Note: This article was last updated on 9/1/19. Check back soon for more free books!
When today’s top science fiction and fantasy authors were looking for inspiration, they turned to the classics. And we continue reading those same books (year after year) because they stand the test of time.
Every month, we’re bringing you a selection of must-read, sci-fi and fantasy classics that you can download for free. In addition to these classics, we’ll update this article with other free sci-fi and fantasy books by up-and-coming authors throughout the month. You can also check back next month for a new list of out-of-this-world free ebooks.
A classic collection of short stories from one of the twentieth century’s most influential fantasy authors.
Irish author Lord Dunsany majorly influenced generations of writers, including J. R. R. Tolkien, H. P. Lovecraft, and many more, and his Fifty-One Tales, a collection of short stories first published in 1915, has delighted readers for more than a century. These vignettes—some no more than a few paragraphs long—offer brief glimpses into worlds of sparkling wit and imagination. By turns whimsical, satirical, and melancholic, this collection (also published under the title The Food of Death) touches on timeless themes and remains a wellspring of inspiration and pleasure.
The Sleeper Awakes
This frighteningly prophetic tale from the progenitor of modern science fiction remains as powerful today as when it was written—more than a century ago.
Firebrand activist Graham falls into a drug-induced sleep in 1897 London—and is stunned to wake in the year 2100 to a world he does not know. But the world knows him.
When word spreads that the “Sleeper” has awakened, it rocks the foundations of what the planet has become: a dystopian existence of unending toil ruled by the all-powerful White Council. And the more Graham learns about his new era, the more he discovers that, while times and technology may change, the failures and flaws of humanity do not.
With this stark examination of a society that may yet be, author H. G. Wells crafted a timeless story of an everyman thrust into a struggle for power over both men and men’s souls, and of the cyclical nature of those who seek to break the chains of oppression, only to become the oppressors. A jarring allegory for our modern world, The Sleeper Awakes joins Wells’s many masterpieces, including The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds.
Looking Backward, 2000–1887
A masterwork of science fiction that imagines the world not just how it could be, but how it should be
In Boston in the year 1887, Julian West is hypnotized and falls into a deep sleep. He awakens at the dawn of a new millennium in an America where war, crime, and inequality no longer exist. In this brave new world, goods are delivered in the blink of an eye, public kitchens ensure that no one goes hungry, and the retirement age is forty-five. It sounds too good to be true, but Julian soon learns that this socialist utopia is not the stuff of dreams—it is a carefully planned, wondrously liberating reality.
One of the bestselling American novels of the nineteenth century, Looking Backward launched a vibrant political movement and sparked an enormous amount of debate. Today it stands as an enduring testament to the power of imagination and the best of human nature.
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary
Sometimes the greatest horrors lurk in the most mundane places.
This collection features some of M. R. James’s greatest tales of the supernatural world crossing over into our own. In “Number 13,” an inn that previously belonged to an alchemist changes dimensions in the night. “The Mezzotint” features a painting of a house reenacting a gruesome scene from the house’s history. In “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas,” an antiquary who has discovered the location of a treasure gets far more than he bargained for.
James’s tales of the terror that hides beneath the prosaic continue to stun more than a century after they were written.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The most infamous of horror stories—a disturbing examination of man’s capacity for evil
One pitch-black London morning, a ghoulish little man tramples a young girl and continues heedlessly on his way. Caught by a passerby and returned to the scene of the crime, the man is forced to pay £100 in restitution. He produces ten pounds in gold and a check for the remainder. Curiously, the check bears the signature of the well-regarded Dr. Henry Jekyll. Even stranger, Dr. Jekyll’s will names this same awful and mysterious little man, Mr. Hyde, as the sole beneficiary. Troubled by the coincidence, Dr. Jekyll’s attorney visits his client. What he uncovers is a tale so strange and terrifying it has seeped into the very fabric of our consciousness.
An immediate success upon its publication in 1886 and a cultural touchstone to this day, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most disturbing stories ever told.
The Portalist may collect a share of sales from the links on this page.