
“A smart, thoughtful near-future thriller… This powerful novel will intrigue and entertain both fans and newcomers.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel.
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.
When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.
What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm, human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous pandas, and they’re in trouble.
It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society who have found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.
“Equally lighthearted and grounded―and sure to delight.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Book 1: Old Man’s War
Book 2: The Ghost Brigades
Book 3: The Last Colony
Book 4: Zoe’s Tale
Book 5: The Human Division
Book 6: The End of All Things
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.
“Though a lot of SF writers are more or less efficiently continuing the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, Scalzi’s astonishingly proficient first novel reads like an original work by the late grand master…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
4 thoughts on “The Best John Scalzi Books”
I can’t recommend Red Shirts. You’ll understand why if you get to the latter half of the book.
Yes, I agree, although I enjoyed everything else he has put out (including blog posts and tweets).
I’ve read several of these books already. Now I want to read more of them. Thanks for a comprehensive list.
I have read seven of the books on the list:
10. The Consuming Fire
9. The Android’s Dream
8. The Agent To The Stars (the best book on the list in my opinion)
7. The Ghost Brigades
5. The Collapsing Empire
4. Lock In
1. Old Man’s War
I have not read these but they are in my SBR (strategic book reserve):
6. Fuzzy Nation
2. The Kaiju Preservation Society
I would add one more book to the list, “The God Engines“. The first paragraph is startling and very controversial.