The best classic lab-science sci-fi thrillers books

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by the sciences, and I love mysteries. I’m too lazy, unfocused, and poor at math, ever to have been a scientist, and I’ve never been tempted to try a career as a detective. Instead, I’ve spent my life pursuing fairytales, thrillers, ghost stories, and even horror and romance — as long as there are mysteries involved. By now I see the patterns and rhythms, and set-pieces that appear again, and again, and I can point them out to you (as long as you don’t mind knowing how the story’s been made). But I never get tired of the endless variations on this theme of finding things out. 


I wrote...

Proof of Concept

By Gwyneth Jones,

Book cover of Proof of Concept

What is my book about?

On a desperately overcrowded future Earth, crippled by climate change, the most unlikely hope is better than none. Governments turn to Big Science to provide them with the dreams that will keep the masses compliant. The Needle is one such dream, an installation where the most abstruse theoretical science is being tested: science that might make human travel to a habitable exoplanet distantly feasible.

When the Needle’s director offers her underground compound as a training base, Kir is thrilled to be invited to join the team, even though she knows it’s only because her brain is host to a quantum artificial intelligence called Altair. But Altair knows something he can’t tell. Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Gods Themselves

Gwyneth Jones Why did I love this book?

Issac Asimov’s “comeback” novel is to my mind streets ahead of anything else he ever wrote. It’s about saving the world (of course), by setting up a heat-(energy)-pump exchange with a parallel universe. Structurally complex enough to keep you guessing; set in the back-stabbing world of (all male) earthling scientists. Light on clunky explanations of the device, and featuring a splendidly weird, triple-sexed-aliens strand that steals the show. My takeaway (on first reading this, long ago) was Ah! So that’s how it’s done!

By Issac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gods Themselves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the year 2100, the invention of the Electron Pump - an apparently inexhaustible supply of free energy - has enabled humanity to devote its time and energies to more than the struggle for survival, finally breaking free of the Earth.

But the Electron Pump works by exchanging materials with a parallel universe, and such unbalancing of the cosmos has consequences. Humans and aliens alike must race to prevent a vast nuclear explosion in the heart of the Sun - and the vaporisation of the Earth exactly eight minutes later ...


Book cover of The Clewiston Test

Gwyneth Jones Why did I love this book?

Brilliant young scientist develops a miraculous new pain-killer. A goldmine for the pharmaceutical company! But is the serum really safe? Ann Clewiston Symonds, the scientist at the heart of this story, comes up against Big Pharma’s disdain for ethical issues, and then a car crash dumps her on the customer’s side of the counter. What follows is riveting, chilling, and still horribly relevant today. Kate Wilhelm was extremely good at telling the hard truths about sci-fi material, that sci-fi usually avoids, and this is her best.

By Kate Wilhelm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Clewiston Test as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Clewiston test


Book cover of Timescape

Gwyneth Jones Why did I love this book?

In a dreadful near-future, two scientists hit on the wild idea of sending a warning to the past, using (currently still hypothetical!) faster than light tachyon particles. In the near past two young scientists pick up the strange signals, as interference in an experiment, and realise they can be read as Morse Code. But the message is misunderstood, mangled, and almost lost in the same confusion and infighting that plagues Asimov’s earthling scientists. On the ‘Gods Themselves’ spectrum, but darker and deeper (though leavened by plenty of sex!). 

By Gregory Benford,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Timescape as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year is 1998, the world is a growing nightmare of desperation, of uncontrollable pollution and increasing social unrest. In Cambridge, two scientists experiment with tachyons - subatomic particles that travel faster than the speed of light and, therefore, according to the Theory of Relativity, may move backwards in time. Their plan is to signal a warning to the previous generation.

In 1962, a young Californian scientist, Gordon Bernstein, finds his experiments are being spoiled by unknown interference. As he begins to suspect something near the truth it becomes a race against time - the world is collapsing and will…


Book cover of A Door Into Ocean

Gwyneth Jones Why did I love this book?

Microbiologist professor Joan Slonczewski loved Dune (as do I), so she decided to create a living world with no dry land (which would work) instead of a living world without free water (which, sadly, wouldn’t...). Shora, colonised by an all-female human society, and maintained in continual creation (but untamed) by Shoran microbiologists, is dangerous, beautiful—and threatened by the Evil Empire of Profit. Gripping, harrowing take on how to win a war, save the world, and utterly renounce violence all at the same time.

By Joan Slonczewski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Door Into Ocean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sharers, a race of women living on the planet Shora, who reproduce by parthogenesis without males, are suddenly faced with the technological and cultural invasion of men from space.


Book cover of Frankenstein

Gwyneth Jones Why did I love this book?

Right from its mysterious opening in the Arctic wastes, this deathless story of the impossible (but never the fantastical) is built on a huge scale. The bravura, horrifying detail of Victor Frankenstein’s studies. His bizarre triumph of reconstruction and resuscitation (no electrical apparatus mentioned). The murders. The proto-detective mystery. The love-hate that locks Victor and the Creature (please don’t call him Monster, unless you call Victor a monster too) together... I could go on, and on, but I’ve run out of space.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

38 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


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The Child Riddler

By Angela Greenman,

Book cover of The Child Riddler

Angela Greenman Author Of The Child Riddler

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Communications expert International traveler Human relations champion Focused

Angela's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Zoe Lorel, an elite operative in an international spy agency, is sent to abduct a nine-year-old girl. The girl is the only one who knows the riddle that holds the code to unleash the most lethal weapon on earth—the first ever “invisibility” nano weapon, a cloaking spider bot. But when enemies reveal the invisibility weapon’s existence to underground arms dealers, every government and terrorist organization in the world wants to find that little girl.

Zoe races to save not only the child she has grown to care about but also herself. Her agency-prescribed pills—the ones that transform her into the icy killer she must become to survive—are beginning to threaten her engagement to the one person who brings her happiness.

The Child Riddler

By Angela Greenman,

What is this book about?

Despite the angry scars she carries from her childhood training, Zoe Lorel has reached a good place in her life. She has her dream job as an elite operative in an international spy agency and she’s found her one true love. Her world is mostly perfect—until she is sent to abduct a nine-year-old girl.

The girl is the only one who knows the riddle that holds the code to unleash the most lethal weapon on earth—the first ever “invisibility” nanoweapon, a cloaking spider bot. But Zoe’s agency isn’t the only one after the child. And when enemies reveal the invisibility…


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