5. The Martian by Andy Weir
The story goes that Weir had written many other novels before he turned his hand to The Martian, but having had no luck at all with publishers he posted his newest work online instead. The internet went nuts for it, the publisher beat his door down and the rest is history, so they say. The Martian became an international bestseller and a Hollywood blockbuster and now has the ultimate accolade of hitting the Bookaxe top 5!
It tells the gripping tale of an astronaut, Mark Watney, stranded on Mars after the rest of his crew leave thinking he’s dead. The New York Times said it brings nerd thrillers into the mainstream, putting geeks ahead of action heroes at long last, and it’s a joy for having done so. This is a novel about of science, perseverance and optimism, humour in the face of adversity and competence amid chaos, as Watney struggles to survive on Mars while earth struggles to bring him home.
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick
Set in a near-future version of Earth still reeling from a cataclysmic third world war, this novel was the inspiration behind the film Blade Runner. It follows a Bounty Hunter called Deckard whose job it is to 'retire' renegade androids that have escaped from the outer colonies before they can cause more trouble - or assassinate them - as it’s more commonly known.
A measured start with lots of scene-setting gives way to a plot that twists and turns in increasingly unexpected ways and sets the reader permanently on edge. It’s complex, believable characters and philosophic outlook have had a profound and enduring effect of the sci-fi genre, and it has earned a place as a classic piece of literature, far more than it’s brief 200 pages would suggest.
3. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The first book in the Red Riding Trilogy is a dystopian science fiction tale set on a terraformed Mars that more than lives up to the hype. Here we meet Darrow, a low-caste mine worker who discovers his people have been betrayed by their leaders and, driven by the memory of his lost love, vows to deliver justice for them both.
There is something for everyone in this novel - a sixteen-year-old hero for YA fans, abundant references to roman mythology for literary buffs, and there’s a nod to the classic greats sci-fi for die-hard fans too. Brutal and enlightening but always entertaining, this trilogy is the complete package for sure.
2. Feed by Mira Grant
Feed is the first book in the Newsflesh series of sci-fi/horror crossover novels written by Seanan McGuire under the pen name Mira Grant. Set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse and written from the perspective of a journalist, Georgia Mason, it follows her and her team as they cover the complicated presidential campaign, where underhanded dealing regarding the undead play a hideous part.
Outstanding world-building is this novel’s real strength and earned it a Hugo Nomination upon release. It effortlessly mixes realism, humour, politics and zombies to make a gripping, chilling sci-fi read.
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune was an instant hit when it was published in 1965 and won the Hugo Award the following year, but it’s popularity clearly remains.
This is the ultimate classic epic sci-fi. Herbert has recast a feudal fantasy novel in future interstellar space, peppered it with themes around ecology, drug use and spiritual enlightenment, and written it cinematically. It tells the story of a young boy from a noble family who are given a new, extremely valuable, extremely dangerous planet to protect.
Its a book with masculine themes, where teenage boys can fulfil their every wish for power and status and women fall at their feet, and it’s influence can be seem though the ages, not least in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones series
It is also the best selling sci-fi book of all time, so influential, in fact, that many real-life features of Saturn’s moons take their names from this book. And if that doesn’t earn it the top spot, what would!?