The best science fiction books consistent with scientific principles while still telling good stories

Who am I?

As a boy I was fascinated by stories about going to other planets, which has persisted even though I became a research chemist who wished to understand. I am curious where society will go, and some of my SF books strongly suggest what not to do if we go there. With my writing, I want to entertain, but leave the reader with something to think about. I hope this list will show the writing I enjoy, and maybe you will too.

I wrote...

Red Gold

By Ian J. Miller,

Book cover of Red Gold

What is my book about?

Mars is to be colonized. The extraordinary hype means suckers will be attracted to floats, while nobody can check on them, and Mars will have no law enforcement. Most settlers set out with visions of a great adventure, but they are soon disillusioned. Fraud is exposed, but a murder shows only the fraudster has guns. 

Where The Martian showed the science behind one person surviving for a modest period, Red Gold shows the science and technology, much of which is yet to be developed, needed for many colonists to survive indefinitely. An appendix shows how the writing of this novel led to a novel explanation for the presence of Martian rivers. A story with crime, action, science, and the harsh Martian environment.

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).

October the First Is Too Late

By Fred Hoyle,

Book cover of October the First Is Too Late

Why this book?

Hoyle was a genuine leading scientist, and I recognize his views on how the science community works, including how the hacks behave. He combines the "slices of spacetime" concept from relativity and the many-worlds interpretation from quantum mechanics to construct a story where Earth suddenly gets fragmented into a number of different time zones. Like Wells in The Time Machine Hoyle proposes how the future will turn out. To keep the science simple, the story is recorded by a composer.

I am also involved in quantum theory, I write science fiction, and I compose music as a hobby. Leaving aside Hoyle's talent, I can see myself here, and see Hoyle's understanding of both science and music.

The Martian

By Andy Weir,

Book cover of The Martian

Why this book?

Again, personal. I was one of the very early people to review this when Andy was independent. Andy made spectacular use of the "Journal Entry" form, which usually does not work, he had a good understanding of science and of Mars, and how life could work. The storm that stranded him was wrong, but needed to get the story going, and the chemistry behind making water was poor, but overall an extremely clever story about how to use science to get out of very poor circumstances. I applaud his descriptions of the Martian terrain, geography, and how he used them to make the story interesting.  

Red Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Red Mars

Why this book?

About the colonization of Mars and the interplay of governance and economics, it strongly influenced me. First published in 1992, it includes a historical perspective of the then accepted science and descriptions of Mars. I found the enthusiasm for terraforming to be over-optimistic, but only when I put some numbers on it did I realize by how much. We are now reasonably convinced terraforming is not possible. Nevertheless, it made me more realistic about my Mars stories, so it had a big influence on me. I found it very strong on the social aspects of the settlement, and the conflict that will arise. I find it excellent for a story about people. The book had the first human on Mars in 2019. Oops.

The Andromeda Strain

By Michael Crichton,

Book cover of The Andromeda Strain

Why this book?

Crichton was very close to my age, and my first effort at writing preceded his, but it was not a success, and when this book came out, I saw what was wrong with mine. It took some time before I returned to writing. The Andromeda Strain cleverly presents a crisis, and it cleverly leads the reader along a red herring path, then it introduces something that probably should have been seen first up. Crichton had an easy style to read, and always followed a logical path.


By Stephen Baxter,

Book cover of Proxima

Why this book?

The fifth book on my list was a difficult choice; so many to exclude. I chose this because it is about the colonization of an alien world, in this case one tidally locked to a red dwarf. The description of the planet is good, although it begs the question of why the atmosphere did not freeze out on the dark side. I was struck by the highlighting of some of the sociological problems of colonizing such a strange world. It touches on the scientific aspects, the sociological aspects of being that far from home, and the economic issues. There is also a good story; I found it both entertaining and imaginative.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mars, survival, and extraterrestrial life?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Mars, survival, and extraterrestrial life.

Mars Explore 49 books about Mars
Survival Explore 112 books about survival
Extraterrestrial Life Explore 113 books about extraterrestrial life

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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