If “Game of Thrones in space” sounds good to you, then you should be watching The Expanse. And if you’re already a fan, then you probably recently finished the show's fourth season.
If you've already blown through The Expanse book series by James S. A. Corey (the pen name for authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), then you're likely in need of a new space opera to fill the Expanse-less void in your life.
In between streaming the show's current seasons — all four of which are available on Amazon Prime — you can also discover these incredible books like The Expanse.
Below are 21 incredible books with complex narratives set in gritty futures that should hold you over until The Expanse returns for Season 5.
Not all protagonists are clear cut heroes. James Holden and company certainly aren’t. In Skeen’s Leap, Jo Clayton introduces us to a universe filled with shady characters that would make Detective Miller blush.
Skeen is the definition of a rogue. She’s chaotic neutral. Wanted in more planets than she can count, she specializes in treasures and rich antiques.
Like in The Expanse, our hero stumbles across alien technology that was better left untouched, and like many stories that involve the “you mess with it, you eventually have to save the universe” motto, Skeen gets more than she bargains for.
This near-future space opera by the great Arthur C. Clarke is filled with political skullduggery and hard science fiction that fans of The Expanse will enjoy.
200 years after the Moon landing, inhabitants of colonies on the Moon, Venus, and Mars have formed the Federation alliance. Tensions between the Federation and Earth are constantly on the brink of exploding into all-out war.
Now, an Earth-born agent on the Moon sent to tail a suspected spy on a lunar observatory finds himself drawn into a deadly cat-and-mouse game across the Moon...a conflict that will have ramifications which spiral across the galaxy.
When the all-male crew of the starship Benjamin Franklin return to Earth after a three-year mission, they are shocked to discover the world is blacked, barren husk. There are only three known alien species in the universe that could have caused such destruction.
The crew now has three goals: 1. Escape the dead Earth, 2. Find out if any other humans escaped the destruction, and 3. Discover what precisely annihilated the Earth and get revenge.
The Planet Killers
In many ways, The Expanse is a throwback to classic science fiction: Humanity exploring the stars, protagonists stumbling into a bigger story, and catastrophes ending the world. Robert Silverberg wrote extensively for several decades in the genre, and this trio of novels showcases his early work.
In The Planet Killers, we’re up against the clock as a super computer acknowledges the exact date that Earth will end. In the second book in the series, The Plot Against Earth, we’re met with an interstellar conspiracy story featuring a hardboiled detective at the helm.
The final installment in the trilogy, One of Our Asteroids is Missing, is tale of discovery and death. In our far future, our humanity will stay the same.
Sentients of Orion
This four-book space opera follows the betrayed Baroness Mira Fedor as she flees the invasion of her home planet Araldis.
To save her people, Mira must uncover the intelligence behind the brutal invasion. Her quest brings her face-to-face with the Orion League of Sentient Species, who refuse to involve themselves in war.
Mira must enlist the help of mercenaries and put her own body on the line to discover what kind of intelligence is targeting her homeland — and why.
Echoes of Earth
Need another dose of co-authored, galactic-sized science fiction? Echoes of Earth is the first of The Orphans Trilogy, a tightly written adventure full of futuristic technology and political intrigue.
A wayfaring explorer ship, The Frank Tipler, comes across artifacts from an ancient race. Our accidental leader, Peter Alander, and the rest of the crew must figure out what to do with their new find, especially since they are on their own—Earth hasn’t returned a signal in many years.
Sometimes, space reminds you of how little, and alone, you really are.
Following a devastating nuclear war, the Earth has become a barren wasteland unfit to sustain life. For decades, a starship filled with a community called the Thistledown, humanity’s future descendants, have worked to heal the Earth.
However, they have nearly reached the end of their resources. Now, their only hope is to reopen the Way – a portal to the multiverse that was closed off to stop an alien invasion.
Meanwhile, on an alternate world, a girl named Rhita is working to find her own Earth. The Way could lead her there – or unleash a deadly apocalypse across the multiverse.
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The Omega Point Trilogy
Set in 6599 AD, this epic trilogy is military sci-fi at its finest. It's been centuries since the brutal conflict between the Earth Federation and the Herculean Empire came to a standstill. The few survivors from the Herculean Empire are thought to live on Myraa's World.
But a revenge-hungry father and son from the Herculean Empire are hiding out on an unnamed planet, waiting until the time is right and they have the forces to launch a retaliatory strike against Earth Federation.
Myraa won't see the galaxy descend into violence again — but she'll have her work cut out for her to prevent all-out war.
A Choice of Treasons
One of the coolest aspects of The Expanse universe is the focus, and realistic approach, to a futuristic space military … and the fallout of disobeying orders.
If your favorite Expanse character is Bobbie Draper, you might want to snag a copy of A Choice of Treasons. Lieutenant York Ballin is the definition of a good officer: He obeys orders, he does his best to keep his soldiers alive, and he doesn’t do anything stupid. Humanity has a funny way of showing itself, though.
What happens when those three values conflict with each other? Ballin must juggle the lives of his men, his mission, and himself as he is forced to accept one lose-lose situation after another. If the super technical aspects of The Expanse tickle your fancy, you’ll love this series.
The Il Ronnian Empire and humankind have enjoyed a fragile peace, however that hard-fought amity is now on the verge of collapse. A band of space pirates have made off with the Il Ronnians’ most holiest relics.
The loss could mark the beginning of a devastating conflict. It is now up to one man to track down the relic and potentially save humankind; a legendary bounty hunter named Sam McCade with a grudge against this particular band of space pirates.
At last, we arrive on Mars — a planet that's integral to the story of The Expanse. Pierce Brown’s recently completed space trilogy involves many themes familiar to fans of The Expanse: Clearly defined class systems; resource management conflicts; and, brewing rebellion among those in charge versus those who have nothing to lose.
Enter the lowly Darrow, a miner on Mars who aspires to be something greater for himself and those around him. In this future, the class system is color-coded: Reds are the lowest and Golds are the highest.
The main plot involves an infiltration of the Golds, and the rebellion that follows. If the struggle of the Belters is something that captured you, the story of Darrow and his allies will do the same.
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Behind the Throne
Once a runaway princess from the Indranan Empire, Hail Bristol has spent twenty years hiding from her past and rebuilding herself as one of the galaxy’s most daring and dangerous gunrunners.
However, as the only living heir to the throne of Indranan, Hail is literally dragged back to her homeworld to occupy a throne she never wanted.
What she quickly discovers is a world of palace intrigue far more dangerous than anything she faced in the wilds of space.
C.J. Cherryh’s novel Downbelow Station also takes a detailed look at space combat and futuristic warfare. Downbelow Station is set in the larger Alliance-Union universe (which is well-worth exploring) and takes place during what is referred to as The Company War.
Instead of colonizing the many planets of the nearby galaxies, the Earth Corporation creates a number of space stations to continue the outward expansion, one small step at a time. The further away you are from Earth, the more criticism of its corporation and policies you find.
And thus, like most criticisms linked with discontent, there is resistance and rebellion; and like most rebellions, innocent parties find themselves hopelessly caught in the thick of it. Sound familiar, Expanse fans?
Space operas don’t get enough love these days (aside from Star Wars, of course), but The Expanse is trying hard to win people over. Ruthless and oppressive tyrannies, fading empires, and deeply complex webs of intrigue and deceit are all cornerstones of the genre, and Walter Jon Williams doesn’t disappoint.
When the powerful Shaa species begins to die off, the Naxids who served them begin a struggle to overtake their overlords. But not everyone wants to stay in step with their new boss, and Terran's military, including our protagonists Caroline Sula and Gareth Martinez, are ready for the challenge.
And like all futuristic transitions of power, it starts with an epic and extensive civil war. With the fate of humanity on the line, this series will keep you interested in shaky alliances, deep and dark secrets, and tough decisions. It’s just like another day in the life of anyone in The Expanse.
Andy Weir’s follow-up to The Martian centers around Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara, a low-level smuggler roped into a daring heist on humanity’s first lunar colony.
Unfortunately for Jazz, this particular perfect crime lands in the middle of a far-reaching and potentially deadly conspiracy. She’s left hunted and on the run with no choice but to pull off another daring scheme to save herself and the colony she calls home.
Filled with wall-to-wall action, Weir’s stunning eye for detail, and a wisecracking heroine with a morbid sense of humor, Artemis is spacefaring adventure at its most thrilling.
All Systems Red
All Systems Red imagines an entirely-too-plausible future where a massive corporation called the Company essentially controls interplanetary missions and travel.
A team of scientists on an interstellar mission has discovered that their Company-provided security droid – a SecUnit – has hacked its own system and become self-aware.
The droid – who refers to itself privately (and never out loud) as “Murderbot” – struggles with its own nascent sense of self and its newly discovered consciousness.
As they navigate what precisely to do with the now sentient droid, a nearby mission goes dark forcing the scientist and their droid to get to the bottom of what went wrong.
A Fire Upon the Deep
This Hugo Award-winning classic imagines a distant future where humanity is no longer alone in a universe where the location of a species determines their intellectual potential on a spectrum ranging from the super-intelligent beings of the Transcend to the near mindless creatures of the Unthinking depths.
When a warring race unknowingly unleashes a devastating Transcend weapon, the universe is thrown into chaos, a woman named Ravna must now struggle to survive the tumult with a ship-hold full of cryogenically frozen children.
The Cold Between
Commander Elena Shaw is shocked when she discovers that not only has one of her crewmates been murdered, but her lover, Treiko Zajec is the chief suspect.
Fortunately, Elena knows Trey is innocent – he was with her during the murder. Unfortunately, this now begs the question: who is the real killer and why are the cops determined to frame an innocent man? What she and Trey discover is a decades old conspiracy that could threaten all of human civilization.
In this Hugo nominated thriller, a young woman named Maria awakens in a cloning vat streaked with blood. She has no memory of how she died, only of being reborn in this moment as a clone of her former self.
There are six other pods with the clone of a crew member waiting for its previous self to die before it can awaken. As the others awaken, Maria and the group discover that they are alone on the ship and being hunted – but perhaps even more terrifying: any one of them could be the killer.
This epic space opera stands as one of the best comics of the last decade. It centers Alana and Marko – literal star-crossed lovers from two warring races. Together the duo travels the galaxy seeking a home for their newborn daughter – a biracial child whose very existence is a blasphemous crime.
On the run from their respective societies and a cadre of bounty hunters, Alana and Marko struggle to stay one step ahead in a universe that seems set against their every step. It is an inventive and endless entertaining interstellar adventure.
This Dan Simmons classic is a brutal tour de force featuring one of the most fascinating and deadly creatures in all of sci-fi. At the far reaches of the galaxy, a unstoppable creature called the Shrike waits on a world called Hyperion.
With the galaxy on the brink of war, seven pilgrims head for Hyperion in search of answers. Each holds a secret, one may be humanity’s only hope. The Shrike awaits them all. Hyperion is Dan Simmons at his very best and a space opera unlike any other.
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Promotional poster for "The Expanse" via Syfy