The 17 Most Influential Science-Fiction Books of All Time

The 17 Most Influential Science-Fiction Books of All Time
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Science-fiction books are increasing in popularity every single day and it’s not hard to see why. Taking the reader on a journey to different worlds and parallel universes, they’re a great form of escapism.

Certain great books inspire scores of authors to create something new. These are books which clearly inspired a generation of authors, and made a huge splash either in publishing success or critical acclaim. Or both.

Here are 17 of the most influential science fiction and fantasy books in no particular order.

#1 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)

science-fiction books

The first (maybe only) science-fiction-comedy-multimedia phenomenon, Hitchhiker’s was a radio drama before it was a book, and the book sold 250,000 copies in its first three months.The Guardian named it one of the 1000 novels everyone must read, and a BBC poll ranked it fourth, out of 200, in their Big Read poll.

Ted Gioia comments on Adams’ hilarious book about the trials and tribulations of Arthur Dent, the survivor of a destroyed Earth, across the universe:

“No book better epitomizes the post-heroic tone of sci-fi than Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. As the name indicates, a certain louche bohemianism permeates its pages. This is star-hopping on the cheap, pursued by those aiming not to conquer the universe, but merely sample its richeson fewer than thirty Altairian dollars per day. You can trace the lineage of many later science fictions books, with their hip and irreverent tone, back to this influential and much beloved predecessor.”

#2 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (1870)

science-fiction books

Verne’s whole career is full of works that have inspired generations of authors — but this tale of the underwater adventure of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus has also had a profound effect on science, and inspired real scientific advancement.

In the introduction to William Butcher’s book Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Self Ray Bradbury wrote that, “We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne. His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.”

Verne translator and scholar F.P. Walter added:

“For many, then, this book has been a source of fascination, surely one of the most influential novels ever written, an inspiration for such scientists and discoverers as engineer Simon Lake, oceanographer William Beebe, polar traveller Sir Ernest Shackleton. Likewise Dr. Robert D. Ballard, finder of the sunken Titanic, confesses that this was his favourite book as a teenager, and Cousteau himself, most renowned of marine explorers, called it his shipboard bible.”

#3 Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney (1975)

science-fiction books

Sam Anderson prefaced his interview with Samuel R. Delany with this praise for Dhalgren‘s impact:

“In the 35 years since its publication, Dhalgren has been adored and reviled with roughly equal vigour. It has been cited as the downfall of science fiction (Philip K. Dick once called it “the worst trash I’ve ever read”), turned into a rock opera, dropped by its publisher, and reissued by others. These days, it seems to have settled into the groove of a cult classic. In a foreword in the current edition, William Gibson describes the book as “a literary singularity” and Jonathan Lethem called it “the secret masterpiece, the city-book-labyrinth that has swallowed astonished readers alive.”

Dhalgren has remained popular through the years, being reprinted 7 times since 1975. It was also dropped by Bantam, the original publisher, because of its willingness to tackle LGBT themes despite the fact that the Bantam version sold over a million copies and went through 19 printings.

#4 War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1898)

science-fiction books

In his book about The War of the Worlds, a seminal look at an invasion of Earth by Martians, author Brian Holmsten states:

“Since 1898 the War of the Worlds has been translated into countless languages, adapted by comic books, radio, film, stage, and even computer games, and has inspired a wide range of alien invasion tales in every medium. Few ideas have captured the imagination of so many people all over the world in the last century so well.

“It is a tribute to H.G. Wells that his story of alien conquest was not only the first of its kind, but remains one of the best.”

The 1927 American reprint, it can be argued, was one of the touching-off points for the Golden Age of science fiction. It inspired John W. Campbell to write and commission invasion stories — which also prompted authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford Simak, Robert A. Heinlein and John Wyndham to do the same.

#5 Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1951)

science-fiction booksFoundation is a sweeping tale of pyschohistory and the battle for the intellectual soul of a civilisation. and According to the BBC:

“The Foundation series helped to launch the careers of three notable science fiction authors of the succeeding generation. Janet Asimov sanctioned these novels, which were published in the late 1990s: Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford, Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear, and Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin.” And without a doubt it launched the imaginations of countless other writers.”

It is also worth mentioning that the Foundation series won the 1966 Hugo for best all-time series. An award that has not been given out since.

And this book’s influence goes beyond science fiction: Artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky classified Asimov “among the finest of modern philosophers,” and Nobel-prize-winning economist Paul Krugman describesFoundation as his version of Atlas Shrugged, “I didn’t grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation.”

#6 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (1961)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (1961)

The first science-fiction work to enter the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list, Stranger sold 100,000 copies in hardcover and over five million in paperback. This book’s influence can’t be overstated. Arthur D. Hlavaty refers to Heinlein as a prototypical science-fiction author, saying:

“One of the ways human beings organise the world is by prototypes. We define a set as a typical example and a bunch of other things that are like it. For instance, when I was growing up, the prototype Writer was Shakespeare, the Artist was Rembrandt, and the Composer was Beethoven. In that way, Robert A. Heinlein has often been taken as the prototype Science Fiction Writer, and as changes and new paradigms shake the field, he still sometimes represents the science fiction of the past.”

Writer Ted Gioia looks at Stranger in a Strange Land‘s main character as a prototype for other similar characters in SF, saying: “Smith is more than a character. He is prototype of an alternative personality structure. The question of whether we can remake the human personality from the ground up.”

#7 Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison (1967)

science-fiction books

This series helped launch the careers of almost every major author of the New Wave. The first volume included Samuel R. Delany, Philip K. Dick, and J.G. Ballard. In his introduction to the 2002 reissue of Ellison’s anthology, contributor Michael Moorcock wrote of Ellison’s collections:

“He changed our world forever. And ironically, it is usually the mark of a world so fundamentally altered — be it by Stokely Carmichael or Martin Luther King Jr. or Lyndon Johnson, or Kate Millet — that nobody remembers what it was like before things got better. That’s the real measure of Ellison’s success.”

“Gonna Roll the Bones” by Fritz Leiber won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for Best novelette. “Riders of the Purple Wage” a novella by Philip José Farmer tied for the Hugo Award. Samuel R. Delany got the Nebula for Best Short Story for “Aye, and Gomorrah…” Ellison was given a commendation at the 26th World SF Convention for editing “the most significant and controversial SF book” published in 1967.

#8 Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)

science-fiction books

Arthur C. Clarke himself had reservations about this novel, yet it sold out its first printing, 200,000 copies, in just two months after publication. Author Jo Walton writes about the first book to feature benevolent aliens who try to help the human race evolve:

“Science fiction is a very broad genre, with lots of room for lots of kinds of stories, stories that go all over the place and do all kinds of things. One of the reasons for that is that early on there got to be a lot of wiggle room.

“Childhood’s End was one of those things that expanded the genre early and helped make it more open-ended and open to possibility.

“Clarke was an engineer and he was a solidly scientific writer, but he wasn’t a Campbellian writer. He brought his different experiences to his work, and the field is better for it.”

Childhood’s End was nominated for a retro Hugo award in 2004.

#9 Ringworld by Larry Niven (1970)

science-fiction books

Sam Jordison of the Guardian had this to say about Ringworld, the masterpiece that is centered around around a theoretical ring-shaped space-habitat:

“Larry Niven’s 1970 Hugo award winner, Ringworld, is arguably one of the most influential science fiction novels of the past 50 years. As well as having had a huge impact on nearly all subsequent space operas (Iain M Banks’ Culture series and Alastair Reynolds’ House of Suns are just two), the book has helped generate a multi-billion-dollar industry.”

To add to this Jonathan Cowie, who wrote Essetial SF: A Concise Guide, called Ringworld “a landmark novel of planetary engineering (for want of a better term) that ranks alongside the late Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville.”

Niven later added four sequels and four prequels which tie into numerous other books set in Known Space; the fictional setting of about a dozen science fiction novels and several collections of short stories.

#10 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

science-fiction books

The Left Hand of Darkness was one of the most popular science fiction novels of the 1970s. It won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1969 for “best novel” and established Le Guin’s status as a major author of science fiction.

Jo Walton, again, comments on this novel about interstellar diplomacy and anthropology:

“The Left Hand of Darkness didn’t just change science fiction — it changed feminism, and it was part of the process of change of the concept of what it was to be a man or a woman.

“The battle may not be over. What I mean is that thanks in part to this book we’re standing in a very different place from the combatants of 1968.”

In 1994 literary critic Harold Bloom included it in his Western Canon of Literature, going as far as to say, “Le Guin, more than Tolkien, has raised fantasy into high literature, for our time.”

#11 Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

science-fiction books

By 2007, this cyberpunk classic had sold more than 6.5 million copies. It’s been adapted into almost every genre, and it’s responsible for introducing numerous terms, and, arguably, the idea of the internet.

The Encyclopedia of NewMedia calls Neuromancer more important than On the Road in its cultural influence, and credits its formative influence on subsequent media, from Wired magazine to The X-Files.

After the initial inventions of the ARPANET, Paul T. Riddell writes, the internet took shape due to “impressionable students reading [Gibson’s] stories and novels; instead of whining and complaining after reading Robert Anton Wilson, they read Gibson and thought, ‘You know, we can do this.'”

Neuromancer was the first novel to win all three of the major science-fiction awards — – the Nebula, the Hugo, and Philip K. Dick Award for paperback original. Fittingly for the gandfather of cyberpunk, the novel was later released as a hypertext-annotated HyperCard stack for the Apple Macintosh.

#12 Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)

science-fiction books

According to the New York Times, Stephenson’s look at the way humans interact with digital worlds has a well-earned reputation for prescience:

“Snow Crash was published way back in ancient 1992 and laid out many of the attributes of today’s online life, including the Metaverse, a virtual place where people meet, do business and play, presenting themselves as avatars.

“If you’ve ever played wildly popular multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft, or visited the virtual communities of Second Life, you can get a chill thinking about what he saw back before the popularization of the World Wide Web.”

Despite the reputation of his book, Stephenson is pretty reluctant to take on the title of “Seer” saying in the same article, “I can talk all day long about how wrong I got it. But there are a lot of people who feel as though that was an accurate prediction.”

#13 Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

The growing trend of climate-focused science fiction, and a greater attention to future problems in general, owes a lot to this great book about the very real problem of future food shortages. In this biopunk SF novel (a Hugo and Nebula award winner) Emiko is a humanoid GM organism, who is enslaved as a prostitute in Thailand. She yearns for an escape. Niall Harrison, judge of the Arthur C. Clarke award in 2006 and 2007, writes:

“Emiko is a stepping-stone to that future; and by the logic of The Windup Girl, so are we all. From our point of view, it’s hardly an optimistic conclusion but it is, in The Windup Girl’s terms, a very human one, and I can’t recall another novel that has articulated the same vision of what it means to be human in the present moment with the same force.

“It’s that vision that insists that Emiko is human, and that she remains bound at the end of the novel: because we remain bound, and she is us; because at least for now, science fiction remains bound; and because, quite probably, so does our world.”

#14 The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1979)

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (1979)

The Forever War (1974) is a military science fiction novel by Joe Haldeman that follows the United Nations Exploratory Force being assembled for a war against an alien race known as Taurans. Michael M. Jones explains what makes this book distinct from previous works of military science fiction:

“The Forever War is a masterpiece of military science fiction and social observation, applicable on numerous levels. While some aspects might be far-fetched, there’s no denying that it’s a powerful work.

“William Mandella is no career soldier like many of the military SF heroes out there; certainly not like Johnny Rico in Starship Trooper. He’s just an ordinary guy who gets drafted, and has the bad luck to actually survive the war.”

Haldeman won Hugo, Locus, and Nebula awards for this book, and along with Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, it helped inspire generations of more realistic military SF authors.

#15 Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1969)

Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1969)

Salon’s Michael Schmidt writes about the way Vonnegut changed the war novel by using aspects of science-fiction:

“Doris Lessing calls him “moral in an old-fashioned way . . . he has made nonsense of the little categories, the unnatural divisions into ‘real’ literature and the rest, because he is comic and sad at once, because his painful seriousness is never solemn.”

“His acknowledgment and expression of the nuanced nature of experience makes him “unique among us; and these same qualities account for the way a few academics still try to patronize him.” As though what he does is easier than the resolved plotting of more derivatively artful novelists.”

After a school tried to ban this novel, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered 150 free copies of the book to students in Rockville, Missouri.

#16 The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950)

The 17 Most Influential Science-Fiction Books of All Time

Ray Walters at explains why this book was influential on not just literature, but also science:

The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely related fictional stories depicting humanities struggle to flee from the potential of nuclear war on Earth to try and find refuge on the Red Planet. Many of the ideas Bradbury put forth in the novels seemed fantastical at the time, but modern day efforts to explore Mars smack of the science fiction writer’s vision of what it would be like to visit there.

“While Bradbury is seen primarily as an author who had a profound effect on his literary genre, in reality his reach has been much wider. While his novels may not be required reading in our schools anymore (which blows my mind), his ideas are talked about everyday with the people uttering the words usually not knowing the origins of the topics they are discussing. Ray Bradbury will certainly be missed, not just for his amazing science fiction writing, but also for his visionary foresight into cultural phenomenons.”

NASA put a burned DVD containing The Martian Chronicles on the hull of the Phoenix Martian Rover.

#17 Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)

The 17 Most Influential Science-Fiction Books of All Time

Scott Timberg at the L.A. Times says Frank Herbert’s epic novel, in which noble houses battle for control of each others’ planets, was not just massive but ground-breaking:

“Writers had imagined life on other planets and written of environmental catastrophe. But the scale of Dune was unprecedented, comparable, as Arthur C. Clarke said at the time, only to “The Lord of the Rings.”

It’s not quite New Wave — which developed in the late 1960s — not an antecedent to cyberpunk, nor a precursor to the recent space-opera renaissance. “It’s some kind of singularity,” says Latham.

“Dune” both channeled and stoked a greater environmental consciousness in SF: Important later novels by Ursula Le Guin, John Brunner and Octavia Butler looked at planetary ecology.

Dune won the Hugo award in 1966 as well as the very first Nebula award.

It’s almost impossible to fit all of the most game-changing works of science fiction and fantasy into one article. Which books do you think should be on this list, and why?

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Stanislaw Lem, representing a blend of dark humour and philosophical enquiry that probably edged him closer to a Nobel than any other SF writer.
    Olaf Stapleton’s works were the first to take the long game in cosmic history.
    John Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar has been extraordinarily prescient in describing the texture of 21st century life.

  • The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson is a must read, and for some of the lighter “figuratively speaking” I often recommend the world war and colonisation series by Turtledove.

  • Often overlooked is A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M Miller – a poetic and grim yet light-hearted tale of mankind’s undying lust for war

    • Amen! Read it as an assignment by a particularly influential 9th grade teacher in 1969. It sunk right into my literary DNA, where it has remained ever since.

      • I wholeheartedly agree on Seveneves for the first two thirds of it, and vehemently disagree on the last third. That mess needs to be lopped off the end and redone as a further two books.

        • I agree with you on that one.. first two thirds were wonderful in story and imagery but the last third was rushed in spots and frustrating in other spot (battle scene where the author stops to tell you about how the gun mechanics work during mid battle). So much so the overall experience was nothing flash

    • I Robot is showing a future that if governments do not set up in place will Borg time on earth. 1984.Hello! We are living in this time now people..survalence everywhere government wants to know what your doing all the time .GPS on phones cars and computers? Huh? That needs to be the number one book.

  • As I said elsewhere, any list like this needs Frankenstein by Mary Shelly or its just missing the granddaddy of them all.

    It wasnt the first science fiction story, but it was the one that set it all off. It did far more for the genre than most of those on this list.

    • But it really isn’t.
      I know it’s the canonical “first science fiction story”. But it’s only made into the first sci fi story retrospectively. It didn’t really kick sci fi off, because it dabbled in other discourses, like gothic novel etc.

      I’m not saying it can’t be read as a sci fi novel. Any check-list for a sci fi book (a check list of elements a sf book should include) would rate it as one. As a novel, it very much ticks most of the boxes I as an sf fan like to see in the books I read. But there’s no direct lineage from Mary Shelley to Hugo Gernsback to Asimov to, for instance, Scalzi.

      Making it into the first sci fi book does kind of reek of a kind of “let’s show those literature snobs that sci fi is also high literature!”-mentality. Or just of claiming an uncontestably good and popular book as something belonging to “our camp”.
      There’s been talks of the sci fi ghetto good writers sometimes get caught in. The situation’s much better now. But the whole “Frankenstein as first sf”-thing does reek of that kind of inferiority complex. And seems more like a stance with ulterior motives. Doesn’t feel true in itself.

  • Although it’s really a collection of short stories, I’d vote for Isaac Asimov’s “I, robot”. A seminal work whose relivance is still being felt today, Asimov’s 3 laws of robotics blur the distinction between reality and prognostication

  • No Ender’s Game? I know that it’s kind of hip to revile OSC these days, but that book belongs in every single list of seminal sci-fi stories.

      • Agreed on the story, but thematically Card is walking a path already hewn by James Blish in the 1950s with “A Case of Conscience”. A shout out also for Blish’s “Cities in Flight” series: encountering those as a pre-teen with their riffs on Spengler’s theories on history and civilization, heady stuff showing how the genre could tackle big themes and mix them with entertaining stories.

        • Ender’s Game is the only science fiction novel on the United States Marine Corps’ professional development required reading list. It should be here too. I do like this list though, I have and have read most of them.

          • I’m not sure how being on the USMC’s professional development reading list means it should be on any seminal sf list. As interesting as EG is, learning how to be brutal because your society is manipulable by war propaganda isn’t a particularly sf notion, and pretty disturbing that it’s on the USMC list as well.

          • Endgers Game -PLUS- Speaker for the Dead should be on the list. I agree that EG has a brutal lesson; and SftD turns it into a great redemption story. No list is perfect and there are lots more that could be on it, but all these books are worthy.

          • This. You don’t even need SftD to see the point, though. EG makes very clear that Ender was manipulated and his brutality cultivated and exploited, all while he had the capacity to understand that there may have been an alternative and figure out a way to make it happen, if given the chance.

  • A list of SF books made by people so poorly read that the only female writer they can think of is Ursula K. Le Guin. Try again when you get caught up.

    • I thought of two off the top of my head while reading your post: Judith Merril for the England Swings anthology at the very least, and James Tiptree Jr. Someone else mentioned Mary Shelley.

    • Maybe they know many other female writers but decided that the list should be about the most influential works instead of being about pandering to the idenitarian left. Have you considered that possibility?

      • You do realize whom you’re snubbing, yes, Mr. wonny?

        As for crucial women authors whose works changed sci-fi and whose innovations were followed upon by numerous, often better publicized male authors, you’re also clearly not terribly well read:

        Mary Shelly, Frankenstein
        Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow
        Andre Noton, Forerunner series
        C. L. Moore, Vintage Season

        just to name a handful. And that’s not even getting in to the 1960s.

        You have a mission, Mr. wonny: get reading.

  • There are more women that have been fundamental to shaping the genre than this list reflects. Margaret Cavendish, Mary Shelley, Margaret Atwood, and of course Octavia Butler who was a pioneer of Afrofuturism.

    • This is certainly true and I’m a huge fan of Le Guin and Octavia Butler…however, you do realize that you’re criticizing a “17 Best of” list on Lifehacker…

      Were this a site that had any literary credentials, you may have a stronger argument. Of course, in a genre historically populated by a male author majority most lists that were almost exclusively listing male authors could still be argued for (as long as they included Le Guin, of course).

  • I guess Neuromancer “invented” the internet one year before Ender’s Game. I would probably pick Heinlein’s Starship Troopers over Forever War.

    • I can top that. For example, I recall reading a virtual reality story in a 50s or 60s sf magazine (yes, I’m talking about the fully conceived idea, not just something that is similar). I forget the details, but I believe it was in Galaxy, and was about addiction to VR. But Gibson’s Neuromancer still remains the most influential cyberpunk novel, no matter how much I prefer the Mozart in Mirrorshades anthology, or Bruce Sterling’s work in general.

  • I am surprised not to see any Richard Matheson novels on the list. “I Am Legend” is a classic to say the least. I believe that Richard Matheson is the master of telling a story about one man surviving against all odds. Take “The Incredible Shrinking Man” for example.

      • Perhaps “The Shrinking Man” is, in particular the way Matheson incorporated the psychological effects, the sexual ramifications, and the social/marital changes that took place due to shrinkage. I can’t think of many science fiction titles of that time or earlier which considered such adult perceptions in terms of raw emotions. Oh — and I forgot being introduced as an adult into child molestation from the flip side. This book was well ahead of its time.

  • It would be great if someone could explain how Slaughterhouse 5 is a science fiction novel.

    Vonnegut did write SF and some very good SF but I wouldn’t classify this is as such.

    Also, where is Shockwave Rider?

  • Not sure why the entry for Foundation focuses on its supposed introductions of Greg Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin. All three had quite well established careers as sf writers prior to their entries to the series. Brin, for example, was popular in the 80s, well before his 1999 contribution to the Foundation series, thanks to his Uplift series, as well as the Postman (yes, it was better than the movie). Why not focus instead upon how influential Foundation’s content was?

  • For Bradbury, I would argue his Fahrenheit 451 is far more important and prescient given how it prefigured the influence of TV, the use of robots based on genetic signatures, and the total dumbing down of the population and the rise of anti-intellectualism,

  • Some strange choices and even stranger comments. For example, Dangerous Visions was a very good anthology, but it didn’t make the careers of its authors – they were already leaders in the field.

    What about:
    – Phillip K Dick’s Man In The High Castle or anyof his great novels, for influencing countless others
    – Jack Vance’s Big Planet, which invented the planetary romance, and The Dying Earth, which invented a new field of fantasy
    – Robert Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps, which was the first story to explore the paradoxes of time travel (you’d also have to acknowledge H G Wells’ The Time Machine for the first time travel novel)
    – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, probably the first sf novel.

    • I think the problem is that aside from the mysteriously overlooked Mary Shelley, influential women writers produced their works from the late 60s onwards: Le Guin, McCaffrey, Russ, Tiptree, Lessing etc. Most of this list is from an earlier period, allowing more time to assess their influence.

  • Bah…………. you left out Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier. “Swift death awaits the first cow that leads a revolt against milking,”

  • Two things… Stanley G Wienbaum and Robert Silverberg belong on this list for A Martian Odyssey and A Time of Changes. The only unanimous vote getter on the very first Masters election was Wienbaum. A Time of Changes was the very best Introspective SF ever written IMO.

  • As a teenager back in the 70’s, Asimov, Heinlein, and Norton were the only authors I knew for quite some time.
    Then came Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury… and the list keeps growing.

  • Not sure if It’s Genre Defining / Altering but “The Hyperion” Series by Dan Simmons is some of the best Sci Fi I’ve ever read.

    Ian M Banks – Same

    Willian Gibson – Neuromancer surely needs a mention

  • I first picked up Heinlein at the MS/HS transition as a fast reader. I read two of his books (unmentioned here) and then Alan Dean Foster. I’d be a COMPLETELY different person without sf. I have read most of these (except the 2009 novel- which I’ll probably get), but I do think 1984 should be here. Maybe M Chrichton book. Good, and thought-provoking list, however!

  • Not to knock on some of the greats, but the ‘best of’ list has been static for a while, and heavily features the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Surely the idea is to point people to something they haven’t discovered yet? Maybe you could dig into some newer books and do Best SciFi That Was Written This Century. I would recommend Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy, and I’ve also heard great things about N.K Jemisin (in my to-read pile). Go ahead and ameliorate your biases (no Shelley or McCaffrey on this list *grumble* it’s not like 17 is a round number *grumble*).

    • “Surely the idea is to point people to something they haven’t discovered yet? Maybe you could dig into some newer books and do Best SciFi That Was Written This Century.”

      I think the idea was to name “books that forever changed the genre”. Anything newer e.g. this century, is too recent to assess in terms of whether it shaped the field or shaped a fad.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced the works of half the writers on your list–notably including Bradbury by his own admission. Princess of Mars certainly deserves inclusion.

  • A very decent, and thoughtful list! Thank you! A few titles are new, but you’ve listed the true classics of the genre!

    (I get so tired of reading verbose American lists that seem like grammar school book reports. Good job, you guys!)

    • I have to admit that Day of the triffids touches on genetic engineering, end of the world scenarios.
      Personally whilst I love “The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy” I have to admit that there were any number of humorous novels before that. For example Harry Harrison’s Stainless steel Rat series. I think the fact that Hichhikers made the jump from radio to novel is the interesting part of this, you can now see it with plenty of stories being written from media ( Star Wars/Trek, Dr Who)

  • If we’re now including short stories, I’ll throw in Fredric Brown’s 1944 Arena, which includes many of the themes that would go to become more deeply explored by some of the authors in this list later on.

  • I enjoyed all of the novels by EE”Doc” Smith.
    And Lois McMaster Bujold.
    I have read many of the books listed.
    Albeit many years ago.
    I can’t comment on how influential both these authors are. I just enjoyed them.

  • So many great books, both in the list and in the comment section. A bit disappointed that Brave New World isn’t up there. But I do get it: tHuxley’s world building is much better than the novel itself. The same could be said about Dune. Fabulous universe and mediocre novel(s).

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