100 Greatest Science Fiction Novels
Over the last year, the group newsletter has run a list of the 100 best SF novels or series according to the editor Rog Peyton. This is the list along with a short description of the book.
Poul Anderson - TAU ZERO (1970)
Arguably Anderson’s finest SF novel – a fascinating novel that features a spaceship that accelerates uncontrollably with awesome results.
Walter M Miller A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ (1960)
Winner of the 1961 Hugo Award. A beautiful novel formed from three novelettes that appeared in F&SF during the 50s. After an atomic war, the Church is the only guardian of science and technology.
Ward Moore BRING THE JUBILEE (1953)
I’m not a fan of alternate world stories but this one from 1953 about a world after the South won the Civil War was the first I ever read and it is a classic – it’s remained in print for most of the time since.
Frederik Pohl – GATEWAY (1977)
Winner of the Nebula Award and Hugo Award. Real sense of wonder here! Abandoned alien spaceships are discovered that still operate. But who can understand the controls. Many try and are never heard from again – but for the few who return there is untold wealth.
H G Wells - THE TIME MACHINE (1895)
The short novel that started it all for me. Given to us at school in 1958, I read it in one evening, it started my love of SF and I haven’t looked back since. It’s nearly 120 years old but incredibly still reads well. Everyone out there should have read it already but I couldn’t omit it from the list.
Octavia Butler – KINDRED (1979)
I couldn’t believe this one was out of print! Dana is a well-educated Afro-American woman who finds herself transported back to the early 19th century to the days of hard slavery. She has to survive and hide the fact of her education. Wonderful writing and great characterisation.
Hal Clement – MISSION OF GRAVITY (1953)
Mesklin is a planet with a gravity at its poles 700 times that of Earth but only three times at the equator. A hard SF novel where the alien mesklinite is more ‘human’ than the humans.
Christopher Evans – AZTEC CENTURY (1993)
World history changed when the Aztecs set out on world domination. It is the 20th century and Britain is about to succumb to their rule... Chris Evans at his best.
Vonda McIntyre – DREAMSNAKE (1978)
Set in a far-future, post-apocalyse Earth, Snake is a Healer, one of a highly regarded elite who use snake venom to cure various ills including cancer. She uses two terrestrial snakes and one extraterrestrial Dreamsnake.
Robert Silverberg – TOWER OF GLASS (1970)
Simeon Krug wishes to communicate with the stars, to answer signals from deep space. The colossal glass tower that he is building for the purpose soars high above the Arctic tundra, a sparkling monument to his determination and obsession.
Alfred Bester – THE STARS MY DESTINATION (aka TIGER! TIGER!) (1956)
A marooned spaceman, Gully Foyle, seeks revenge on the ship and crew that left him to rot. He is marked by hideous facial tattoos, and haunted by his own flaming double – a novel of ultimate revenge
Orson Scott Card - ENDER’S GAME (1985)
1st in series. Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Andrew Wiggin (Ender) is a child genius, trained from 8 years old to lead Earth’s forces against the aliens
Christopher Priest - INVERTED WORLD (1974)
Winner of the BSFA Award. “I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.” is the first line of this brilliant novel, that features one of the genuine ‘new’ ideas in SF.
Keith Roberts – PAVANE (1968; expanded 19??)
In 1588 Queen Elizabeth I is assassinated and the Spanish Armada conquers Britain. In 1968, Catholicism and the Inquisition have kept technology at bay – no phones, no electricity... but rebellion and change are about to take place.
Walter Tevis – MOCKINGBIRD (1980)
The future is a world without art, reading and children, a world where people would rather burn themselves alive than endure. Even Spofforth, the most perfect machine ever created, cannot bear it and seeks only that which he cannot have - to cease to be. But ultimately a novel of great beauty.
John Brunner - TELEPATHIST (aka THE WHOLE MAN) (1965)
A psychological portrait of a deformed human with telepathic powers who gradually learns to use these powers in psychiatrically curative ways.
Algis Budrys - WHO? (1958)
A US scientist is sent into the USSR but is involved in an accident and his head is rebuilt in a metal casing by the Russians. But on his return to the USA, the question is, who has returned - their scientist or a spy trained to act like their scientist?
Robert Heinlein - THE DOOR INTO SUMMER (1957)
Dan Davis was tricked by an unscrupulous business partner and a greedy fiancee into spending thirty years in suspended animation just when he was on the verge of a success beyond his wildest dreams...
Kim Stanley Robinson - THE WILD SHORE (1984)
The USA has been virtually wiped out by neutron bombs and has been quarantined by the rest of the world. Many years later, the society in Orange County want the quarantine lifted...
Robert Silverberg - UP THE LINE (1969)
Judson Daniel Elliott III is a Time Courier taking tourists to key events in history. He is warned not to alter the past, particularly having relationships with his female ancestors. But rules are often broken...
Ray Bradbury - FAHRENHEIT 451 (1953)
Books burn at this temperature... The story of a future when books are banned and a fireman’s job is to burn them. Nearly 60 years on (it’s never been out of print!) and it’s currently #1 bestseller in US chains.
Eric Brown – ENGINEMAN (2010)
A newly rewritten, expanded version of the 1994 book that also includes all of the Engineman short stories. The Enginemen pilot the bigships through the nada continuum with the power of their minds. Stunning ideas and stunning imagery make this one of the very best SF novels of the past 20 years.
Ken Grimwood – REPLAY (1986)
Available in the Fantasy Masterworks series, it really should have been in the SF series. Jeff Winston at 43 suddenly has a fatal heart attack and awakens in his 18-year-old body back in 1963 – with all of his memories of the 43 year life intact. The biggest-selling book I ever had at Andromeda – I’ve sold over 2000 copies of this superb novel.
Daniel Keyes – FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON (1966)
Expanded from the 1950s short story, this tells the story of Charly, a retarded person who is used in experiments to increase his intelligence with extraordinary results.
Mary Doria Russell - THE SPARROW (1996) and CHILDREN OF GOD (1998)
One fantastic novel split into two parts. THE SPARROW was the winner of the Arthur C Clarke Award. A first contact novel that is beautifully written, is thought-provoking and utterly unputdownable. The first part is in print and the second only available through print on demand
James Blish – THE SEEDLING STARS (1957)
A ‘fix-up’ novel from several short stories featuring the ways mankind adapts to alien lands by changing its basic metabolism.
Edmund Cooper – A FAR SUNSET (1967)
When the starship Gloria Mundi crashlands on an alien planet, only one man survives. Alone, with no chance of returning to Earth, he must befriend the aliens and live as best he can.
Frank Herbert – DRAGON IN THE SEA (1956) (aka 21st CENTURY SUB; aka UNDER PRESSURE).
Herbert’s first novel and arguably his best. In the endless war between East and West, oil has become the ultimate prize. Nuclear powered subtugs brave enemy waters to tap into hidden oil reserves.
Raylyn Moore - WHAT HAPPENED TO EMILY GOODE AFTER THE GREAT EXHIBITION (1978)
At the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Philadelphia, Emily Goode suddenly finds herself transported 100 years into the future. How does a refined Lady of excellent breeding cope with 20th century life? A thoroughly charming novel with some very amusing scenes. There was only ever one edition of this book (Starblaze) and there was a gorgeous Kelly Freas cover – possibly one of his best pieces of artwork.
Bob Shaw – ORBITSVILLE (1975)
A Dyson sphere has the diameter the same as the orbit of the Earth and a terraformed inner surface area five trillion times that of Earth’s landmass. Awesome!
Isaac Asimov - The FOUNDATION Trilogy (1951,52 & 53)
These three original parts of the series are generally in most SF Fans’ favourite books. The stunning story of the Galactic Empire, crumbling after twelve thousand years of rule. And it is the particular story of psycho-historian Hari Seldon, the only man who can see the horrors the future has in store. Now available in one hardcover volume.
Stephen Baxter - THE TIME SHIPS (1995)
The authorised sequel to H G Wells’s THE TIME MACHINE.
Lloyd Biggle Jr - MONUMENT (1974)
A marooned spacer on an idyllic planet, illegal prospectors, tourists...and The Plan. The biggest selling SF novel in Australia – ever! An excellent novel that deserves to be republished here in the UK.
Robert Heinlein - STARSHIP TROOPERS (1959)
You may have seen the movie of the same name but it has very little to do with this excellent novel. It is about a future war against bug-like aliens but the similarities end there.
Christopher Priest - THE PRESTIGE (1995)
Two 19th century stage illusionists engage in a bitter and deadly feud; the effects are still being felt by their respective families a hundred years later. Both have something more to hide than the mere workings of a trick)
Robert Silverberg - DYING INSIDE (1972)
The brilliant story of a lone telepath who suddenly loses that power. How does he live? How does he cope?
Theodore Sturgeon - MORE THAN HUMAN (1953)
All alone: an idiot boy, a runaway girl, a severely retarded baby, and twin girls with a vocabulary of two words between them. Yet once they are mysteriously drawn together this collection of misfits becomes something very, very different from the rest of humanity. This intensely written and moving novel is an extraordinary vision of humanity's next step.
Edmund Cooper - THE CLOUD WALKER (1973)
The Civilizations of the First and Second Man have been destroyed by the products of their own technology. Now the world is emerging from a new dark age into the dawn of a second Middle Ages. Britain is dominated by the Luddite Church and by the doctrine that all machines are evil.
Bob Shaw - OTHER DAYS, OTHER EYES (1972)
A fix-up of the short stories featuring ‘Slow Glass’.
Clifford D Simak - WAY STATION (1963)
Enoch Wallace is a 124-year-old Civil War veteran who has been recruited by aliens to be a stationmaster on one of their minor branch lines of matter transmitters carrying passengers between the stars.
Brian Aldiss - THE DARK LIGHT YEARS (1964)
Brian Aldiss’s satirical depiction of the first encounter and subsequent violent conflict between mankind and a gentle, intelligent race which it cannot understand. This still rates as my favourite Aldiss novel.
Isaac Asimov – THE END OF ETERNITY (1955)
Andrew Harlan is a Technician and Eternal. His job is to range through past and present centuries monitoring and even altering Time's myriad cause-and-effect relationships. Then Harlan meets Noys and falls victim to a phenomenon older than Time itself - love.
Arthur C Clarke - CHILDHOOD’S END (1953; revised 1991)
When the aliens known as the Overlords arrive on Earth in their gigantic ships, it is not the invasion that is expected. Hidden from humans they eradicate crime and poverty and gradually lead humanity to a new level.
Joe Haldeman - THE FOREVER WAR (1974; expanded 19??)
Private William Mandella is a reluctant hero in an interstellar war against an unknowable and unconquerable alien enemy. But his greatest test will be when he returns home. Relativity means that for every few months' tour of duty centuries have passed on Earth, isolating the combatants ever more from the world for whose future they are fighting. Winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards
Robert Silverberg - A TIME OF CHANGES (1971)
On the planet Borthan, colonised centuries before by puritans, it is blasphemous to use the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ or to indicate that anyone is an individual. But obviously things must change...
Jack Vance – EMPHYRIO (1969)
Far in the future, the craftsmen of the distant planet Halma create goods which are the wonder of the galaxy. But in their society even the most basic use of automation is punishable by death. When Amiante, a wood-carver, is executed for processing old documents with a camera, his son Ghyl rebels, and decides to bring down the system.
Octavia Butler – XENOGENESIS. A trilogy – DAWN (1987), ADULTHOOD RITES (1988) and IMAGO (1989)
SF at its very highest standard. Possibly the greatest story of interbreeding between humans and aliens in the whole genre. Why isn’t this in the SF Masterworks series? Or even in print?
Thomas M Disch - CAMP CONCENTRATION (1968)
Three months into his 5-year sentence for being a conscientious objector, Louis Sacchetti is mysteriously taken from prison and brought to Camp Archimedes. This is the so-called ‘camp concentration’ where inmates are given a drug that will raise their intelligence to astounding levels, though it will also kill them in a matter of months.
Christopher Evans - THE INSIDER (1981)
I’ve praised this book many times at several Novacons touting it as the most important SF book by a British writer that deserves to be reprinted. It is just simply a superb novel of a man who overnight changes his personality completely. But what or who has caused this drastic change?
Leigh Kennedy - THE JOURNAL OF NICHOLAS THE AMERICAN (1986)
Nicholas Dal, the writer of the journal of the title is not actually telepathic, but rather a telempath. This power gives him the unwanted ability to feel what those around him are feeling and makes his life incredibly difficult as he struggles to form and maintain relationships. His power makes him too sensitive to the inner feelings of those around him.
Alfred Bester - THE DEMOLISHED MAN (1953)
The very first winner of the Hugo Award! In the 24th century, crime is no more. The police have an elite corps of telepaths who can read minds before any crime is committed. But Ben Reich is determined to commit a murder...
David Brin - THE POSTMAN (1985)
A post-apocalyptic novel that hinges on one man’s desire to rebuild civilisation – and the stunning method he uses.
Jack Finney - THE BODY SNATCHERS (1955)
You may have seen the excellent original movie and even the later remakes, but reading this novel will still keep you on the edge of your seat biting your nails. Sheer suspense, beautifully written.
Frank Herbert – DUNE (1965)
Is there anyone in the Group who hasn’t read this superb novel? DUNE has sold over 10 million copies, becoming the most successful science fiction novel ever. Forget the sequels and spin-offs and be dazzled by this great novel.
Michael Moorcock - BEHOLD THE MAN (1969)
Karl Glogauer is a time traveller who finds himself in Palestine in the year 29AD. He is shocked to meet the man known as Jesus Christ -- a drooling idiot, hiding in the shadows of the carpenter's shop in Nazareth. A powerful anti-religious story.
George R Stewart - EARTH ABIDES (1949)
Without any doubt, the finest SF novel - ever! The best book of the collapse of civilisation which could so easily have resulted in a depressing novel but Stewart magnificently follows a small band of survivors as they struggle trying to rebuild some kind of civilisation.
John Wyndham - THE CHRYSALIDS (1955) (aka RE-BIRTH)
The post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world. Easily the best novel that Wyndham produced.
George R R Martin - DYING OF THE LIGHT (1977)
The story of Worlorn, a rogue planet spinning through space on its own. This was Martin’s first novel but possibly still his best. It’s only recently gone out of print and you may find copies still around.
Christopher Priest – A DREAM OF WESSEX (1977)
The Ridpath Projector has created a simulation of Wessex as it might be in the 22nd century. A powerful and thoughtprovoking novel.
Theodore Roszak – FLICKER (1991)
An amazing book! A novel which is part thriller, part occult horror, part fantasy, part science fiction, part film history. Its hero, following a quest to discover the truth about a little-known genius of the silent screen, journeys deep into Hollywood's heart of darkness.
Edgar Rice Burroughs - PRINCESS OF MARS/GODS OF MARS/ WARLORD OF MARS (1912/1913/1913)
3 books but really one novel with cliff-hanger endings for books 1 and 2. Not great writing but first class storytelling and tremendous imagination. First 3 books in the John Carter of Mars 11- book series
Arthur C Clarke - THE CITY AND THE STARS (1956)
Expanded version of AGAINST THE FALL OF NIGHT. In the far future, Diaspar is a selfcontained city in a bubble. No-one knows what is outside the city but one young man decides to find out.
Harry Harrison - MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! (1966)
A superb novel of overpopulation that was made into the not-so-superb movie SOYLENT GREEN. Enjoy the movie by all means but read the book!
Aldous Huxley - BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932)
One of the most wellrespected novels by people outside the SF field. This dystopian novel is still well worth reading or re-reading.
Ian McDonald - DESOLATION ROAD (1988; revised & corrected 1990)
A strange novel set on Mars that reads like a cross between Ray Bradbury and Jack Vance. The original 1988 paperback had more errors and typos than any other book I’d seen so in 1990 I published a corrected edition in hardcover.
Kate Wilhelm - WHERE LATE THE SWEET BIRDS SANG (1976)
The Hugo Award winning novel that was the very first to feature cloning. Wilhelm is one of the most-underrated authors and if you haven’t read anything by her, this book is an excellent starting place.
Algis Budrys - SOME WILL NOT DIE (1954/1961/1978)
Most of humanity is wiped out by a virus. The survivors battle to attempt rebuilding civilisation. One of the very best books on a familiar theme. First published as FALSE NIGHT in 1954, the manuscript was cut and the full version was published as SOME WILL NOT DIE in 1961. Budrys expanded it in 1978. All later editions follow the 1978 text to the best of my knowledge.
Robert Heinlein - DOUBLE STAR (1956)
Despite winning the 1956 Hugo Award this novel about a failed actor impersonating a galactic politician hasn’t been in print for well over 30 years but is generally considered his best book of the 50s. Why isn’t this in print?
Edgar Pangborn - A MIRROR FOR OBSERVERS (1954)
Winner of the 1955 International Fantasy Award. Two factions of Martians fight for control over a boy genius on Earth.
Robert Silverberg - DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH (1970)
Balzagor was once a colonised planet but abandoned when it was realised that the elephant-like Nildorer were a sentient race. Gunderson is haunted by his memories of his time there and returns ten years later – and discovers the planet’s great secret.
Eric Brown – THE KINGS OF ETERNITY (2011)
I’ve only finished this a few weeks ago but – wow – what a brilliant story. It’s been a long ime since I enjoyed a book so much. Shifting alternately from the 1930s to the 1990s, it gradually reveals a story of immortality and galactic civilisations that is told in an incredibly original way.
Jack Finney - TIME AND AGAIN (1970)
A true classic as only Jack Finney could write. The story of a 20th century artist/photographer who is sent back to 18th century New York to photograph and sketch. But on arriving his trip turns into something else entirely
Robert Heinlein - CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY (1957)
Love him or hate him, when Heinlein creates great characters you remember them – and Baslim the Cripple and his slave Thorby are among his greatest creations. A novel that explores the question of freedom and slavery.
Octavia Butler - Patternist series/WILD SEED (1980)/MIND OF MY MIND (1977)/SURVIVOR (1978)/PATTERNMASTER (1976)/CLAY’S ARK (1984)
. OK, 5 books for one choice may be cheating a little but the story of Doro collecting and breeding mutant/unusual humans to create a super-race, that commences in the 17th century and moves book by book through to the far future is one great, wonderful story. All out of print but well worth searching for.
Christopher Priest - THE SPACE MACHINE (1976)
An homage to H G Wells and a sequel to both THE TIME MACHINE and WAR OF THE WORLDS, written in Wells’s style which Chris studied before embarking on this gem of a novel.
Robert Silverberg - THE STOCHASTIC MAN (1975)
Lew Nichols is in the business of stochastic prediction. A mixture of sophisticated analysis and inspired guesswork, it is the nearest man can get to predicting the future. Nichols can't actually see the future. However, Martin Carvajal apparently can and he offers to help Nichols do so too...
Cordwainer Smith – NORSTRILIA (1964/1968 – combined 1975)
. First appearing split into two slim, edited paperbacks – THE PLANET BUYER and THE UNDERPEOPLE, it finally got published in 1975 in its entirety. “The discovery of stroon, a drug that confers near immortality on humans, has made Old North Australia rich. So rich that when Rod McBain has to flee the planet because someone wants him dead, he buys the Earth.”
Kate Wilhelm - THE CLEWISTON TEST (1976)
A psychological thriller and a novel of human experimentation. This is Wilhelm at her best and deserves to be reprinted for today’s audience.
Jerry Yulsman - ELLEANDER MORNING (1984)
If one book deserves to be reissued as a classic it’s this. When Lena Morning is left a legacy by her grandmother Elleander, she finds it is a book. But a very strange book – THE TIME LIFE HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II. She has it examined by experts but everyone is puzzled – it’s obviously a hoax as everyone knows there has only ever been one World War!
Brian Aldiss – GREYBEARD (1964)
Following an ecological disaster, humanity faces extinction when most humans (and many animals) become sterile.
Isaac Asimov - THE CAVES OF STEEL/THE NAKED SUN (1954/1958)
The original two novels featuring Lije Baley and R Daneel Olivaw that fused mystery fiction with SF. Make sure you read them in order as the second book reveals the ending of the first mystery.
Iain Banks - THE BRIDGE (1990)
The Bridge is the World – a surreal novel of comas and dreams. For me this is Iain’s best book and should be judged as SF.
Daniel F Galouye - DARK UNIVERSE (1961)
Galouye’s first and best novel – a novel set in a post-holocaust world in which the survivors live underground. Light is only remembered as something holy and radiation as the biggest evil.
Anne McCaffrey – DRAGONFLIGHT (1968)
Dragons? No they are not fantasy dragons but alien creatures that are bio-engineered to make them resemble the dragons of myth in order to fight invasion from a companion planet. This is excellent science fiction.
Frederik Pohl & C M Kornbluth - THE SPACE MERCHANTS (1955)
The novel about advertising agencies that helped warn the world of the dangers of subliminal advertising. The agencies run the governments and they now wish to take over Venus.
Robert Silverberg - SHADRACH IN THE FURNACE (1976)
Young surgeon Mordecai Shadrach’s job is to keep alive a 93-year old tyrant, Genghis II Mao IV Khan with spare parts but he learns that the tyrant’s mind is to be transferred into a young body...Mordecai’s)
Robert Heinlein - TIME FOR THE STARS (1956)
The story of telepathic twins – one on an interstellar ship, the other remains on Earth....
Bob Shaw - THE TWO-TIMERS (1968)
Time travel, psychic powers, the creation of alternate worlds – Shaw at his best!
Joan Vinge - THE SNOW QUEEN (1980)
Hugo Award winner that is out of print – criminal!
Brian Aldiss – NON-STOP (1958)
aka STARSHIP in USA. Roy Complain lives in cramped Quarters. Everyone in his tribe has forgotten where they are and so he, along with a renegade priest, goes searching, hacking away at vegetation that is everywhere. What they discover turns their world upside-down.
David Ambrose – THE MAN WHO TURNED INTO HIMSELF (1993)
Rick Hamilton has the perfect life; a great career, a wonderful son and a beautiful wife. Until one day, halfway through a vital business meeting a chilling premonition tells him his wife is about to die in a car crash. After rushing to the crash he discovers a staggering scene. Rick Hamilton finds he is trapped in a parallel universe.
Eric Brown – the Bengal Station trilogy – NECROPATH, XENOPATH and COSMOPATH (2008/2009/2009)
Jeff Vaughan is a telepath in the overcrowded Bengal Station, an interstellar port in Asia. More ideas in these 3 books than most authors have in their whole careers. Further proof that Eric Brown is currently the best storyteller in the SF field.
Robert Silverberg – THE BOOK OF SKULLS (1971)
Four students discover a manuscript, THE BOOK OF SKULLS, which reveals the existence of a sect, now living in the Arizona desert, whose members can offer immortality to those who can complete its initiation rite. To their surprise, they discover that the sect exists, and is willing to accept them as acolytes. But for each group of four who enter the rite, two must die in order for the others to succeed
David Ambrose – THE DISCRETE CHARM OF CHARLIE MONK (2000)
Charlie Monk is a highly trained assassin in a department of some obscure government agency. Or is he...? An unputdownable thriller where even Charlie Monk starts to doubt himself.
Poul Anderson – THE ENEMY STARS (1959; rev & expanded 1979)
A spaceship is travelling to a distant star. A matter transmitter on board allows the crew to be changed periodically. But, inevitably, something goes horribly wrong...
Octavia Butler – PARABLE OF THE SOWER (1993)
Set in a California where civilization has all but broken down and poverty and unspeakable violence is the norm, teenage Lauren Olamina, knowing there must be a better way to live, invents Earthseed, an entirely new religion.
Anne McCaffrey – THE SHIP WHO SANG (1969)
The brain was perfect, the tiny, crippled body useless. So technology rescued the brain and put it in an environment that conditioned it to live in a different kind of body - a spaceship.
Daniel Quinn – ISHMAEL (1993)
Ishmael is a creature of immense wisdom and he has a story to tell, one that no other human being has ever heard. It is a story that extends backward and forward over the lifespan of the earth from the birth of time to a future there is still time to save.
Jack Vance – BIG PLANET (abridged text 1957; and 1978 – this is the first publication of the unabridged text)
The objective of the mission from Earth to Big Planet was to ensure that the whole world didn't fall under the domination of the tyrant Lysidder. But when the mission spacecraft crash-lands, the survivors are faced with a 40,000 mile trek across the vast and unknown surface of the planet.
David Gerrold - WHEN HARLIE WAS ONE
Wilson Tucker - YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN