10 great science fiction novels

great science fictionI don’t read nearly as much science fiction these days as I did back in medieval times, when I was a teenager. But I still go out of my way to check out the Hugo and Nebula Award-winners and just about anything else that’s new either written by my favorite writers or that come highly recommended by others I trust.

In 2015, as a result, I dipped into quite a few books in the genre. The list below includes all the very best of the survivors (the ones I actually read from start to finish and then reviewed) . . . except for much better-known books first published before 2014. For example, I’ve omitted Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy and Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy, both of which were published years ago, both of which I read in 2015 — and both of which were superb.

A word of clarification: some people classify fantasy as science fiction. I don’t. You won’t find any sorcerers, dragons or magic swords in any of the books listed below.

If I have to name my favorite among those on the list, I can’t overlook Andy Weir’s The Martian, which still lingers on national bestseller lists. However, for sheer inventiveness, I have to choose Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife. It’s one of the best dystopian novels I’ve ever read. BTW, Bacigalupi is also the author of The Windup Girl, which is one of the best SF novels I’ve ever read, period.

The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Vicious competition for scarce water supplies in the parched Southwest in a future America drives people to murderous extremes.

Sand (Omnibus Edition), by Hugh Howey

In Colorado of the future, the past is buried under mountains of sand. Elite sand divers descend into the depths to scavenge the relics of the past from “Danvar” and other ancient cities for use in the present.

Wool: Omnibus Edition (Silo Series #1-5), by Hugh Howey

The human race has been driven underground by an unexplained catastrophe in the world above. The remaining population lives in silos driven deep into the earth. Only the bravest — and most foolish — venture into the outside world.

Shift, Omnibus Edition (Shift Trilogy #1-3), by Hugh Howey

In the sequel to Wool: Omnibus Edition, we learn the backstory behind the catastrophe that has driven the remnants of the human race into silos buried in the earth. This is an action-filled thriller as well as superior science fiction.

Goodhouse: A Novel, by Peyton Marshall

With genetic testing run amok, the sons of convicted criminals are imprisoned in boarding schools where they are taught to “reform” in a totalitarian environment. Meanwhile, a savage religious cult is bent on destroying the system, and the boys are caught between two powerful contending forces.

Redshirts: A Novel With Three Codas, by John Scalzi

There is something fishy on an interstellar vessel that bears a striking resemblance to the Starship Enterprise popularized in the original Star Trek — and about the crew that seems all too familiar.

Annihilation: Book 1 of the Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff VanderMeer

One of the strangest novels you’re likely ever to come across. On the coast of the American South several decades after the present time, a mysterious Area X has suddenly appeared. Teams of scientists sent to investigate it rarely survive the experience. (Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by the second book in this trilogy, which I also read and reviewed in 2015.)

Farthing (Small Change Trilogy #1), by Jo Walton

Hitler has won World War II and Britain is awash in fascism. The murder of a high government official sets off a chain of events that brings neo-Nazis into power.

Ha’penny (Small Change Trilogy #2): A Story of a World That Could Have Been, by Jo Walton

In 1949, the fascist Farthing Set is firmly in control of the British government, and Nazi ideology is taking firm hold of the country. A bomb exploded in a London suburb sets off an investigation by Scotland Yard that now threatens the hold of the Farthing Set on the nation. (For what it’s worth, I didn’t like the concluding volume in this trilogy.)

The Martian, by Andy Weir

In a brilliant example of hard science fiction, an astronaut mistakenly left behind when a Mars mission leaves the planet must find a way to survive in the harsh environment of the Red Planet.


Mal Warwick

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