The best science fiction books that incorporate various earth cultures on other worlds

Who am I?

I've always been interested in Native American culture, while at the same time horrified at the way most European settlers treated them. (My best friend as a child was Native American.) Without consciously planning on it, many of my other books and short stories feature Native American customs and characters—though not as thoroughly as Red Sky, Blue Moon. I've also always been fascinated by Viking history, though I only recently discovered I'm a direct descendant of a fairly famous Viking—Rollo. I had no particular expertise with these cultures when I began this book, but I spent many hours of research to be sure I got everything right.

I wrote...

Red Sky, Blue Moon

By Bruce Golden,

Book cover of Red Sky, Blue Moon

What is my book about?

On an alien world where various Earth cultures have been transplanted centuries ago by otherworldly scientists, a Viking society evolves over the centuries into a cutthroat corporate culture of racial purists in an early industrial civilization. They have designs on the lands of a nearby continent where tribes of Sioux still cling to their old ways. War ensues, and at the core of the conflict is a native herb that may be the cure for a disease that ravages the corporatocracy, as well as being the secret to longevity.

It turns out the Vikings and the Sioux are not the only cultures transported to this world and, ultimately, this great speciation experiment will have unexpected and dire consequences for the experimenters. 

The books I picked & why

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


By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

Unarguably one of the greatest science fiction books ever, every time I read Dune I marvel at the complexity of the world Frank Herbert has created. The incorporation of Islamic culture and beliefs, along with some Medieval European tropes is fantastic. While the protagonist is just a teenager, this is no young adult book. I like the way it deals with real-world problems and character interaction from a mature perspective. There is good and evil and many shades in between. This is not only the tale of a stranger in a strange land, but one who's destined to become the godlike leader of the planet he's thrust upon...whether he wants it or not. I've always found this book an incredible blend of adventure, environmentalism, politics, and mysticism. 

Star Of Gypsies

By Robert Silverberg,

Book cover of Star Of Gypsies

Why this book?

I'd never known anything about Gypsy culture (except cinematic stereotypes) until I read Silverberg's Star of Gypsies. Even though this book takes place on other worlds, centuries into the future, the traditions and the society of Gypsies survives. These nomadic spacefarers have evolved into important pieces of a galactic empire – an empire upon which the protagonist will have a profound effect. I loved the inventive world building and the complex yet often humorous main character, Yakoub. The tale fully engaged me from the very beginning and is one of those books I give my highest compliment – a page-turner you don't want to put down.

Lord of Light

By Roger Zelazny,

Book cover of Lord of Light

Why this book?

Like Dune, this book revolves to a degree around a holy war. But instead of an Islamic-based culture carried to another world, this one is Hindi and Buddhist. I love a book with great world-building, and this one certainly qualifies. It not only invoked my sense of wonder, but was, at times, spiced with both humor and wisdom. It's full of complex characters, but ones you immediately empathize with.

All the Windwracked Stars (The Edda of Burdens)

By Elizabeth Bear,

Book cover of All the Windwracked Stars (The Edda of Burdens)

Why this book?

I loved the use of Norse mythology and culture in this book, which is the first in a series. Once again I was enveloped in marvelous world-building and a society from Earth that both transformed and stayed the same, light years away from where it originated. It's full of beautiful language and astounding images. Many stories are described as "epic," but this one truly is. I also like how it's sometimes difficult to tell the heroes from the villains because the characters are all so well-rounded.


By Tony Daniel,

Book cover of Warpath

Why this book?

I liked the unusual idea of having a Native American tribe to be the first humans to conquer space and create an interstellar nation. Overall it combines great science fiction concepts and world-building with powerful human drama. I found this book "spoke to me" in ways others don't, playing upon my lifelong interest in Native American culture.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in galactic empires, war, and spacecraft?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about galactic empires, war, and spacecraft.

Galactic Empires Explore 10 books about galactic empires
War Explore 166 books about war
Spacecraft Explore 18 books about spacecraft

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lost Fleet: Dauntless, Across the Universe, and Aurora if you like this list.