Introduction to science fiction: The best sci-fi books for newbies to the genre
Science fiction doesn’t have to be intimidating. Whether you usually read literary fiction or crime thrillers, here’s our edit of the best science fiction books for readers who are new to the genre.
If you’re new to reading science fiction, all the talk of wormholes, advanced technology and space warfare can be daunting. But science fiction offers plenty of accessible, immersive writing for every type of reader. Here Petrik Leo, reviewer at Novel Notions, guides us through the genre and shares his recommendations for the best science fiction books for readers new to sci-fi.
Can't get enough science fiction? Discover our edit of the best sci-fi books.
Science fiction is one of my favourite genres. It delves into the implications – both good and bad – of progress and technology, extraordinary adventures, fascinating world-building, relatable social commentaries, vivid action sequences and well-developed characters that you can really root for . . . Sci-fi offers true escapism while also encouraging introspection regarding our society. However, this can be an intimidating genre for those unfamiliar with it; I was in a similar situation a few years ago. Plus, With thousands of sci-fi novels and many sub-genres, choosing which book to begin your adventure with can be a daunting task. Here are several magnificent but accessible sci-fi books that are sure to spark your passion for the form.
Before I get to the recommendations though, let me explain what sci-fi is.
What is science fiction?
Personally, I classify sci-fi as a genre of speculative fiction that focuses on science, technology and futuristic premises or concepts. It’s not always the case, but a sci-fi story often takes place in our universe or galaxy. It is a genre brimming with narratives that usually combine several if not all of the following: advanced technologies, weaponry, space exploration, space warfare, extraterrestrial beings (aliens), artificial intelligence, time travel and parallel universes. At the same time, sci-fi can offer deep present-day social commentary and a study of the human condition, be it in the future or in an alternate world that has been changed or influenced by science. As you’ve probably guessed, science fiction is a vast genre. To make things easier to categorize, it is divided into multiple sub-genres. Here are some of the most popular:
Soft science fiction
The rules of how science and technologies are used in soft science fiction are often flexible. The story and characters in a soft sci-fi novel usually have a wider focus than scientific concepts.
An example of popular soft sci-fi is Star Wars.
Hard science fiction
The opposite of soft sci-fi. The basis of how technology and advancement work relies heavily on scientific rules and/or mathematics. Most of the time, hard sci-fi places a lot of emphasis on scientific concepts and theory; science and technology are very important in the narrative and are explained in great detail.
An example of popular hard sci-fi is Interstellar.
Military science fiction
This sub-genre usually involves main characters who are enlisted in an army. Space warfare using advanced weaponry or technology are the basis of this type of fiction.
An example of popular military sci-fi is Edge of Tomorrow.
The name of this sub-genre says it all. There’s been a lot of debate over the definition of this sub-genre, but personally, as long as either space travel, space warfare or intergalactic conflicts are in the narrative, I classify it as space opera.
Some examples of popular space-opera are Star Wars, Star Trek, The Expanse and Mass Effect.
Usually taking place in a dystopian future, cyberpunk often features cybernetics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence as key points of the narrative.
Two examples of popular cyberpunk are Blade Runner and Altered Carbon.