The best sci-fi books that would make great movies

Who am I?

Long ago, I dreamed of being a screenwriter. As a novelist, I write in pictures and my characters guide you through my worlds. To me, being able to visualize and experience what’s happening makes a story whole. I’ll proudly say that I prefer film and television to the written word. (Nobody freak out!) To me, the ultimate compliment is when someone tells me that reading my books is like watching a movie. And like a good film, I like to tell lean stories. I keep in what’s essential and let the reader fill in the rest. Wondering what’s down that hallway I hinted at is a gift for the imagination!


I wrote...

Timberwolf

By Tom Julian,

Book cover of Timberwolf

What is my book about?

He took every suicide mission he could find… but things didn’t work out. Timberwolf Velez was a top black ops agent, the best of the best. That was until he encountered Kizik, a psychic alien spider that tore apart his mind… and left a piece of itself behind. Now a religious madman has found a secret trove of the most dangerous weapons imaginable.

Will Timberwolf be able to stop the galaxy from descending into endless war? Some want war, some want peace. He just wants the damn spider out of his head!

The books I picked & why

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The Forever War

By Joe Haldeman,

Book cover of The Forever War

Why this book?

The Forever War was written as sort of a reply to Heinlein’s pro-Vietnam war screed, Starship Troopers. It’s the story of pacifist interstellar infantryman William Mandella. What’s not clear upfront is that traveling millions of light-years takes hundreds of real years. Each time he returns, society has drastically changed beyond his capacity to fit in.

I love the big picture social commentary about endless war, disposable veterans, and how society changes the rules for its fighting men and women. It’s also got aliens and explosions! There’s lots of cool action, thrilling battles, and interesting sci-fi concepts. It’s got your mech-suits, psychic aliens, and exotic physics. 

Ultimately, the heart of the film would be the star-crossed romance between Mandella and his lady friend Marygay. They struggle against circumstance and cosmic distances to build a love that defies Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The Forever War

By Joe Haldeman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The monumental Hugo and Nebula award winning SF classic-- Featuring a new introduction by John Scalzi

The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand--despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant thousand-year conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time…


Spin

By Robert Charles Wilson,

Book cover of Spin

Why this book?

Ever look up at the night sky and dream that maybe we’re enclosed in a giant alien membrane? Just me? Well, that’s the reality of Spin. Aliens trap the Earth in a time bubble. A colony on Mars zooms ahead of us technologically, and three young friends have to figure out - how and why? And did God do this?

The micro and macro level reactions to the sudden and miraculous events of “The Spin” are the most interesting aspects of this story. Friends drift apart as institutions fall asunder. Religious factions rise to make sense of it all. Human descendants return from Mars with thousands of years of bio-technical goodies to bestow on us. 

Engaging characters guide you through the twists and turns of a surprisingly human story. As the trio figures out what the Spin actually is, the conclusion is breathtaking and unexpected on the caliber of 2001.

Spin

By Robert Charles Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

After witnessing the onset of an astronomical event that has caused the sun to go black and the stars and moon to disappear, Tyler, Jason, and Diane learn that the darkness has been caused by a time-altering, alien-created artificial barrier and that the sun will be extinguished in less than forty years. Reprint.


Darwin's Radio

By Greg Bear,

Book cover of Darwin's Radio

Why this book?

This book appealed to me because it reversed the trope of looking backward at human evolution. To me, what humans might become is even more uncomfortable than thinking about what we were. Darwin’s Radio brings some interesting setup. A mysterious disease impacting newborns. The red herring of a search for a cure. The realization that the “Sheva” virus is the herald for a new version of humanity.

This story has plenty of room for government conspiracies, medical drama, and a family on the run. Its sequel Darwin's Children, takes the premise to the next level, showing us how humanity reacts to meeting our replacements. Spoiler alert – not well. 

The way that the next wave of humanity diverges is very compelling – different ways of communicating, different senses, different social organizations. They are like us but also, so much not like us. I like the combination of large-scale societal change, science drama, and family dynamics. At the end of the day, we’re all human… more or less.

Darwin's Radio

By Greg Bear,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Darwin's Radio as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A 2000 HUGO AWARD NOMINEE

Ancient diseases encoded in the DNA of humans wait like sleeping dragons to wake and infect again--or so molecular biologist Kaye Lang believes. And now it looks as if her controversial theory is in fact chilling reality. For Christopher Dicken, a "virus hunter" at the Epidemic Intelligence Service, has pursued an elusive flu-like disease that strikes down expectant mothers and their offspring. Then a major discovery high in the Alps --the preserved bodies of a prehistoric family--reveals a shocking link: something that has slept in our genes for millions of years is waking up.

Now,…


Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Rendezvous with Rama

Why this book?

This one has been kicking around for decades and I’m surprised it’s never been attempted before. A mysterious mega-object zooms through our solar system. We visit it and explore its mind-blowing interior. An incredible intelligence at work. Astronauts on an adventure. Unfathomable motives and a grand scale. It’s classic Arthur C. Clarke!

There’s a classic escape thriller at play here that would need to be jacked up beyond all the science porn. The machine is destined to leave the solar system. Can our astronauts overcome disaster and escape in time? 

To make this work, you’d need to infuse some of the elements from the later books to provide a concrete resolution. Or at least hint at one. No one wants to shrug at who the aliens were and what they wanted. We tried that with Prometheus and who wants to do that again?

Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Rendezvous with Rama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the year 2130, a mysterious and apparently untenanted alien spaceship, Rama, enters our solar system. The first product of an alien civilisation to be encountered by man, it reveals a world of technological marvels and an unparalleled artificial ecology.

But what is its purpose in 2131?

Who is inside it?

And why?


Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

OK – so sue me. Dune had been about to premier for so long, that even though it has just come out, I still wonder if it all was just a spice-induced fever dream? Dune Part One was fabulous. Denis Villeneuve was the perfect guy to do it (see The Arrival and the magnificent Blade Runner 2049) and he was smart enough to only attempt the first half of the book. He also collected a who’s who of sci-fi actors – Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Jason Mamoa, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, and the list goes on.


Dune is about huge ideas, plots turning within plots, stunning visuals, and the potential of the human mind. In part one, he captured all that plus the feel of Dune. Eclipsing the spectacle of the David Lynch film was a feat in its own right. Finally doing justice to the tome that is Dune has been decades in the making. Now that part deux has just been greenlit, I’m hoping that Villeneuve can stick the landing and bring home the saga. Ride the worm, Denis!

Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Before The Matrix, before Star Wars, before Ender's Game and Neuromancer, there was Dune: winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, and widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.

Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's lifespan to making interstellar travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world of Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in cults, astronauts, and war?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about cults, astronauts, and war.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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