I learned to really read by sifting through my older brother’s bookshelf. I skipped straight passed the science fiction novels because the covers were awful. I dug into Stephen King, Michael Crichton and I read Ender’s Game without putting the book down to eat, brush my teeth or sleep. I finished it under the covers as the sun came up and it was the most glorious thing I’d ever read. I was 8 and I hated sci-fi.

I held onto this opinion – despite reading quite a few science fiction novels over the years because I always felt as if science-fiction were for boys my age who read only science-fiction and scoffed at other books. I met Chris when I moved to England after University. He was one of those boys when he was a boy. We had many discussions about the merits of science fiction and every time he recommended I read Peter F. Hamilton, David Weber or Vernor Vinge, I’d say, I don’t like science fiction. Yet I carried in by backpack a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, Flatland, Neuromancer and Snowcrash.

It wasn’t until he finally convinced me to read The Reality Dysfunction (at least it didn’t have a suggestive half-clad woman on the front cover) that I discovered how much I actually did love reading science fiction. The idea of what science fiction is (even when you’ve read a few) and what science fiction actually is are worlds removed. Science fiction is awesome. It really is. Not because of the spaceships or the aliens – but because the best books in the genre makes you think about the world. Science fiction, really is literary fiction – but don’t tell anyone that either because that’s another genre with a fringe reputation.

Don’t knock sci-fi until you’ve tried it. And if you decide you don’t like military sci-fi, try cyberbunk. Or a murder mystery. Alternative history or a good zombie apocalypse. First contact novels are often excellent as well and I’m a huge fan of character driven novels. Start with a good one and you won’t be able to put it down.

The best books tell us about ourselves. It makes us feel like we’re the heroes and heroines. They illuminate our character. Who we are. Who we were. Who we might be. Reading every day is a pretty big challenge, but when I can pull out a great new science fiction novel, it’s the not reading stuff that suffers. I’d read all day every day. Wouldn’t you?

The best science-fiction books

Worm. A review.

What's the longest book you can think of? The Bible? Lord of the Rings? Sprawling worlds and books are often a sign of poor editing but the longest I've ever read is called Worm and at around 1.7 million words is huge. Spoiler alert - it's also great. "An introverted...
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Belisarius Saga Book Series

I have always had an interest in alternative history - both the "what if?" genre and the interfering time traveler or message genre and it was the masterpiece of the Belisarius Saga that really got me into it. The series covers 6 books and is epic in scope. At this...
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On Silver Wings Book Series

On Silver Wings is military sci-fi at its best - a strong, central character, ground combat as well as space battles underpinned by a story that builds up to a totally unexpected revelation and wider insight that I did not anticipate. It begins with Sgt Sorilla Aida...
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The Nights Dawn Trilogy

Space operas are a particular passion of mine. I started reading them at a young age, but one series really fired my love for them. It was bold, complicated, long and smart and for me it was the sci-fi equivalent of the Lord of the Rings. It was The Nights Dawn...
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Tenhawk – Alexander Harris and the Shadow Council

Fanfic is a topic which few people discuss openly. It's got an air of desperation and obsession around it and you get looked at a little oddly if you admit to reading it. There are a lot of obsessed readers and some very badly written stories out there, but in the...
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The Vorkosigan Saga Book Series

I have always been an avid reader. I read many things, enjoy many things, but every now and again, a book or series comes along and brings with it the power to change the world by changing the person who reads it. The Vorkosigan Saga, also known as the Vorkosiverse or...
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Black Tide Rising Book Series

Realism and zombie stories are not usually two things you would get together, but it's something that has intrigued a lot of people over the last few decades. What would happen if the Zombie Apocalypse came? How could you really get Zombies? The Black Tide Rising...
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The Ringworld Book Series

1970 was an important year for a number of things: the Beatles disbanded, Apollo 13 didn't make it to the Moon and the Concorde made its first supersonic flight. Perhaps more likely to be overlooked is that 1970 was also the year that the Known Space saga was started...
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The Kingkiller Chonicles

I started reading The Name of the Wind in the middle of the night. I had not intended to read it. 'The slow regard of silent things' had caught my attention, but when the Author's Forward stated: "First, if you haven't read my other books, you won't want to start...
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Frontlines Series

I stumbled across the Frontlines series whilst looking for a decent military science fiction series that I hadn't read before. It looked promising and once I started reading, I didn't stop until I ran out of books. The series follows a soldier through a war and the...
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