If you are searching for escapism by reading about a universe far, far away, or simply seeking a mind-expanding journey into a different dimension, then science fiction is the genre for you – and we have book recommendations. Our most popular interview in this section is our discussion of the latest shortlist for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Science Fiction with the prize's director Tom Hunter; in it, he explains why some of the best sci fi books are thought experiments that explore the human condition through extraterrestrial or futurist allegory.
Recently, climate fiction or cli-fi has become a focus of literary efforts, as authors extrapolate from our impending climate crisis. Dan Bloom and James Bradley have selected their picks of the best cli fi books.
Famous examples of the genre are covered by Adam Roberts, who offers his top five science fiction classics. And Orson Scott Card and Philip Reeve also offer their top five sci fi book recommendations. If you've never read any science fiction but are keen to tip your toe, Nicholas Whyte of the Hugo Awards, recommends the best science fiction books for beginners.
Books regularly recommended in this genre include World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, and Ursula K Le Guin's gender-bending classic of interplanetary diplomacy Left Hand of Darkness.
The Best Science Fiction of 2022: The Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist, recommended by Andrew M. Butler
Every year, the judges for the Arthur C. Clarke Award select the best of the latest batch of new scifi books. In 2022, the science fiction award’s shortlist includes new work from Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, a novel-in-verse from the Scottish writer Harry Josephine Giles, and a new title in Arkady Martine’s beloved Teixcalaan series. Andrew M. Butler, academic and chair of the judges, talks us through the finalists.
Interested in science fiction, but not sure where to begin? Sceptical of spaceships, but never really given them a chance? We asked Nicholas Whyte, administrator of the World Science Fiction Society’s renowned annual Hugo Awards, to recommend five of the best sci fi books that should appeal to readers new to the genre
In 1995, Octavia Butler became the first science fiction and fantasy author to be awarded a Macarthur ‘genius’ grant. Her writing often dealt with the moral complexities of survival, and foregrounded African American characters at a time where Black protagonists were few. Nisi Shawl, a personal friend and editor of Butler’s collected works, selects five of the best books to read for an introduction to Octavia Butler’s writing.
Ken Liu, the multi-award winning author of The Paper Menagerie, explains how using elements of fantasy and science fiction can help us examine deep truths about the human condition, as he recommends the best of contemporary speculative fiction.
“Imagination is a national security imperative,” according to acclaimed novelist, journalist and decorated US Marine Elliot Ackerman. He’s written a novel with retired Admiral Jim Stavridis, about what would happen if the US went to war with China. Here, he talks us through his favourite books of apocalyptic fiction—and the truths they reveal about war, humanity, and literature.
The best sci-fi explores humanity’s anxieties and concerns and is in some sense about the future. But it doesn’t try to predict what’s to come. The literature professor and sci-fi writer recommends five classics of the genre.
Ursula Le Guin’s most groundbreaking books are considered landmark texts in speculative fiction, exploring themes of colonisation, gender, nationalism and environmentalism through allegorical means. Here, the science fiction scholar Sherryl Vint selects five of the best books by Ursula Le Guin and examines her legacy as one of the great American writers.
The highly respected author who has held fellowships at both Oxford and Cambridge universities discusses books that focus on parallel realities. Comes up with some great lesser-known must-read fiction
If you could go back, or forward, in time — would you? Science journalist and sci-fi novelist Annalee Newitz recommends some of the best time travel books and talks us through the dangers and delights of the genre, which take us from the Ordovician period through to the present day.
Often described as the ‘father of science fiction’, H G Wells was a man of extraordinary charisma and vivid imagination. Yet he suffered terribly from class anxiety and subscribed to political beliefs we now find abhorrent, says the editor and author Roger Luckhurst. He recommends the best books to learn more about the life and work of the British writer H G Wells.
Serious philosophy need not take the form of a journal article or monograph, argues the philosopher and U.C. Riverside professor Eric Schwitzgebel, as he selects five science fiction books that succeed both as novels and provocative thought experiments that push us to consider deep philosophical questions from every angle.
Fiction that explores issues of climate change is growing at an unprecedented rate today, says the journalist who coined the phrase ‘cli-fi’, Dan Bloom. Here, he picks the five best books of the field, and introduces us to a globally important, underexplored literary genre
Zombies have returned with a vengeance in recent years, the secret to their undying popularity lying in their ability to embody many different kinds of menace, from social unrest to pandemics, financial insecurity to international terrorism. Greg Garrett, author of Living with the Living Dead, recommends five books to help you prepare for the zombie apocalypse
Every year, the director of the Arthur C Clarke Award talks us through their six book shortlist. The 2021 crop of the best science fiction books features a “deliciously pulpy” space opera, a time travel story for young adults, and a cacophonous tale of talking animals. What they all have in common is that they are by debut authors, says Tom Hunter: they represent a new generation of sci fi writing.
Sci fi is booming, says Tom Hunter, the director of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction, as he discusses their 2020 shortlist: six novels that embrace classic sci fi narratives, while subverting or reimagining them for a contemporary audience.
If you’re hoping to travel to a galaxy far, far away with your next book, these six excellent sci fi novels will help you on your way. Tom Hunter, the director of the Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction books, discusses the 2019 prize shortlist.
The sci-fi author tells us how the genre evolved from “gosh-wow” novels of the 1920s into some of the most inventive fiction being written today. He recommends five books sure to get new readers hooked
Space travel may be the stuff of science fiction but some of it is getting closer and closer to becoming reality. What’s more, we have a duty to pursue it, says Christopher Mason, Professor of Genomics, Physiology, and Biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine and author of The Next 500 Years, a blueprint of how to set about leaving our solar system. Here, he recommends his favourite science fiction about space travel, and an essential philosophy book.
What will the next global conflict look like? Two of America’s leading defence experts, P W Singer and August Cole, turned to science fiction to explore the prospect of a future war, and how existing technology might be used in one. Here, they choose five novels depicting a fictional World War Three that served as inspiration.
The best fiction allows us to hold ideas in our heads about time and space and causality and connection that are difficult to articulate in other ways, argues the Australian author James Bradley. It helps its readers engage with dangers and possibilities that are at the very edge of imagination
In the rapidly-emerging field of existential risks, researchers study the mitigation of threats that could lead to human extinction or civilisational collapse. We met with four researchers from The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, to discuss their recommendations of the best books to get a grasp of this dense subject.
Young adult science fiction extends far beyond the typical dystopian novels which immediately come to mind. Estelle Francis, a teenage author who recently published her first book, shares her favourite reads on this topic.
Award-winning author Philip Reeve talks us through the science fiction and fantasy books that shaped him and his work in profound ways; among indubitable classics are vibrant lesser-known works awaiting our discovery.
Catherine Mayer—author, journalist and president of the Women’s Equality Party—talks to Five Books about her optimism for a more equal future for society by way of her favourite science fiction visionaries and their work.
Neurological disorders lead to far more surreal stories than those we find in science fiction, argues University of California neuroscientist Bradley Voytek.
Warnings about the future of society contained in novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four may seem less important since the fall of the Soviet Union, but they are all too relevant to China today, argues the Chinese writer
These days robotic technology is developing so fast that sci-fi is having a hard time keeping up, says best-selling author and roboticist, Daniel H Wilson. He picks the best books on robotics.