The best science fiction books of all time you may have missed

These classic science fiction books have had an undeniable influence on the genre, but have you read them all? 

Some authors and novels have had an undeniable influence on the genre of science fiction, from William Gibson's pioneering work in the cyberpunk subgenre to The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, which popularised the concept of time travel in fiction. Here is our selection of some of the best science fiction books of all time that may not have been on your radar. 

When you've caught up on these classics, don't miss our edit of the best new science fiction books


Book cover for 9781509852796

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the original radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. It was so popular that it ran for six series on BBC Radio 4, and has spawned a stage show, TV series and a feature film, as well as five volumes of fiction by Douglas Adams, which are collected together in this omnibus edition. The novels are some of the most widely read in the world, and have had an undeniable effect on popular science fiction. 

Childhood's End

Book cover for Childhood's End

Childhood's End is a classic of the genre from an author The Times called 'the master of science fiction.' Earth is now a utopia, ruled over by a strange unseen people from outer space. War, cruelty, poverty and racial inequality have been eradicated, so when the rulers finally reveal themselves, their horrific form makes little impression. But then children around the world begin to develop special powers, and the truth about their rulers is finally revealed to the human race . . .

The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

Book cover for The Time Machine

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.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

by Philip K. Dick

Book cover for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Blade Runner set the cyberpunk aesthetic in tone, but Philip K. Dick’s novel that inspired it is a more interesting morality play, and seems to be less widely-read in the cyberpunk canon than Neuromancer et al. Great in its own right, makes for a fascinating comparison to the film and all that it inspired.


by Dan Simmons

Book cover for Hyperion

Hyperion is a lyrical space opera, overflowing with wildly imaginative concepts, storytelling devices and a breathtaking exploration of a galaxy-spanning AI. Spoken of in reverent tones by its cult following, I think it deserves to be shouted from the rooftops instead.


by Brian K. Vaughan

Book cover for Saga

Ok, technically a graphic novel, but a defining moment in science-fantasy storytelling nonetheless. Saga tells the story of two fugitive parents (and their forbidden union) against the backdrop of a brutal, pointless war of attrition between their respective races. It’s so vividly drawn and wonderfully written, it’s not to be missed even if you usually prefer a thousand words to a picture.

The Dark Forest

by Cixin Liu

Book cover for The Dark Forest

Us westerners don’t get treated to much in the way of localised Chinese literature, but with an Amazon series purportedly in development, Cixin Liu’s series is about to take over the world. Read this theoretical and hugely ambitious hard sci-fi ‘before it was cool’.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne

Book cover for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne may well have accidentally invented ‘hard’ sci-fi when he speculated about what underwater vehicles might look like, and the adventures they could enable. It still holds up as a ripping, humorous yarn even today.