The best sci-fi gifts to get science fiction fans this Christmas

If you’re stuck for the perfect sci-fi gift for the science fiction fan in your life, look no further. David Barnett is here to help with his edit of the best sci-fi books and gifts to give this Christmas. 

Buying gifts for the sci-fi fans in your life can be daunting if you’re not familiar with the genre. Are they a space opera aficionado? Do they pride themselves on being on the cutting edge, ensuring they’ve read the best sci-fi books of the year, or is a beautifully bound science fiction classic the way to their heart? Here, David Barnett gives us the lowdown on the sci-fi gifts that science fiction fans will be over the moon to find in their stockings on Christmas morning.

For more gifting inspiration, don’t miss our pick of the best sci-fi books and the best fantasy books of 2020. 

What do you get for the science fiction fan who has everything this Christmas? Well, aside from confirmed first contact with an alien intelligence, a holiday on the (hopefully Covid-free) moon, or a jetpack? Check out our gift guide for some out-of-this-world ideas . . . 

You might know someone who knows their Mandalorian from their Expanse, but how well up are they on where science fiction actually began? The Macmillan Collector’s Library is a great place to start their education on the roots of the genre. The collection boasts a wealth of classic adventures such as Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, in which the maverick Captain Nemo pilots the Nautilus across the globe’s seas, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in which a fabulous prehistoric world is found at the planet’s core. Also hanging out with Verne in this set is sci-fi royalty H. G. Wells, with his ultimate alien invasion tale The War of the Worlds, as well as a journey to the distant future in The Time Machine. These uniform editions in smart livery make a great gift for any reader.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne

The Macmillan Collector’s Library edition of this classic sci-fi book is beautifully illustrated by the French painter Édouard Riou, who worked with Jules Verne on six of his novels. When three adventurers set out to kill a sea monster, all is not what it seems . . . 

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

by Jules Verne

When the chance discovery of an ancient cryptogram reveals a path to the Underworld, the adventurous Professor Otto Lidenbrock sets off to Iceland, determined to reach the centre of the earth. But nothing can prepare him and his nephew Axel for what they will find beneath the ground; measureless caverns and vast subterranean seas reveal all of the earth's known history and more, while dinosaurs do battle, giant men herd mastodons, and danger and excitement wait around every corner.

War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells

The inspiration for countless science fiction stories and novels, H. G. Wells’s sci-fi classic is a must for any science fiction fan’s bookshelf. Written in semi-documentary style, the 1938 radio adaptation famously caused panic when listeners believed the fictional new bulletins were real, and this novel about a terrifying alien invasion still grips readers to this day. 

The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells was among the first to express a plausible scientific method of time travel, and he also coined the term ‘time machine’ in this science fiction novella. The book has been adapted into three different films, and still influences science fiction writers today. The Time Machine is a pioneering classic that is considered by many to be the most influential sci-fi book of all time.

For something a little more up to date, Adrian Tchaikovsky is a veritable maestro (pun intended) of the current science fiction scene, and he's a great author to introduce someone to because if they love the first book they read by him — as they surely will — then there are plenty more to dive into. If you start them on Children of Time, a far-flung future tale of humanity leaving a dying Earth to seek new homes among the stars, then they’ll definitely want to read the follow-up, Children of Ruin. For a more earthbound — yet no less epic — adventure, Adrian’s latest, The Doors of Eden, is perhaps even bigger in its scope as it plays with the idea of multiple parallel worlds.

Children of Time

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Adrian Tchaikovksy's critically acclaimed novel Children of Time won the thirtieth anniversary Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel. In this epic story of humanity’s battle for survival on a terraformed planet, two civilizations are on a collision course, and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance . . . 

Children of Ruin

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Thousands of years ago, scientists working for Earth's terraforming program found alien life on the planet they called Nod. Their mission, to overwrite it with the memory of Earth. Aeons after humanity's great empire fell and the mission was forgotten, an exploration vessel is dispatched to find signs of life. But something was awoken by those ancient terraformers that was better left undisturbed . . . 

The Doors of Eden

by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A new sci-fi novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky to get excited about, The Doors of Eden is a standalone adventure set in the world of MI5 investigations and in the depths of Bodmin Moor. Following an attack on a government physicist and rumours of monsters and missing people, the British security forces are sent to investigate. When they discover that there are cracks between our world and countless others it shatters everything they previously thought about the universe.

For more big ideas, and to get in on the ground floor of one of the hottest new debut authors of the year, try them with A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martin. This is a big old space opera delight of high concepts and deep space, perfect for fans of Iain M Banks’s Culture novels, or anyone who wants to discover a wide-ranging story set across a huge canvas.

A Memory Called Empire

by Arkady Martine

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare travels to the Teixcalaanli Empire’s interstellar capital, eager to take up her new post. Yet when she arrives, she discovers her predecessor was murdered. But no one will admit his death wasn’t accidental – and she might be next.

Now Mahit must navigate the capital’s enticing yet deadly halls of power, to discover dangerous truths. And while she hunts for the killer, Mahit must somehow prevent the rapacious Empire from annexing her home: a small, fiercely independent mining station.

As she sinks deeper into an alien culture that is all too seductive, Mahit engages in intrigues of her own. For she’s hiding an extraordinary technological secret, one which might destroy her station and its way of life. Or it might save them from annihilation.

Now here’s a question for you: Is Douglas Adams’s A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy sci-fi or a sci-fi comedy? It doesn’t really matter when something is as richly enjoyable as this. A much loved classic, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a trilogy in five books (Adams was like that) in which curmudgeonly Earthling Arthur Dent is narrowly saved from Earth’s destruction to be taken on a whirlwind tour of time and space alongside miserable robots, rock-star spacers and awful poetry-spouting aliens. And not a decent cup of tea to be had. All five books are available in a boxset and you’ll really be doing someone who hasn’t read it a festive favour by wrapping this up for them.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Book cover for The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

DON’T PANIC: collected together in the Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy are the five titles that comprise Douglas Adams’ wildly popular and wholly remarkable comedy science fiction series.

This one volume paperback edition comes complete with an unhelpful introduction from the author, a bonus short story, Young Zaphod Plays It Safe, and a special undeleted scene . . .

Maybe you know someone who watched the recent hit HBO/Sky drama Lovecraft Country, and wants more. Well, the novel by Matt Ruff, from which the series was adapted, is a great place for them to continue their adventures with Atticus and his family as they battle both malevolent spirits straight out of a H. P. Lovecraft tale and the more mundane horrors of 1950s America. 

Lovecraft Country

by Matt Ruff

An imaginative blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism – the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

Another good book to get fans of sci-fi TV shows into reading is To Sleep In A Sea of Stars, a good jumping-in point to the world of sci-fi literature for fans of shows such as The Expanse and movies like the Alien franchise. This novel by Christopher Paolini, who was previously known for his young adult Inheritance series, begins with a terrifying first contact with alien life and spins out into a galaxy-spanning adventure that asks the big questions about why we’re here, yet never slows the breakneck pace of the storytelling.

If you like a bit of merch with your reads, Christopher has got you covered with a frankly amazing  Etsy shop that includes prints, T-shirts and badges designed by the author’s own fair hand.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

by Christopher Paolini

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is the masterful epic science fiction novel from New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author, Christopher Paolini. The novel follows xenobiologist Kira Navárez as she discovers an alien relic that thrusts her into the wonders and nightmares of first contact. Epic space battles for the fate of humanity ensue, taking her to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and, in the process, transform not only her – but the entire course of history.

One of the most rollicking – and that is a word that is not to be over-used, but is perfectly applicable here – is one of this year’s most fabulous sci-fi novels Seven Devils, co-authored by Elizabeth May and Laura Lam. Imagine Guardians of the Galaxy with a fierce, feminist cast of freedom fighters and you might get close to this fabulous, fast-paced thrill-ride.

Seven Devils

by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

Book cover for Seven Devils

Seven Devils is the first sci-fi books in a feminist space opera duology which sees seven resistance fighters fight to free the galaxy from the ruthless Tholosian Empire. In this novel, Eris and Cloelia must put aside their differences to bring the empire to its knees.  

There’s a universe of fantastic science fiction out there, from the classics of yesteryear to the boundary-pushing novels of today. Something for everyone, certainly . . .  and you can always promise them that jetpack next year, right?