The best future history books that give a glimpse of what might happen

Who am I?

There were 3.7 billion people on Earth when I was born. By November 2022, there will be 8 billion. I am fascinated and terrified by this growth. I love stories that address this issue head-on, be it colonisation of other planets, compulsory euthanasia, or uploading consciousness into machines. When I started writing, I didn’t realise how I was bringing these themes together—I was writing a book I’d love to read. Now I can see those influences, and I am grateful for the authors who have shaped my thinking and my work.


I wrote...

Tionsphere

By J.C. Gemmell,

Book cover of Tionsphere

What is my book about?

Forty years from now, the collapse of the Antarctic ice causes a sixty-metre rise in sea level, threatening our survival. Humanity’s solution is a technical marvel: the construction of concentric-spheres encircling the Earth. For centuries, the construction sphere is impossible to fill, but now, almost a thousand years after its completion, it has reached capacity, and its systems are on the brink of collapse.

Tionsphere is the story of people trying to make sense of their lives in an overpopulated, technology-dependent, massively interconnected world. When one young man slips away from his assigned life, discoveries are made that threaten the system and human life itself.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Coyote

By Allen M. Steele,

Book cover of Coyote

Why this book?

Coyote is a habitable moon orbiting Bear, a gas giant forty light years away. Earth’s first interstellar ship is hijacked by a group of engineers and scientists, usurping the post-US government loyalists who intend to make Coyote their home.

This book speaks to the aspirational me, the part that wants to evolve beyond Earth and build a new future, a better future, but inevitably the hubris of modern man threatens to destroy paradise. It’s a conceptually magnificent colonisation book built on plausible science, yet its success lies in the characters’ need to work together to conquer a seemingly benign world. I frequently revisit Coyote because it’s a great story, brilliantly told, and it makes me gaze at the stars.


Dayworld

By Philip José Farmer,

Book cover of Dayworld

Why this book?

Dayworld is an elegant but dystopic solution to a possible future population crisis and one that keeps me thinking about how we should restrain ourselves. Humanity can only endure overpopulation by placing people into suspended animation six days a week. Jeff Carid is a rebel and a daybreaker, living a different life each day as he illegally moves through the week. But, when Jeff’s ability to segregate his seven lives deteriorates, the rebels realise they can’t trust him.

I love how Jeff slips from Tuesday-World to Wednesday-World, etc., easing into distinct personalities. This story made me realise different cultures exist in the same place, often never noticing each other, which we see when Jeff looks back with distaste at a previous day’s persona.


Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Red Mars

Why this book?

Red Mars is by far the best Martian colonisation story I have read. In 2027, one hundred scientists land on the surface of Mars, intent on terraforming its frozen wastes. Humanity’s future depends on colonising our solar system, yet the American and Russian teams diverge from the start.

Red Mars is incredibly rich in character and perspective, scientifically credible, and driven by politics. It brings together the best and worst in humanity. I’m on my second paperback copy of this book because I read the first one so many times it came apart. Most of the ‘First Hundred’ have their own story; in my opinion, any population or colonisation book needs a diverse cast. My only disappointment is humanity hasn’t set foot on Mars yet.


Logan's Run

By William F. Nolan, George Clayton Johnson,

Book cover of Logan's Run

Why this book?

I saw the 1976 film long before I discovered reading and love for dystopian fiction. The twenty-third century’s response to overpopulation is to ‘sleep’ on your twenty-first birthday, but those who refuse and choose to run are hunted down and killed by sandmen. As Last Day approaches, Logan 6 receives his final mission but discovers he is not ready to die.

I was shocked when I first read Logan’s Run. Partly because it is much harsher and darker than the film, but also because it painted a future I could not comprehend. I realised there are so many possible futures for humanity, and any one of them might come true, and I started to envisage potential scenarios for myself.


Intervention

By Julian May,

Book cover of Intervention

Why this book?

I have given copies of the Galactic Milieu Trilogy as gifts more than any other book. This is the bravest near-future sci-fi series I have ever read. Intervention, published in 1987, follows events from 1945 through to 2013 when the five races of the Galactic Milieu embrace humanity. I love the merger of historical events with future possibilities in a story centred around a dynasty of ‘operant’ human beings.

As a teenager, I was fascinated by stories of telepathy, etc., but I found most books that dealt with ‘higher mind powers’ were in the fantasy or horror market. But this series is perfect sci-fi, technically plausible while politically powerful—and again, with a large, diverse cast.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mars, telepathy, and earth?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Mars, telepathy, and earth.

Mars Explore 50 books about Mars
Telepathy Explore 31 books about telepathy
Earth Explore 167 books about earth

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lord of the Rings, The Case for Mars, and Hyperion if you like this list.