The best psychological thrillers that will make you think

Who am I?

I've spent the last half-century researching complex systems and mathematical modeling, both at research centers including The RAND Corporation, the Santa Fe Institute, and the Int'l Center for Applied Systems Analysis (Vienna), as well with professorships at New York University, Princeton and the Technical U. of Vienna. I have also had a lifelong interest in the connection between science fiction and science fact, and have explored the relationship in several of my books including X-EVENTS, The Cambridge Quintet, and Paradigms Lost. I also served as editor for the volume Mission to Abisko, which gives an account of a week-long meeting between sci-fi writers and scientists held north of the Arctic Circle in Abisko, Sweden some years back.


I wrote...

Prey for Me: A Psychological Thriller

By John L. Casti,

Book cover of Prey for Me: A Psychological Thriller

What is my book about?

Who wins and who loses when you're playing with other people's money... and their emotions? World-renowned scientist Victor Safir can't resist his inexplicable attraction to Alex Lynne, a brilliant, beautiful financier-but his addiction to her may drive him over the edge. Thrust together as unlikely partners in the high-stakes world of London finance, their game of seduction might prove riskier than any business deal.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Philosophical Investigation

John L. Casti Why did I love this book?

THEME: Technically, this is not really a work of science fiction per se, even though it takes place in London 2013, twenty-one years before the book's publication. So it explores aspects of the future through a journey into the head of a serial killer and to the heart of murder itself. In the book, London at that time was a city where serial murder has reached epidemic proportions. To combat this raft of murders, the government has created a test to screen people for a predisposition to commit violent crimes. Tested at random, a man is shocked to hear that he fits the model. Yet when he breaks into the computer to erase his name, he discovers a list of his "brothers" a logical idea springs into his mind: What if to protect society he becomes a killer of serial murderers?

The inspector charged with tracking down this sociopath, code-named "Wittgenstein", engages with him in a diabolical cat-and-mouse game, in which the killer engages her in a chilling philosophical dialogue about the nature of life itself.

I'm a big fan of both fast-paced intelligent thrillers and philosophy, so when an author brings the two themes together how can I not like the book? And that's especially true when it's written by a first-rate stylist like Philip Kerr. The story is fast-paced, the antagonist and protagonist are engagingly drawn and the philosophy is perfect. What better way can there be to learn a lot of philosophy and have a great time doing it?

By Philip Kerr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

London, 2013, and the city is battling an epidemic of serial killings - even with the widespread government use of DNA detection, brain-imaging, and the 'punitive coma'.

Detective Isadora 'Jake' Jacowicz is hunting a murderer, code-named 'Wittgenstein,' who has taken it upon himself to eliminate anyone who has tested positive for a tendency towards violent behaviour - even if they've never committed a crime.

His intellectual brilliance is matched only by his homicidal madness.


Book cover of Permutation City

John L. Casti Why did I love this book?

What happens when your digital self overpowers your physical self? A life in Permutation City is unlike any life to which you’re accustomed. You have Eternal Life, the power to live forever. Immortality is a real thing, just not the thing you’d expect. Life is just computer code. You have been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. A copy of a copy. For Paul Durham, he keeps making copies of himself. But his copies keep changing their minds and shutting themselves down. There is also Maria Deluca, who is nothing but an Autoverse addict. She spends every waking minute with the cellular automaton known as the Autoverse, a world that lives by the mathematical “laws of physics.”

Paul makes Maria an offer to design and drop a seed into the Autoverse that will allow her to indulge in her obsession. There is, however, one catch: you can no longer terminate, bailout, and remove yourself. You will never be your normal flesh-and-blood life self again. Maria then faces the question: Is this what I really want? Is this what WE really want?

I have a weakness for books that explore deep philosophical questions in a science-fiction format. This book is a prime example of the genre. The question of what it means to be "alive"? What it means to be "human"? and to what degree can we capture human nature in a computer? are all explored in this work. This volume was Greg Egan's first novel, but luckily not his last (right now, I have eleven of his works and am looking for number twelve!).

By Greg Egan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Permutation City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Egan is determined to make sense of everything - to understand the whole world as an intelligible, rational, material (and finally manipulable) realm - even if it means abandoning comfortable and comforting illusions. This is fundamental to the whole project of SF and it's why Egan's Best - and his Rest - is worth any number of looks. -Locus

What happens when your digital self overpowers your physical self?

A life in Permutation City is unlike any life to which you're accustomed. You have Eternal Life, the power to live forever. Immortality is a real thing, just not the thing…


Book cover of Solaris

John L. Casti Why did I love this book?

In this classic volume, the sentience on an alien planet is so metaphysically distant from humanity that it causes its cosmonaut investigators to hallucinate and collapse. The Solaris alien, a seemingly cognizant ocean, is a permanent enigma, completely unframable by any human thought process.

The story begins with a simple, evocative setup. Three scientists studying an alien planet begin receiving unwelcome "visitors" — apparently, human figures from the long-dead past, returned to haunt the living. They appear (and reappear) while the scientists sleep, as though dragged into the waking light from the deepest recesses of their subconscious guilt, dread, and regret. Sent to investigate, psychologist Kris Kelvin awakens next to his wife, who’d killed herself ten years earlier. Is she "real"? How did she arrive at the space station? And how is she connected to the ocean planet, Solaris? Solaris asks the question: Can we understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within ourselves?

Lem wanted to imagine an encounter with something truly alien. How would human beings react to a life-form so foreign as to be beyond comprehension? He imagined a planet-wide sentient ocean so frustratingly non-communicative that scientists would spend their lives trying to unlock its secrets. They’d produce quasi-religious speculations about the "cosmic yogi" or the "oceanic idiot," revere it as an ascended mind or denounce it as childish and prehuman in its development. They’d devote Talmudic attention to reading its roiling forms; they’d lose themselves in its waves. Finally, they’d try to get its attention. And when that attention came, it was like nothing they could have predicted.

This book has absolutely everything: Great writing, a storyline that moves in a dozen directions at once, each direction complementing and reinforcing the others, and comes to a crescendo that is almost impossible to believe. Who could ask for more? This book is the very quintessence of what a great novel, let alone a work of science fiction, should be---and is!

By Stanislaw Lem, Steve Cox (translator), Joanna Kilmartin (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface he is forced to confront a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others suffer from the same affliction and speculation rises among scientists that the Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates incarnate memories, but its purpose in doing so remains a mystery . . .

Solaris raises a question that has been at the heart of human experience and literature for centuries: can we truly understand the universe around us without first understanding what…


Book cover of Truth Machine

John L. Casti Why did I love this book?

By the early twentieth century, violent crime was the number one political issue in America. In response, Congress passed the Swift and Sure Anti-Crime Bill, which gave a previously convicted violent criminal one fair trail, one quick appeal, then immediate execution. But to prevent abuse of the law, it was necessary to create a machine that could detect lies with one-hundred percent accuracy. It was clear that such a Truth Machine would change the world. But the race to perfect the Truth Machine forces one man to commit a shocking act of treachery. Now he must conceal the truth from his own creation---or face execution.

The conflict here is truth versus justice, as is often the case in human affairs. I was extremely interested in seeing how the author would balance these two seemingly irreconcilable factors. The book does a startingly job in resolving this conflict, in the process creating a history of the future, one that resonates with insight, wisdom, and amazing possibility.

By James Halperin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Truth Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Prepare to have your conception of truth rocked to its very foundation.

It is the year 2004. Violent crime is the number one political issue in America. Now, the Swift and Sure Anti-Crime Bill guarantees a previously convicted violent criminal one fair trial, one quick appeal, then immediate execution. To prevent abuse of the law, a machine must be built that detects lies with 100 percent accuracy.

Once perfected, the Truth Machine will change the face of the world. Yet the race to finish the Truth Machine forces one man to commit a shocking act of treachery, burdening him with…


Book cover of Timescape

John L. Casti Why did I love this book?

This book is set in the early 1990s, where an ecological catastrophe is threatening the entire world. Scientists are feverishly working to understand the tachyon, a subatomic particle that can travel faster than light. They want to harness this power to go back in time and warn their colleagues in the 1960s to cease the experiments that are now destroying the oceans. Ultimately, the book explores our ever-changing views of cause and effect, showing that we are all moving through a landscape of time and space that we don't understand. The book ends in a fashion very suitable for Hollywood, so I won't disclose it here other than to say humans somehow managed to escape the ecological and climatic threats that we are again facing today. This book is a good place to see how it was done thirty years ago!

This is a true sci-fi book with an emphasis on the science. The writing is excellent and carries the story along in a fashion completely understandable to a non-scientific reader. It's no wonder that Timescape was named to the list of the 100 best sci-fi novels up to 1980.

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…


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Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

Book cover of Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

Christina Weigand Author Of Palace of the Twelve Pillars

New book alert!

Who am I?

My faith is a driving force in my life. Writing and dragons are my passions after my family. When not writing I mentor young people in their own writing. I’ve taken several writing courses and continue to study and work on honing my craft. Dragons serve as messengers of God in my books. I studied dragon lore and found the dragons an excellent vehicle for sharing God’s message. The dragons play a sentient, teaching, guiding role in the books they are featured in. That doesn’t mean there aren’t bad dragons to challenge the characters and the good dragons. 

Christina's book list on dragons with a Christian message

What is my book about?

When the head of an ancient Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn’t enough money to pay the hefty Roman taxes.

The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery inside a cruel centurion’s home. As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion’s children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

When the centurion travels to Jerusalem, Chana is unaware of her family's presence in the city. But the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Naftili, Chana's brother, is taken as a slave in the same house as his sister, where he discovers that Chana isn’t the same girl he grew up with.

Their fate to live a life as slaves seems impossible to overcome until they are rescued by dragons sent from God. But all is not easy as their faith journey continues. They will encounter obstacles designed to prevent them from becoming Dragon Guardians, faithful followers who spread and protect the Word of God.

Dragon Disciples: Resurrection

By Christina Weigand, Rhomda Chieduch (editor),

What is this book about?

When the head of a Samaritan family is injured, it throws the family into turmoil. There isn't enough money for the hefty Roman taxes. The daughter, Chana, is taken as compensation and forced into slavery in a cruel centurion's home.

As a slave, Chana witnesses the miracles of Yeshua. They give her hope as she stands up to the abuses of the centurion's children and survives unspeakable atrocities.

Unaware of her family's presence in Jerusalem, the holy city brings nothing but horror when Chana witnesses the crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. While struggling to overcome her traumas, her…


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