• search-icon

18 Best Sci-Fi Book Series You Won't Want to Miss

Find your next out-of-this-world page-turner. 

If you love to read, then you’re probably just as thrilled as we are when you turn over a book’s cover and see that it’s a part of a series. There are few things better than reading a great book and knowing that the characters you’ve grown to care for will (hopefully) live to see another day in subsequent novels in the series. 

For sci-fi fans, series mean more twists and turns than you can even fathom—spanning across galaxies and centuries. We’ve rounded up some of the best sci-fi series so you can start your escape from reality immediately. Don’t see your favorite on this list? Add it in the comments!

Seed to Harvest: The Complete Patternist Series

Buy Seed to Harvest at Amazon

Seed to Harvest

By Octavia E. Butler

The four-novel series was published in reverse chronological order, so the books can be read in the order they were published or chronologically. One of Butler’s most popular series, the books span generations and tell the secret history involving mind control and an extraterrestrial plague. 

Chronologically, the series begins in the 17th and 18th centuries (Wild Seed) and focuses on Doro—an immortal man who survives by killing victims and taking over their bodies, and Anyanwu—a shape-shifter who heals instead of kills. Though Doro attempts to create a new race through a selective breeding program—he struggles to control them in Mind of My Mind, the second book in the series. 

Clay’s Ark switches gears and is centered on a colony of diseased people who try to keep themselves isolated, while Patternmaster—the first book published, but the last chronologically, depicts a future in which humans are divided into three groups: the elite Patternists, the inferior and diseased Clayarks, and the enslaved mutes. The novel touches on race and gender issues through Teray, a Patternist who fights for his place in the organization.

Seed to Harvest

By Octavia E. Butler

The Eon Series

Buy The Eon Series at Amazon

The Eon Series

By Greg Bear

Bear tells the story of an alternate universe where time and space are nonexistent. Those who travel between universes and planets fly their Flawships through “The Way,” a space and time tunnel that is integral in all three novels and can be accessed via the asteroid Thistledown. In Legacy, the prequel, Olmy Ap Sennon uses “The Way” to head to Lamarcka–a planet with an ecosystem far different from Earth. Ap Sennon is sent to determine if humans can interact with the organisms there that are the size of continents; but along the way, he realizes that the planet is engaged in warfare and other problems send his mission awry.

Eon was published in 1985 and takes place 30 years in the future. The US and Russia (then the USSR) are on the brink of nuclear warfare in 2005 when an asteroid, “The Stone,” moves close to Earth’s orbit. “The Stone” was created by people across “The Way,” but these people live over one thousand years in the future. When a team of American scientists and theorists are close to figuring this information out on their own, Olmy Ap Sennon kidnaps a member of the team and learns about the impending fate of Earth. In Eternity, the impact of nuclear warfare leaves Earth desolate. “The Way” must be reopened in order to save those who remain and the future descendants who reside on a starship orbiting Earth.

The Eon Series

By Greg Bear

The Forever War Series

Buy The Forever War Series at Amazon

The Forever War Series

By Joe Haldeman

Haldeman won a Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award for The Forever War—the first novel in the series. In the first book, Private William Mandella fights light years away against the alien enemy. When he returns back to Earth, he thinks only two years have passed, but because of the space-time continuum it has actually been decades. He and the other soldiers find it difficult to adapt to all of the changes that have occurred since they left. They all go back to space combat, and each time they return, centuries have passed on Earth. 

Included in the series is “A Separate War,” a short story that explores the love between Mandella and Marygay Potter—who try to reunite even though they are separated by space and centuries. In the concluding novel in the series, Forever Free, Mandella finds himself choosing to spend time in Middle Finger, which is a partially frozen planet, so he can be with Marygay and his family. When outside forces request his genes in order to further evolution, Mandella and his family must escape…but the repercussions change their lives permanently. Fans of sci-fi and romances featuring star-crossed lovers will become enthralled with this series. 

The Forever War Series

By Joe Haldeman

The Time Traders Series

Buy The Time Traders at Amazon

The Time Traders

By Andre Norton

In the first book in the series, the Cold War-era conflict between Russia and the US escalates through time travel. The US is behind Russia with their technology, so they send along someone that they can afford to spare if everything goes wrong—Ross Murdock. Throughout the book, Murdock is sent back in history—from Britain in 2000 B.C.E. to the Baltic Sea. The series chronicles multiple time travelers and the conflicts that arise when they change the past in an effort to better the future.

The Time Traders

By Andre Norton

The Blackcollar Series

Buy The Blackcollar Series Books 1–2 at Amazon

The Blackcollar Series Books 1–2

By Timothy Zahn

In Blackcollar, a reptile named Ryquril conquers Earth and the Terran Democratic Empire (TDE), and it is up to Allen Caine, a member of the Resistance movement, to save them. When he his mission goes awry, he ends up on the planet Plinry, where he must reform the Blackcollar force, which consists of genetically mutated beings trained for guerilla war. 

In the second novel, The Backlash Mission, Caine returns with the Blackcollar forces to fight Ryquril’s army. But, Caine cannot be sure that the Blackcollars will even fight with him, or if they’ll turn against him. The series explores the possibility of other universe-dominating life forms, while also tackling the very human themes of loyalty, strength, and fortitude. 

The Blackcollar Series Books 1–2

By Timothy Zahn

The Lensman Series

Buy Triplanetary at Amazon

Triplanetary

By E. E. "Doc" Smith

This six-novel series was the runner-up for the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, losing out to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which also made our list. 

The plot of the series originates from the battle between the Arisians and the Eddidorians billions of years ago, which is detailed in the prologue book, Triplanetary. The Arisians created a powerful new breed of people through a eugenics project, which brings the action to modern-day Nevia. A planet far away from Earth, Nevia is quickly running out of iron–which is needed to sustain the amphibious race. The Nevians set their sights on Earth with technology powerful enough to retrieve iron from anywhere–even from the blood of humans. After destroying Pittsburg, the Nevians take three humans captive, but what they don’t know is that one of them is an undercover agent for Triplanetary Control named Conway Costigan. The fate of humanity rests on his shoulders. 

In the other books in the series, the Lensman are the heroes—men who maintain order in Arisia by fighting outside attacks. They are noble, well-trained, and are willing to die for the Arisian people. From intergalactic drug trafficking to space pirates, there is no shortage of sci-fi conflict in this series that spans the course of time and the universe. The introduction of new characters still feels familiar since they are the offspring of your favorites from the previous novels. 

Triplanetary

By E. E. "Doc" Smith

The Broken Earth Trilogy

Buy The Fifth Season at Amazon

The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin

Be it a Hugo or Nebula, every novel in this three-book series is an award winner. In the first book, The Fifth Season, Essun comes home one day and discovers that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. The same day, their empire, Saze, falls, and the majority of its citizens are killed. And to top it off, a physical tear in the continent leads to the downfall of ash with no end in sight.

Essun determines that she has only one thing left to live for, and that is the safe retrieval of her daughter, who she will get back at any cost.

The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin

The Mars Trilogy

Buy Red Mars at Amazon

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson

The trilogy follows generations of characters over two hundred years living on Mars. Robinson explores the idea of Mars being a utopia when compared to Earth. The first book, Red Mars, details the colonization process on Mars in 2026, and the relationships between the settlers and the science of terraforming the area are major focuses throughout. 

In Green Mars, terraforming takes root fifty years later and the colony begins to become self-sufficient. Warfare breaks out when natural disasters wreak havoc on Earth, leading to the culmination of conflict in the final book in the series, Blue Mars. The intricacies of modern societies, like education and healthcare systems are established on Mars and the issue of inter-planet immigration is explored. 

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson

The Foundation Series

Buy Foundation at Amazon

Foundation

By Isaac Asimov

Hari Seldon is a mathematician who spends his time researching psychohistory (the combination of history, statistics, and sociology), which can be used to make predictions about future human behavior patterns. When he is called to a trial to testify on the legitimacy of his studies, he reveals that he believes that his society will soon fall and there will be 30,000 years of unrest before another empire is created. 

He convinces the board to let him study the best minds in the empire and create a collection of human intelligence. By doing this the empire will still fall, the fallout will only last 1,000 years. Seldon is sent to another planet with these minds in order to complete his work—a place called Foundation. But soon the group finds themselves in danger, and in order for the best minds to remain safe they must pit the other planets against each other.

The series was initially a trilogy, until Asimov’s publishers convinced him to write the fourth book in the series, Foundation’s Edge. But Asimov didn’t stop there: In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, he added three more books (another sequel and two prequels), bringing the Foundation series to seven books in total.

Foundation

By Isaac Asimov

The Legacy Fleet Trilogy

Buy Constitution at Amazon

Constitution

By Nick Webb

The first book of the trilogy takes place in 2650 on Earth. Seventy-five years earlier, aliens attacked Earth—leading to the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. The aliens left following the attack, and those who survived rebuilt. But then the aliens returned. 

One fleet escaped, carrying all who could survive. The other books in the trilogy (Warrior and Victory) focus on the captain of the ship, Timothy Granger, and his crusade to kill the aliens who continue to decimate Earth. 

Constitution

By Nick Webb

The Revelation Space Universe

Buy Revelation Space at Amazon

Revelation Space

By Alastair Reynolds

All of the books in the series take place in Reynolds’ invented universe, even if the books’ plots do not necessarily build off of one another. In the first book, three separate storylines ultimately converge into one, which is a technique that Reynolds uses throughout the series and in his other works. One strand focuses on an archaeologist studying a civilization wiped out by the sun. Another centers on a woman traveling on a spaceship, who is looking for the archaeologist to help their captain who is suffering from some sort of plague. The final strand is about an assassin who is hired to kill the archaeologist. 

The series differs from traditional sci-fi because Reynolds wanted the science in his novels to be attainable and realistic. Instead of creating a universe that was either utopian or dystopian, Reynolds also focused on constructing one that was in between—much like our own universe.

Revelation Space

By Alastair Reynolds

The Vorkosigan Saga

Buy Shards of Honor at Amazon

Shards of Honor

By Lois McMaster Bujold

Bujold’s series is incredibly inclusive—featuring POVs of women, a gay man, and a physically disabled man. In Shards of Honor, Cordelia Naismith is attacked while her spaceship is exploring a new planet. She is ultimately taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, and the two end up falling love. Vorkosigan must decide if he should keep Naismith as a captive, or if should listen to his heart and gives her back her freedom. 

Sci-fi fans will love the inclusion of wormholes, cloning, anti-gravity space stations, and three-dimensional videos in the novels. 

Shards of Honor

By Lois McMaster Bujold

The Expanse Series

Buy Leviathan Wakes at Amazon

Leviathan Wakes

By James S.A. Corey

Though it’s been adapted into a television series, which was just picked up by Amazon for a fourth season, the book series has not yet been completed—with books eight and nine expected to be released in late 2018 and 2019, respectively. In the series, humans have made the solar system home. When a young girl goes missing, a detective and ship captain become entwined in finding out what happened to her. 

The discoveries made regarding the young girl’s disappearance are powerful enough to lead the solar system into war. The next book in the series takes place almost two years after the events of the first book, with the future of the solar system civilization still hanging in the balance.

Leviathan Wakes

By James S.A. Corey

The Wayward Pines Trilogy

Buy Pines at Amazon

Pines

By Blake Crouch

Even though the TV series failed after two seasons, the book trilogy is gripping and sure to capture your attention. Pines appeals to mystery and thriller fans, as well as sci-fi aficionados. Ethan Burke is a secret service agent who is sent to Wayward Pines, Idaho to find two agents who disappeared in the area the month before. A few minutes after arriving, Burke gets into a car accident. When he wakes up at the hospital, his ID, briefcase, and phone are gone. As Burke discovers more about the town and the weird happenings in it, he realizes that once you are in Wayward Pines, it is very hard to leave alive. 

In the second novel in the series, Wayward, other residents begin to question how they ended up in the town, leading them to find out exactly what happens when they try to leave. The third and final book, The Last Town, ends with Burke finding out exactly why Wayward Pines is the way that it is. 

Pines

By Blake Crouch

The Culture Series

Buy Consider Phlebas at Amazon

Consider Phlebas

By Iain M. Banks

There are ten books in this series that focuses on the utopian space society called The Culture. The socialist society is a conglomerate of humanoids and machines, so everyone is self-sufficient. War breaks out between The Culture and the Idrians—located across the galaxy—in the first book. The Culture is far more advanced than any other civilization in the galaxy, yet war ensues because the other groups do not share the same socialist ideals

The other books in the series detail numerous struggles between The Culture and the more “simple-minded” civilizations. As other societies develop, The Culture becomes entangled in frequent conflicts that could jeopardize the safety of its civilization. 

Consider Phlebas

By Iain M. Banks

The Dune Series

Buy Dune at Amazon

Dune

By Frank Herbert

Originally serialized in Analog magazine, Dune won the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966. The plot of the first book centers around Paul Atreides, a young boy living on the planet of Caladen. The Atreides are one of a few families in control of the planetary systems in the universe. This power comes with great consequences when Paul’s father is targeted and Paul is soon put in charge of a distant planet with one very important resource.

The series combines traditional sci-fi with themes of politics, emotion, and responsibility. The subsequent novels in the series focus on Paul, also known as Muad’Dib, as he ages, becomes the emperor, and tries to rule justly. The original series contains six novels written by Herbert, but there is also a prequel trilogy, and a Legends of Dune series, featuring collaborations with Kevin J. Anderson and Frank Herbert’s son, Brian.  

Dune

By Frank Herbert

The Birthgrave Trilogy

Buy The Birthgrave at Amazon

The Birthgrave

By Tanith Lee

This science fantasy novel tells the story of a woman who wakes up in middle of a dormant volcano. She remembers nothing about her past, or how she ended up there. The world she awoke in is ancient and rampant with genocide and war. She sets out on a mission to figure out who she is, and the people she encounters believe her to be a goddess. 

The subsequent novels in the series center on the woman’s son—and he knows very little about the identities of his parents. All he knows is that his mother dishonored his father—and he wants to kill her. With spaceships, suspense, mystery, dragon fights, and sorcery, the series is sure to pique the interest of sci-fi and fantasy fans alike. 

The Birthgrave

By Tanith Lee

The Darkover Series

Buy The Heritage of Hastur at Amazon

The Heritage of Hastur

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

This series is set in Darkover, which is a fictional planet founded at the end of the twenty-first century after a spaceship from Earth crashed there. The people on board were primarily of Celtic and Spanish descent, and in the years that follow, they breed with each other to keep the colony going. Certain novels in the series focus on the foundation and colonization of the planet, while others are about the creation of culture and lifestyle. The Heritage of Hastur is the eighteenth novel in the series, and it provides the origin story for one of the central characters, and was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novel.

The Heritage of Hastur

By Marion Zimmer Bradley

This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for The Portalist to continue publishing the stellar stories you love.

Featured image: Patrick McManaman / Unsplash  

KEEP SCROLLING FOR OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD STORIES



scroll up