Skip to Main Content
Header image

The most epic science fiction books in the universe

By Kobo • February 03, 2024Recommended Reading

With the second Dune film on the way and Foundation headed to a third season, it's a great time to be a fan of large-scale sci-fi—and there's so much in this genre to explore

To the joy (and relief!) of the generations of readers who love Frank Herbert's Dune books, Denis Villeneuve's 2021 Dune, the first in a two-part film series, was a hit with critics and viewers alike, instantly greenlighting production on the 2nd part—which is finally releasing in March 2024.

Fun fact: the first readers of Herbert's tale of intergalactic intrigue and war also encountered it as a duology: in the 60s sci-fi magazine Analog, Dune World and Prophet of Dune were serialized separately before Herbert combined them into the novel he would call simply Dune.

Villeneuve's Dune was part of a wave of high-profile sci-fi adaptations that kicked off in the early 2020s, including the Apple TV+ series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation books, followed in 2023 by Silo which adapted Hugh Howey's Wool. (The less said about the unfortunate 2nd and final season of Netflix' Altered Carbon, an adaptation of Richard Morgan's wonderful cyberpunk detective novels, the better.) Later in 2024 we'll see Cixin Liu's 2014 trilogy The Three-Body Problem come to Netflix.

Readers hungry for even more epic science fiction can turn their sandworm-sized appetites to the books the aforementioned movies and TV shows are based on—or some of the books below that Hollywood hasn't yet mined.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

A science fiction classic from the 1940s, Foundation is truly a tale of epic proportions. Asimov’s stories are known for their incredible foresight, and while set to a galactic backdrop, at its heart this series is really about the rise and fall of human societies.

View eBook

Leviathan Wakes: The Expanse #1 by James S. A. Corey

This series—co-written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham writing as James SA Corey—is highly-regarded for the grounded realism of its portrayal of early interplanetary human societies. But what won the series a massive following throughout its run on the page and screen is its array of complex characters, particularly the intertwining storylines of Captain Jim Holden and Detective Miller.

View eBook

The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth #1 by N.K. Jemisin

A hybrid of fantasy and science fiction, the extensive and considered world-building throughout this award-winning trilogy appeals to readers across the spectrum of speculative fiction. The apocalyptic tale it tells is grim, imbued with recognizable but re-imagined themes of race and social power dynamics, set against the looming disaster of a changing climate.

View eBook

Old Man's War: Old Man's War #1 by John Scalzi

A military story with a twist, Scalzi's series explores themes of friendship, identity, and what it means to be human in a time of interplanetary travel and colonization. At the same time, it's an action-packed ride through outer space facilitated by technology that's a delight to imagine as being just ahead of us.

View eBook

A Memory Called Empire: Teixcalaan #1 by Arkady Martine

Political intrigue... a murder mystery... an imperial court... Arkady Martine's award-winning Teixcalaan series proves how much cross-genre pollination can thrive in sci-fi in the hands of a master. Playing with themes of culture, identity, and memory, set against an empire's rapacious appetite for power, there's a lot for thoughtful readers to chew on here.

View eBook

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: Wayfarers #1 by Becky Chambers

This romp to the outer reaches of space follows the loveable, ragtag alien and human crew of the Wayfarer. A character-driven story, it focuses on the close bonds they form (and test) on their adventures.

View eBook

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Spooling out through the dual narratives of scientists separated by several decades, this story appears at first to be chiefly concerned with the continuous pursuit of knowledge and scientific discovery. But at its heart, it’s about how deep human nature runs, and the strength of our species' will to survive.

View eBook

Dawn: The Xenogenesis Trilogy #1 by Octavia E. Butler

This thought-provoking and highly influential trilogy by Octavia E. Butler explores what it means to be human when the only way to survive extinction is to open ourselves (in more ways than one) to an alien species. With multilayered themes of sexuality, race, and gender, the trilogy is at times disturbing and uncomfortable, and will leave you pondering long afterwards.

View eBook

Dune by Frank Herbert

The first novel in the sprawling Duniverse is set on a windswept, arid desert world called Arrakis. Under threat of attack by gigantic sandworms, a natural resource necessary for space travel (which also happens to have narcotic qualities) is extracted by order of the distant and mysterious Emperor. Dune is a masterwork of science fiction, powered by a captivating story of environmental exploitation, politics, colonialism, and religion.

View eBook

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

If you would like to be the first to know about bookish blogs, please subscribe. We promise to provided only relevant articles.