,

Best HARD SCIENCE FICTION of the 21st Century

Vote for your favourite Hard Science Fiction novels first published since the year 2000.

Please only add books that have received at least one thousand ratings
and
shelved at least 5 times as: hard science fiction, hard sf or hard sci fi.

Hard science fiction is "characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both."

1

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2

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4.07 avg rating — 218,585 ratings
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4.28 avg rating — 71,824 ratings
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4.41 avg rating — 95,101 ratings
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3.99 avg rating — 106,189 ratings
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7

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4.42 avg rating — 73,586 ratings
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8

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3.99 avg rating — 49,866 ratings
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9

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4.01 avg rating — 33,114 ratings
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10

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4.24 avg rating — 1,023,210 ratings
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11

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4.28 avg rating — 82,358 ratings
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12

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4.23 avg rating — 46,205 ratings
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13

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4.37 avg rating — 44,742 ratings
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14

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4.16 avg rating — 68,446 ratings
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15

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4.04 avg rating — 97,518 ratings
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16

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4.41 avg rating — 39,308 ratings
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17

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4.52 avg rating — 281,176 ratings
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18

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4.22 avg rating — 24,097 ratings
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19

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4.02 avg rating — 38,542 ratings
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20

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4.25 avg rating — 303,114 ratings
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21

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3.88 avg rating — 20,401 ratings
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22

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4.12 avg rating — 343,337 ratings
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23

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3.83 avg rating — 21,084 ratings
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24

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4.13 avg rating — 22,989 ratings
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25

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4.06 avg rating — 16,991 ratings
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26

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4.23 avg rating — 177,006 ratings
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27

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4.15 avg rating — 26,909 ratings
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28

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3.98 avg rating — 93,875 ratings
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29

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3.84 avg rating — 8,282 ratings
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30

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3.84 avg rating — 14,848 ratings
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31

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3.88 avg rating — 10,710 ratings
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32

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3.74 avg rating — 71,974 ratings
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33

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3.77 avg rating — 17,519 ratings
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34

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3.76 avg rating — 22,932 ratings
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35

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4.20 avg rating — 38,234 ratings
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36

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3.94 avg rating — 3,379 ratings
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37

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4.62 avg rating — 2,876 ratings
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38

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4.19 avg rating — 21,642 ratings
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39

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4.25 avg rating — 25,970 ratings
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40

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3.90 avg rating — 12,690 ratings
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41

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4.16 avg rating — 44,127 ratings
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42

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4.21 avg rating — 24,830 ratings
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43

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3.94 avg rating — 9,606 ratings
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44

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3.50 avg rating — 18,638 ratings
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45

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4.09 avg rating — 25,645 ratings
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46

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3.98 avg rating — 53,613 ratings
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47

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4.01 avg rating — 20,653 ratings
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48

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4.05 avg rating — 23,407 ratings
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49

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3.93 avg rating — 16,225 ratings
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50

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51

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4.13 avg rating — 8,109 ratings
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52

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53

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54

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3.93 avg rating — 22,094 ratings
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55

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3.83 avg rating — 11,567 ratings
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56

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4.12 avg rating — 7,720 ratings
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57

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3.80 avg rating — 6,236 ratings
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58

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3.84 avg rating — 23,547 ratings
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59

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4.07 avg rating — 16,348 ratings
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60

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4.13 avg rating — 55,881 ratings
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61

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4.16 avg rating — 107,415 ratings
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62

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4.03 avg rating — 28,305 ratings
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63

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3.94 avg rating — 17,936 ratings
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64

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4.52 avg rating — 281,176 ratings
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65

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4.02 avg rating — 20,864 ratings
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66

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4.13 avg rating — 6,993 ratings
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67

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4.61 avg rating — 1,440 ratings
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68

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3.78 avg rating — 7,064 ratings
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69

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4.13 avg rating — 1,863 ratings
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70

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4.04 avg rating — 6,287 ratings
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71

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4.06 avg rating — 47,346 ratings
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72

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3.82 avg rating — 17,551 ratings
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73

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4.21 avg rating — 174,366 ratings
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74

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4.27 avg rating — 26,796 ratings
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75

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3.74 avg rating — 7,239 ratings
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76

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3.57 avg rating — 12,146 ratings
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77

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3.66 avg rating — 2,028 ratings
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78

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4.15 avg rating — 1,757 ratings
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79

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4.20 avg rating — 85,858 ratings
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80

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4.21 avg rating — 28,602 ratings
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81

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4.13 avg rating — 133,871 ratings
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82

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3.58 avg rating — 7,346 ratings
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83

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3.90 avg rating — 4,981 ratings
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84

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4.42 avg rating — 76,930 ratings
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85

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4.24 avg rating — 63,451 ratings
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86

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4.03 avg rating — 27,461 ratings
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87

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4.03 avg rating — 3,702 ratings
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88

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4.31 avg rating — 14,487 ratings
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89

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3.91 avg rating — 10,638 ratings
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90

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4.37 avg rating — 53,248 ratings
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91

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4.14 avg rating — 7,805 ratings
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92

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4.12 avg rating — 7,795 ratings
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93

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3.70 avg rating — 3,091 ratings
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94

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3.56 avg rating — 12,710 ratings
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95

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3.56 avg rating — 15,722 ratings
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96

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4.37 avg rating — 44,742 ratings
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97

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4.30 avg rating — 3,195 ratings
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98

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3.69 avg rating — 2,098 ratings
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99

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4.26 avg rating — 105,951 ratings
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100

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3.54 avg rating — 2,858 ratings
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158 books · 1,346 voters · list created January 4th, 2014 by Rasheed (votes) .
582 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Rasheed 1630 books
7 friends
Ahem! 610 books
1 friend
Lorraine 429 books
0 friends
Glen 312 books
45 friends
Zita 103 books
8 friends
Charles 946 books
37 friends
Ian 1 book
0 friends
Jaakko 784 books
3 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-41 of 41 (41 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Buck (new)

Buck Ender's Game is a terrific book written in the 20th century.


message 3: by Loreley (new)

Loreley removed Diaspora (which is a great book) because it was first published in 1997


message 4: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary altered carbon was a reajjy amazing book couldnt put it down


message 5: by Jeroen (new)

Jeroen De Dauw I'm very dubious about a lot of these books qualifying as hard SF. I get the Expanse novels, Himlton and Reynolds are popular and like a lot of those myself. While they might adhere to out scientific understanding more than you're average SF, they definitely don't focus on the science itself, as say your typical Watts, Egan or Baxter novel.


message 6: by V.R. (new)

V.R. Craft Jeroen wrote: "I'm very dubious about a lot of these books qualifying as hard SF. I get the Expanse novels, Himlton and Reynolds are popular and like a lot of those myself. While they might adhere to out scientif..."
I was terribly disappointed in the first Expanse book. It started out so well, with this great setup and the wonderful world-building. They also had interesting characters, and this brewing war between Earth and the Belters...and then it ended up being about vomit zombies. The characters did manage to make it bearable, but the plot was just so disappointing to me. I understand why Syfy picked it up though, they love producing stuff with more slime than substance, and I'm guessing the story suffered even more when they turned it into television.


message 7: by Ddraig (new)

Ddraig Rosemary wrote: "altered carbon was a reajjy amazing book couldnt put it down"

Yep, it is fantastic


message 8: by Oni (new)

Oni V.R. wrote: "Jeroen wrote: "I'm very dubious about a lot of these books qualifying as hard SF. I get the Expanse novels, Himlton and Reynolds are popular and like a lot of those myself. While they might adhere ..."

I think the Expanse series is more like a space opera rather than a hard sci-fi.


message 9: by Oni (new)

Oni Can someone please remove Red Mars and Ringworld from the list? It is 20th century.


message 10: by Justin (new)

Justin Hofstetter V.R. wrote: "Jeroen wrote: "I'm very dubious about a lot of these books qualifying as hard SF. I get the Expanse novels, Himlton and Reynolds are popular and like a lot of those myself. While they might adhere ..."

It's not *about* the vomit zombies; that's just the first noticeable stage of protomolecule infection as described by the blue-collar crew of the Rocinante when they encounter the situation on Eros. That scene is early in the series and does not occur again, and the protomolecule evolves from there (but the "vomit zombies" were their handhold into human evolution, which is necessary for the rest of its actions in the following books).


message 11: by Loreley (new)

Loreley removed Old Man's War


message 12: by Alex (new)

Alex Arthur C Clarke's The City and the Stars was published in 1956, according to its Goodreads page. I think somebody missed the '21st Century' bit in the title...


message 13: by Ddraig (new)

Ddraig The Mote In God's Eye - (first published 1974)


message 14: by CR (new)

CR Williams Dune needs to be removed. 20th century.


message 15: by Loreley (new)

Loreley Crystal wrote: "Dune needs to be removed. 20th century."

done


message 16: by V (new)

V Granucci The Flying Sorcerers was originally published in 1974


message 17: by Loreley (new)

Loreley V wrote: "The Flying Sorcerers was originally published in 1974"

deleted.

I'm also having some doubts about "hard sci-fi-ness" of some of these books...


message 18: by Cydonical (new)

Cydonical Here's a list of books that need to be removed (I did not include two that were published in 1999 by noted hard-sf authors). Most of the below were first published in 20th century but some have other reasons that they need to be removed (e.g. duplicate listings). There are likely a number of other books that should be removed as well (e.g. not really hard-sf). But at least this is a start.

27. Use of Weapons (Iain M. Banks) (1990, 411 pp)
41. The Mote in God's Eye (Larry Niven) (1974, 560 pp)
60. A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge) (1992, 631 pp)
66. Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy (Cixin) (2017, 1545 pp) #NOTE: duplicate listing. Individual books at listed at #3, #9, #11
79. The Forever War (Joe Haldeman) (1974, 278 pp)
87. Friday (Robert A. Heinlein) (1982, 384 pp)
86. The Divinity Protocol (Berkeley Johnson) (2017, 320 pp) #NOTE: duplicate listing. Already at #84
91. Winter Eternal: Book I The River That Flows Two Ways (E. Thomas Joseph) (2017, 370 pp) # Historical fiction... not seeing it shelved as Hard-SF
91. Time and Time Again: Sixteen Stories of Time Travel (Robert Silverberg) (2018, 464 pp) # I'm gonna guess most of Silverberg's short stories were NOT written in the 21st century
91. Shatter (Annya Ginger) (2018, 193 pp) # M/M Sci-Fi Romance (not quite the "hard" we're looking for)
91. Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) (1992, 572 pp)
101. The Children of Men (P.D. James) (1992, 241 pp)
101. Green Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) (1993, 624 pp)
104. Foundation (Isaac Asimov) (1951, 244 pp)
104. Cat's Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut) (1963, 306 pp)
108. Firestar (Michael Flynn) (1996, 896 pp)
108. Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) (1953, 175 pp)
111. The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury) (1950, 182 pp)
112. The Running Man (Richard Bachman (Pseudonym), aka Stephen King) (1982, 317 pp)
113. V for Vendetta (Alan Moore) (1990, 296 pp)


message 19: by Loreley (new)

Loreley Cydonical wrote: "Here's a list of books that need to be removed (I did not include two that were published in 1999 by noted hard-sf authors). Most of the below were first published in 20th century but some have oth..."

Thanks, cleaned up the list a bit.

There are still those I doubt count as 'hard sci-fi' but left them alone for now


message 20: by Cydonical (new)

Cydonical Thanks, Loreley! I've reviewed the now current list and here are the remaining items that I think should be considered for either removal or re-thinking on the approach (sans the "is it hard sci-fi?" issue... I'll leave that one be). The biggest conundrum I have is the omnibus vs. individual books issue. Even though it would probably be best to have things as individual books, I'm OK (for now) having it either one way or the other per series... but I don't think any particular series should be listed BOTH ways. Here's the current culprits:

Cixin's "Remembrance of Earth's Past" series:
3. The Three-Body Problem (Liu Cixin) (2008, 400 pp) (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1)
9. The Dark Forest (Liu Cixin) (2008, 512 pp) (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #2)
11. Death's End (Liu Cixin) (2010, 604 pp) (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #3)
63. Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy (Cixin) (2017, 1545 pp)

So, since we have the individual books of Cixin's trilogy already listed as #3, #9, and #11... it is redundant to have the omnibus version listed at #63. I'm saying this since many books on this list are part of series and they are all listed individually as well (and not their omnibus counterparts).

And now, the exceptions (thus far) to that rule. Below we have two omnibus versions that do not have their individual books listed:

55. Void Box Set (Peter F. Hamilton) (2014, 2292 pp)
85. The Frontiers Saga: Episodes 1-3 (Ryk Brown) (2012, 657 pp)

So, maybe just leave these two that way until their individual books start popping into the list? This is where my conundrum lies... having a mixed standard is a recipe for future problems... but since the list isn't a mile long, perhaps we can still have it mixed until it becomes a bigger problem. Still, I think the list should have a series either one way or the other... not both. So, I'm still recommending the removal of #63.

Next issue, time period. I'm going to still recommend the removal of:

85. Time and Time Again: Sixteen Stories of Time Travel (Robert Silverberg) (2018, 464 pp)

Even though this compilation was published in 2018, here's the actual dates of the 16 individual stories:

1956 ABSOLUTELY INFLEXIBLE
1983 NEEDLE IN A TIMESTACK
1974 TRIPS
1973 MANY MANSIONS
1983 HOMEFARING
1972 WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THIS MORNING’S NEWSPAPER
1991 HUNTERS IN THE FOREST
1982 JENNIFER’S LOVER
1984 SAILING TO BYZANTIUM
1973 BRECKENRIDGE AND THE CONTINUUM
1982 THE MAN WHO FLOATED IN TIME
1982 GIANNI
1982 THE FAR SIDE OF THE BELL-SHAPED CURVE
1983 DANCERS IN THE TIME-FLUX
1967 HAWKSBILL STATION
2007 AGAINST THE CURRENT

So, only ONE short story is >=2000 publishing date. And this particular short story (Against the Current) is also published in the following compilation:

The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection (2008, 652 pp, ISBN 9780312378608).

So, if you want to keep that ONE short story that is >=2000 publishing date and have it as part of a compilation book where the rest of the shorts stories in the books are also >=2000, then this would likely be a better option.

Only other issue is the two books that are really published in 1999. But since they are from notable hard-sf authors, I'm inclined to leave them (and they are both the beginning books of series that extend into >=2000 publishing time frame). I'll list them here just for reference but, again, I'm OK with leaving them in the list:

52. Manifold: Time (Stephen Baxter) (1999, 480 pp) (Manifold #1)
67. Starfish (Peter Watts) (1999, 384 pp) (Rifters #1)

So, I still think #63 and #85 should be removed... maybe add ISBN 9780312378608... and I'll leave you to brood over the #52, #67 omnibus issue.

Sorry to be a pest... just trying to help. And the list really is looking a lot better. Thanks again for maintaining it! And here's hoping it can really serve it's purpose well in the years to come :)


message 21: by Cydonical (last edited Jun 18, 2019 11:15AM) (new)

Cydonical Loreley- I guess there is one more thing to consider revising and that is the requirements for a book to get on this list. Currently, the "rules" are as follows:

---snip---
Vote for your favourite Hard Science Fiction novels first published since the year 2000.

Please only add books that have received at least one thousand ratings
and
shelved at least 5 times as: hard science fiction, hard sf or hard sci fi.
---snip---

Considering what books have made their way onto the list (many needing to be removed) and that we are talking the 21st century here (meaning many new books won't have tons of ratings/reviews yet)... perhaps the "1000" ratings rule should be more of a "preferable" rule than a hard rule.

And since everybody shelves things differently, perhaps just saying that the book should be considered to be shelved as hard-sf in some way/shape/form would be better than mandating it be shelved in one of three forms only.

And considering the publishing date of 2000 or later... I'm just thinking of our relevant two entries that are 1999. Maybe allow an exception as long as the book is a part of a series and the bulk of that series is published 2000 or later. Hmm... even I'm skeptical to change this and am tending to side in just allowing the few exceptions as they rear their ugly heads. Food for thought.

So, all that in mind, maybe change the rules to something like the following:

---snip---
Vote for your favorite Hard Science Fiction novels first published since the year 2000.

It is preferable that you only add books that have:

1. Received at least 1000 ratings.
2. Been shelved at least 5 times as hard-sf (e.g. hard science fiction, hard sf, hard sci fi, etc.).

NOTE: Some near-2000 exceptions may be considered as long as they are in a series that mostly extends beyond 2000. And since these are usually newer books, we understand if they don't have 1000 ratings yet. Also, try to add only individual books and not omnibus or box sets.
---snip---


message 22: by Blue (new)

Blue Gargoyle Sorry Just voted for Banks' Player of Games, but it is a 97 release.


message 23: by Muad'Dib (new)

Muad'Dib Why isn't this is top rated order ? Wouldn't that constitute "The Best" ?


message 24: by Mitchell (new)

Mitchell Did some maintenance but this list could use a bit more. I added some books. I removed some old books. I removed books with not enough ratings.


message 25: by Øystein (new)

Øystein Rendezvous with Rama is not from this century.


message 26: by Mitchell (new)

Mitchell Øystein wrote: "Rendezvous with Rama is not from this century."

deleted


message 27: by Joseph (new)

Joseph White Loreley wrote: "removed Old Man's War"
Why? Published 2005.


message 28: by Loreley (new)

Loreley Joseph wrote: "Loreley wrote: "removed Old Man's War"
Why? Published 2005."


probably because it wasn't shelved as hard sf enough times


message 29: by Mitchell (last edited Jun 25, 2021 11:03PM) (new)

Mitchell Loreley wrote: "Joseph wrote: "Loreley wrote: "removed Old Man's War"
Why? Published 2005."

probably because it wasn't shelved as hard sf enough times"


fwiw
hard-sci-fi 14 people
hard-scifi 13 people
hard-science-fiction 11 people
hard-sf 6 people

so I would have put Old Man's War back on the list - but it was already on the list at #30

Perhaps it got additional shelvings since 2017


message 30: by Loreley (new)

Loreley Mitchell wrote: "Loreley wrote: "Joseph wrote: "Loreley wrote: "removed Old Man's War"
Why? Published 2005."

probably because it wasn't shelved as hard sf enough times"

fwiw
hard-sci-fi 14 people
h..."


Most likely - a lot can change in 4 years :)


message 31: by Nevik (new)

Nevik Echo My single favorite list in Goodreads! Thanks Loreley and Mitchell for maintaining it.

"Contact" is trying to creep in at #108 right now.

I concur strongly with the dubious nature of Expanse, Hamilton, and Reynolds (and add the Ancillary series) as "hard sci-fi". The List description of hard sci-fi is quite good:

Hard science fiction is "characterized by an emphasis on scientific or technical detail, or on scientific accuracy, or on both."

It is a great qualitative description. To avoid excessive bickering we often try to create quantitative valuations that meet our qualitative goals, and have done so with the "shelved five times" requirement. Unfortunately, I don't think it is a very successful valuation for meeting the primary goal.

My subjective, and certainly opinionated opinion is that upwards of 33% or more of the list is not hard sci-fi. =)

Could we please work on a rule revision? I tried looking at the top 20 and things like "hard sci-fi in top 100 of shelving categories", or "hard sci-fi shelving as a percentage of total votes" to no success.

How about a group rejection threshold? What if we get five comments here to kick Expanse out? It is the nutcases (complimentary term) like me that have read a lot of this list that are going to take time to comment.

Would love to hear any other ideas for getting this list a little more trimmed of Space Operas!

Last note, I like the authors and books I mentioned in this post, just not in hard-sci-fi. Plenty of other sci-fi lists for them.


message 32: by Oldwhitecisman (last edited Sep 01, 2021 03:48PM) (new)

Oldwhitecisman Buck wrote: "Ender's Game is a terrific book written in the 20th century."

Indeed. I was missing it in the list.

Edit:

After having read about the author now I see a possible reason for being not listed in two aspects - military sf and the attitudes of the author, how they are described. (I haven't studied those.)

I've read the german translation. The glorification of military is in my eyes the problem of each descending empire and the US is one. So I looked only at the entertainment value. Works should be viewed independent of the author. Else all books by Lewis Carrol have to be out of print. He was a pedophiliac. So the author is disgusting. Writing about a girl he very probably abused is more disgusting. But the two Alice books are great literature.

Just to explain my view about a minor book in a hard sf list with some background. Sorry if it disturbs someone.


message 33: by Bookfairy (new)

Bookfairy I have Earth Abides in my TBR, I'm curious if it's considered hard sci-fi, or simply speculative? I'm also curious if there are resources that can help me determine if a book is hard sci-fi or not (obviously once I've read it this is easier, more for books on my list that are ambiguous)


message 34: by Mitchell (new)

Mitchell Bookfairy wrote: "I have Earth Abides in my TBR, I'm curious if it's considered hard sci-fi, or simply speculative? I'm also curious if there are resources that can help me determine if a book is hard sci-fi or not ..."

It's been awhile since I read Earth Abides. Looking at https://www.goodreads.com/work/shelve... it would seem that at most one person has shelved this as hard sf. As it relates to this list it is also from 1949.

I kind of like the moh's scale of science fiction hardness like at tvtropes.org SlidingScale MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness


message 35: by Bookfairy (new)

Bookfairy Hi Mitchell, thanks for the reply--sorry, I realize it's an older book, so it doesn't really apply to this list, but I thought some people here might have ideas on the topic. I looked at Moh's scale of hardness, the problem is that I can generally determine it from reading it (though there's wiggle-room in the definition and opinions) but if I haven't read a book, not that many people bother making the distinction in shelves, reviews, etc. So I wonder if there's a site that might at least give me clues, especially if it's an older book?


message 36: by Mitchell (new)

Mitchell So what's the issue with having to know if a particular older sf book is actually hard sf? For Earth Abides, I remember it positively, and it has a lot of ratings for an older sf book. With 27k ratings, it is in like the top 500 of sf books on goodreads. Otherwise I would try to trust the tag links in this list direction and see if there is anything on the first two pages that look interesting.


message 37: by Bookfairy (new)

Bookfairy The main reason is I'm in a "hard sci-fi" book club, and while *I* am interested in a variety of sci-fi, if I'm recommending books that we all try out, it would be nice to know ahead of time if they fit the bill. (The others have been recommending books I can't seem to find, and I already have a bunch of books "to-read" that could be hard sci-fi, but they might not)


message 38: by Mitchell (new)

Mitchell Well I guess if I was in a hard sf group I'd start by figuring out what I'm leaving out.

So is it required that there be actual science and by that what counts as science - just physics, chemistry, biology - genetics? technology? engineering?

What's off the table? ftl? time travel? teleportation? telepathy?

I'm also curious what your group has read already and considered hard sf afterwards.


message 39: by Bookfairy (new)

Bookfairy I've only been to 6 meetings, so I'm sure I missed some of the previous readings.
We've discussed Rendezvous with Rama, The Bobiverse (We are Bob)--I read the first of these and didn't feel like it was really hard sci-fi. Contact, All Systems Red (mixed opinions on how hard this one is, I feel like it qualifies, but has less focus on the technical side), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It looks like they've also read Rocheworld, Ball Lightning, Children of Time, The Mote in God's Eye, Tau Zero, The Forever War, Diaspora, Dragon's Egg, Dauntless, Permanence, Beggars in Spain, and Zero-G.


message 40: by Mitchell (new)

Mitchell So I'd call that list medium hard. Most of those books seem to be in first page of the hard-science-fiction shelf.

So not quite as hard as say Peter Watt's Firefall series (about the hardest that I've read).

I'd say anything in Becky Chamber's Wayfarer series would fit. As would all of Linda Nagata's SF.

I'd give a bump to Annalee Newitz's Autonomous. And Will McIntosh's Love Minus Eighty.

So hopefully a range of ideas. With the examples you gave, I would trust Earth Abides as a reasonable choice.


message 41: by Nevik (new)

Nevik Echo Mitchell wrote: "...I kind of like the moh's scale of science fiction hardness like at tvtropes.org SlidingScale MohsScaleOfScienceFictionHardness"

I concur, thanks for bringing that up! =)


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