At its heart, science fiction is a fantastic literary genre. Now, with audiobooks, you can enjoy the best adventures sci-fi has to offer wherever you are. We’ve compiled a must-listen list of all the greats in the sci-fi canon. Check it out.
Before the days of epic CGI movies and serialized TV, science fiction was only found between the covers of books. But the joy of those stories was often lost on many since they had to sit still with a physical book for hours, and people just didn’t have the time. Now with the popularization of audiobooks and subscription services like Audible Plus, you can finally get through all the classics you’ve had on your to-read pile all these years.
How We Chose These Books
Tales in the Far-off Future
Dune by Frank Herbert
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Tomes From the Dystopia
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Monstrously Good Sci-Fi
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Down to Earth Stories
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Contact by Carl Sagan
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Adventures in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
The Thrawn Trilogy
We chose the titles on this list based on their longstanding reputations with the audience, resonance in their time and ours, as well as being cornerstones of sci-fi with lasting influence on the genre. Most of these books have been read by at least two members of our editorial staff.
What will human civilization look like hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of years from now? That big question serves as the backdrop of some of the most well-loved sci-fi works of all time.
Widely considered the best sci-fi epic of all time, Dune is set on the desert planet Arrakis. Where the most valuable substance in the universe, the spice melange, is harvested as fuel for interstellar travel. It is to this world that young Paul Atreides travels with his family, assigned to ensure the flow of spice. Upon their arrival, they find themselves pawns in an intergalactic power struggle, and Paul the unexpected savior to the native people of Dune.
This audiobook has a listening length of 21 hours and two minutes, and is narrated by a cast including Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance, Ilyana Kuadushin, Byron Jennings, David R. Gordon, Jason Culp, Kent Broadhurst, Oliver Wyman, Patricia Kilgarriff, and more.
Often called a “philosophical novel,” Starship Troopers is a slow burn. While there are suits of mechanized armor, space bugs, and an intergalactic war, the main thrust of this novel is what happens in the classroom. It’s the story of Johnny Rico’s journey through the ranks of the Mechanized Infantry, what he learns during training, and how he handles life as a soldier. It also explores the possibilities of different forms of government than we know today.
This audiobook is narrated by Lloyd James and has a listening length of nine hours and 52 minutes.
Many of our favorite sci-fi titles take place in a world gone awry. Whether it be in the aftermath of a nuclear war, under the thumb of an authoritarian world-government, or the strange consequences of the pursuit of human perfection, these books explore the dangerous outcomes of humanity’s hubris.
Set in the year 2540, Brave New World depicts a genetically engineered civilization based around an intelligence-based caste system. Every child has emotion, individuality, and ambition conditioned out of them. When Bernard, a disaffected psychologist, brings a natural-born savage home with him from vacation, he sets a series of events in motion that changes his life, and that of those around him forever.
This title’s listening length is eight hours, and it is narrated by Michael York.
The inspiration for the cult classic film Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? takes place in an alternate 2021 where the world has been devastated by nuclear war. What’s left on Earth is a mixed population of humans and androids pitted against each other in a never-ending battle for status and survival. Rick Deckhard sets out on a mission to assassinate six human-like androids in an attempt to earn enough money to buy a rare live animal as a pet.
This audiobook’s runtime is nine hours and twelve minutes, and it’s narrated by Scott Brick.
When people use the term “Orwellian” today, they’re usually referring to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Concepts like Big Brother, New Speak, Double Think, Thought Police, and more all come directly from this work. Trapped in a totalitarian police state, Ministry of Truth worker Winston Smith and his lover Julia join an underground resistance movement with the aim to take down Big Brother and The Party. Can they possibly succeed?
This audiobook is narrated by Simon Prebble, and has a listening length of 11 hours and 22 minutes.
An unexpected bestseller, Neuromancer brought legitimacy to the infant cyberpunk genre. Set in a dystopian Japan, console cowboy Henry Case’s ability to connect his mind to virtual reality realm known as the matrix is damaged as punishment for stealing from his employer. But he has a chance to win it back by taking job from the mysterious Molly Millions, to steal the digital consciousness of his legendary mentor.
The listening length for this title is 10 hours and 31 minutes, and it’s narrated by Robertson Dean.
Sometimes great sci-fi gets mixed up with the horror genre. That’s because monsters that attack their creators are a great way to craft a cautionary tale. These books exemplify the “man was not meant to meddle” adage.
Before it was the groundbreaking film, Jurassic Park was Michael Crichton’s signature novel. On a remote Costa Rican island, Jurassic Park is amusement park featuring cloned dinosaurs. Set to open soon, a series accidents prompts eccentric billionaire John Hammond to bring a group of neutral observers to the island to evaluate the safety of the park. But an unexpected chain of events derails the inspection with tragic results.
Narrated by Scott Brick, this audiobook’s listening length is 15 hours and 10 minutes.
In Frankenstein, Mary Shelly invents the archetypical character of the mad scientist: Victor Frankenstein. Whose scientific hubris produces a horrific monster. Driven by loneliness, rage, and revenge, the creature longs for companionship and kills to get it. Frankenstein must grapple with the consequences of his ambition and the morality of complying with his creation’s demands for a spouse.
This audiobook’s listening length is eight hours and 35 minutes and it’s narrated by Dan Stevens.
Great sci-fi doesn’t need to feature intergalactic interstellar wars, horrific monsters, or a ruined Earth. Many of the best sci-fi books take place in a story grounded in reality, with just a hint of the fantastical to drive the plot forward.
Annihilation follows an all-female team of scientists on a mapping mission into the dangerous region known as Area X. Severed from civilization by a mysterious transformation decades earlier, nature has reclaimed the territory for itself. Earlier excursions into the zone ended in disaster, desertion, and death. This harrowing adventure explores the enigmas of Area X, the fate of preceding teams, and the destiny of the intrepid women of the Twelfth Expedition.
This book’s listening length is six hours, and it’s narrated by Carolyn McCormick.
Written by the legendary Carl Sagan, Contact centers on Ellie, a daring young scientist. She intercepts a coded radio signal from a civilization beyond the stars. When it’s discovered to contain blueprints for a wormhole machine, world governments come together in unprecedented cooperation to build it. Setting up a showdown between science and religion, and forcing Ellie to come to terms with the trauma of her youth.
This audiobook is narrated by Laurel Lefkow, and has a runtime of 14 hours and 45 minutes.
Arguably the most poignant antiwar novel of all time, Slaughterhouse-Five employs several narrative devices such as the unreliable narrator, non-linear storytelling, and Vonnegut’s own syntactical style to masterful effect. The story follows an American soldier, Billy, throughout through World War II, and its aftermath. Most notably during his time held captive by the Germans, and his experience during the firebombing of Dresden.
This book has a listening length of five hours and 13 minutes, and is narrated by James Franco.
For many, the sci-fi genre begins and ends with Star Wars. Over the years hundreds of novels, comics, video games, and more have produced to quench our thirst for lightsabers duels, quippy droids, and epic space battles in the universe created by George Lucas.
Before Disney bought the galaxy far, far away back to big screen, fans knew Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command as the official episodes VII, VII, and IX of the Star Wars saga. Introducing beloved characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Luke Skywalker’s life love: Mara Jade, and Han Solo and Princess Leia’s children: Jacen and Jaina Solo to the Star Wars universe. The Thrawn Trilogy explores the galaxy in aftermath of a fallen empire and the rise of the fledgling New Republic.
Star Wars: Heir to the Empire has a listening length of 13 hours and nine minutes, and is narrated by Marc Thompson.
Star Wars: Dark Force Rising has a listening length of 14 hours and 56 minutes, and is narrated by Marc Thompson.
Star Wars: The Last Command has a listening length of 15 hours and 47 minutes, and is narrated by Marc Thompson.