Esquire's list of the top 50 science fiction novels of all time

An interesting list. I’ve read maybe half of them.

Glad to see Heinlein’s THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, but I have to protest the omission of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. And Stephenson’s SNOW CRASH is a classic, but THE DIAMOND AGE is even better. And where is Jules Verne’s 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, which intrigues with its very title? Or Niven’s RINGWORLD or PROTECTOR? Approve the #1 pick, though.


Same for me read about half. Ive never even heard of some of them and im a big sf reader. Top50 hmmmm


Big reader too. I’m always a little cautious around top 10s, 50s etc.

I was more surprised by the inclusion of three of the books as SF, Never let me go, Station 11 (quite a decent read if you have not had a look) and the Stand, for me more dystopian than SF. But hey ho.

Oh, and not Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land? as pointed out by @Bill_Janssen

I’ve read about half, and seen (I think) all those that have been turned into film, although for some of these, I have not read the source novel. E.g. Children of Men, Frankenstein, 1984, The Time Machine.

I would definitely class Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go as SF - IMO, the genre is a broad church ranging from Space Opera to “What If…” thought experiments - to which NLMG and Le Guin’s novels definitely fit into.

I read much more SF when I was younger, so many of the newer writers I am unfamiliar with, however, Ted Chiang’s Exhalation is one of my exceptions, and a worthy entry in the list.

I miss books in this list by J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Alfred Bester, Edgar Pangborn and the great Iain M. Banks (the thinking person’s Space Opera writer), but then everyone has their own list…

I note that my library has 399 407 books in the SF genre, and a further 96 108 in the neighbouring Fantasy genre


Iain M. Banks Culture stuff is fantastic. I must admit I was also a huge fan of the Expanse novels.


Very Golden Age list, as you said. Some good stuff in there and i recognise a lot of those covers.
My older brothers read SF and westerns.

I applaud the inclusion of THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. What about Asimov’s THE GODS THEMSELVES? (alien viewpoint, multiple dimensions) John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR? Bester’s THE DEMOLISHED MAN? And I have to confess an admiration for that great space opera, Ken MacLeod’s THE CASSINI DIVISION.


I dont disagree with any books on the list per se, but the lack of any Banks is baffling and frankly makes me suspicious of the whole affair!

Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon is also a huge omission. Arthur C Clarke said of it, “probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written”


Yep, read most of them myself and I have a lot of comments to make about some of them and about some omissions, but I’m sure every one can do that.

As usual there many different opinions here, but can we all agree that “Dune” is the GOAT and to place it behind that monster story is sheer lunacy? :laughing:

On a semi-related note, who has been watching “Severance” on Apple TV? Disturbing, but maybe that’s just because of the way I remember office work.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Nothing can beat reality.


Nope. :grinning:

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Top 10, maybe.

Monster story? Yes, but, come on, it’s pure hard-edged science fiction. Doubly impressive because of the lack of progenitors at the time. The Universal movies have conflated it with fantasy like Dracula. And, of course, a great deal of science fiction is monster stories, be they unfriendly aliens or monstrous humans.

OK, what about “The Mote in God’s Eye”?

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Interesting experiment, but I always found Pournelle kind of ponderous to read. In some of their books, Niven seems to pull the collaboration out of it, but in others… “Mote” is good but not great, IMO. FOOTFALL is more fun.

Some I know, some not and some I miss (Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game for example).

I tried really hard to like Card’s Ender’s Game, but for some reason it fell flat for me.

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Science Fiction is such a broad church that no list is going to capture all tastes. Its like top 50 albums of all time, in any genre.


Peter F. Hamilton should at least have gotten his Night’s Dawn trilogy somewhere in here. I’ve read a good half of all these books but it’s not such a good selection. Quite a lot of focus on early SF…