Audiobooks have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. And it’s no wonder why. Their portability makes them easy to listen to on-the-go, and the quality of production and voice actors is better than ever. Many audiobooks are read by a full cast, sometimes complete with music and sound effects, and in the world of science fiction and fantasy, the voiced narrative can bring pronunciation and other worldbuilding details into focus. Here are 15 audiobooks that are a must-listen for science fiction and fantasy fans.
Full cast audiobooks are addictive. The performers are able to give each character individual nuance and depth while playing off of each other as they read. And American Gods is the absolute pinnacle of how spectacular this production can be. The quality is superb.
But what makes this audiobook even more special is that this edition includes material Gaiman had to cut for publication. He’s called this his preferred version, and the additional elements make this as close to a director’s cut as an audiobook can get.
This expansive sci-fi series isn’t an easy one to narrate, let alone for one person. But the talented Tim Gerard Reynolds manages to do exactly that.
Reynolds creates distinct voices and nails multiple dialects as he brings Darrow, Cassius, Sevro, Mustang, and more to life. But even more impressively, he encapsulates a style so that the listener knows what caste a character is, even if they aren’t named. It’s a stunning performance that carries through the series and makes this a compulsive must-listen.
The Illuminae Files is a unique series where the art on the page is integral to the narrative prose. But thanks to a full cast of over 20 voice actors, complete with sound effects, this series is just as spectacular to listen to.
Kaufman and Kristoff helped the production team come up with creative ways to translate certain aspects of the book, and created an absolutely one-of-a-kind listening experience. If you thought you loved Kady, Ezra, and Aiden before, get ready to be swept through the galaxy on the edge of your seat with this addictive audiobook.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is easily one of the most iconic science fiction books in, well, the galaxy, and narrator Stephen Fry brings this incredibly fun space adventure to life.
Fry’s delivery highlights Adams’ classic British humor in all the best ways, giving the characters the zesty flair they deserve. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the scenario, Fry narrates it with complete believability.
It’s a fun, highly hilarious escapade that some fans swear is better to listen to than watching either the show or the movie.
A book about necromancers fighting to keep the dead from rising needs a particular kind of narrator. One with a spine-tingling voice that leans into the fun of the plot while making the scary parts truly terrifying. And the amazing Tim Curry does all of that and more in Sabriel (and the next two books in the series).
He gives the perfect edge to all the right parts as Sabriel deftly defies the monster chasing after her, while giving unexpected heart and poignance in all the right places. It’s a brilliant performance of an incredible book, and one fans should listen to at least once.
One of the things that makes Weir’s novel so popular is how relatable Mark Watney is. Sure, he’s an astronaut capable of problem-solving his way through some literal out-of-this-world problems, but throughout it all, we all understand his struggle and cheer for his success.
The book itself is filled with a ton of facts and figures, which makes the isolation on Mars read even more realistically, but actor Wil Wheaton brings out all the sharp humor and snarky sarcasm with vivid realism. It’s a laugh-out-loud experience that fans will return to again and again.
The spectacular Expanse series begins with Leviathan Wakes, and Jefferson Mays takes the listener through each book. While it can be difficult to encapsulate an entire cast of characters with one narrator, Mays manages to make each voice unique and individual without going overboard on accents or flair.
His individuality and depictions are so spot on, that even fans of the TV series note how seamlessly watching the show and listening to the audiobook work together. It’s another phenomenal way to experience this epic and expansive space opera.
There really is something magical about taking a novel told through interviews, video, and documents, and giving it the full cast audio treatment. The books don’t read as one smooth narration, and adding the individual voices gives the auditory equivalent to how unique those elements read on the page.
Sleeping Giants is a fantastic example of how incredible this effect can be. Rose and her unknown interrogator build tension in every scene, while the countless scientists and military personnel make the book feel more like a high-stakes documentary taking place in our current reality. It’s a marvel to listen to.
The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.
This novel is a fantastic genre mash-up. The science fiction is brought to life with historical documentation and topped with a thrilling paranormal plot that makes it impossible to press pause. The book is told through various documents, each highlighted through a talented full cast.
The Department of Diachronic Operations is tasked with bringing back magic, and this incredible narrative compilation accomplishes that task. It’s a delightful story that listeners will return to again and again.
All Systems Red
It may not seem like a robot programmed to murder can be quiet, contemplative, and sensitive, but that’s exactly who Murderbot is. There are a lot of directions the audiobook narrative voice could take, but Kevin R. Free draws us into the resistant bot's inner dialogue with the perfect dry, sarcastic delivery.
Free captures the Sec-Unit’s grouchiness through a monotone voice that is completely at odds and yet entirely complementary with the fast-paced, thrilling plot. It’s a flawless blend that captures every nuanced layer of the character and the world.
Six of Crows
There is no better way to go experience the high-stakes heist than with an immersive full cast audiobook. Each of the seven characters in the Dregs crew is voiced by an individual actor, allowing them to playfully interact with each other. These characters are impossible to resist, and the individual voices bring them to magically to life.
Fans of this series will adore how this audiobook feels less like a novel and more like good friends reliving a grand (but dangerous) adventure.
The Golden Compass
You know an audiobook is going to be something special when the author narrates, but The Golden Compass goes even further with a full supporting cast of London theatre actors. They bring Lyra, Mrs. Coulter, Lord Asriel, and Pan to life, drawing the listener in and creating a magical listening experience.
An incredible fantasy story read by an Academy Award-nominated actor? Yes please. Chiwetel Ejiofor is so compelling in Susanna Clarke's Piranesi that you'll be tempted to listen to the entire novella in one sitting. The rich and deep quality of Ejiofor's voice made him perfect to voice Scar in Disney's The Lion King remake, and it also sets a curious, almost mysterious tone for this puzzle of a story.
Children of Blood and Bone
While some listeners have criticized the pronunciation of Yoruba words within Tomi Adeyemi's celebrated work, it isn't hard to see why Bahni Turpin was chosen for the narration—or why so many of Children of Blood and Bone's reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Turpin has given voice to award-winning classics like Kathryn Stockett's The Help and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Turpin brings a similar magic to the story of Zélie Adebola. In a starred review, Booklist says that Turpin "excels at customizing her voice to capture the unique personalities of each character.... This excellent, refreshing performance of Adeyemi's exciting debut is recommended for all collections where fantasy is popular."
The Chronicles of Narnia Complete Audio Collection
One of the most satisfying things about The Chronicles of Narnia audiobook series is that each of the seven books are relatively short. Amazon lists the series run-time at 33 hours and 45 minutes, while A Game of Thrones is listed at 33 hours and 46 minutes. That means you can listen to an entire series in the length of time that it would take to hear the first entry in A Song of Ice and Fire.
If you are tired of slogging through thousand-page manuscripts, these shorter stories can help offer a breather, with natural breaks between each story. The Narnia audiobooks are especially easy to churn through, since they are narrated by sci-fi and fantasy legends like Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Stewart.