The best speculative fiction novels about authority and its abuses

T.R. Thompson Author Of The Blood Within The Stone
By T.R. Thompson

Who am I?

I'm a spec-fic writer who has been fascinated by the world building and deep creativity of sci-fi and fantasy novels for over 40 years. A common theme in these genres is the use and abuse of power, especially of systems of authority that the main characters battle against—not always successfully! I've recently published a complete fantasy trilogy dealing with these same themes—The Wraith Cycle—and am looking forward to the publication of my next stand-alone sci-fi novel—The Currents Of Infinity—due to come out within the next year.


I wrote...

The Blood Within The Stone

By T.R. Thompson,

Book cover of The Blood Within The Stone

What is my book about?

In the isolated traders’ town of Greystone, two young thieves named Wilt and Higgs scratch out a living on the street. Both have quick minds and even quicker fingers, but Wilt has another weapon, an ability to sink into others' thoughts, reading them, knowing before they do what action they will take. Such power is not easily hidden when the Prefects of Redmondis come through town on a pilgrimage to recruit skilled ones, wielders, those who have an affinity with the secret welds that join all living things.

Epic fantasy with an original magic system, likable characters, and enthralling prose—a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered by YA and older readers alike.

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).

The Lathe of Heaven

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of The Lathe of Heaven

Why this book?

George Orr's dreams are more than just dreams—they affect reality directly. Any idea prompted in his dreams becomes the new reality for everyone else. He's guided by his ambitious therapist William Haber, who seeks to use George's strange power for his own ends, which as you can imagine, never works out quite the way he wants.

Highly imaginative and deeply terrifying vision of what power can do in the hands of the unscrupulous—and IMHO one of the greatest book titles of all time!

The Lathe of Heaven

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Lathe of Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Her worlds have a magic sheen . . . She moulds them into dimensions we can only just sense. She is unique. She is legend' THE TIMES

'Le Guin is a writer of phenomenal power' OBSERVER

George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams dreams which do in fact change reality - and he has no means of controlling this extraordinary power.

Psychiatrist Dr William Haber offers to help. At first sceptical of George's powers, he comes…


Spider World: The Tower

By Colin Wilson,

Book cover of Spider World: The Tower

Why this book?

Not one for the arachnophobes! In the 25th century a nuclear holocaust has driven humans to hide in the desert from the predatory giant spiders who now rule the earth. But main character Niall has a secret, he shares the spiders' gift of telepathy, and moves to liberate humanity from the Spider Lord.

The description of the giant spiders' use of will to control their prey is fascinating, and the move from pure adventure story into political intrigue and power games is genius. A very underappreciated fantasy novel.

Spider World: The Tower

By Colin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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


A Scanner Darkly

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of A Scanner Darkly

Why this book?

The Philip K Dick novel I always recommend. Bob Arctor lives a double life as both an undercover narc and a slacker drug abuser, but the new drug Substance D is the most dangerous drug to find its way onto the streets, destroying the user's brain bit by bit until they are no longer able to recognise themselves. Based on Dick's own drug misadventures in the 1970s, it's a novel about "some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did."

A Scanner Darkly

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant sci-fi novel from one of the last century's most influential pop culture figures

Substance D - otherwise known as Death - is the most dangerous drug ever to find its way on to the black market. It destroys the links between the brain's two hemispheres, leading first to disorentation and then to complete and irreversible brain damage. Bob Arctor, undercover narcotics agent, is trying to find a lead to the source of supply, but to pass as an addict he must become a user, and soon, without knowing what is happening to him, he is as dependent as…


The True Game

By Sheri S. Tepper,

Book cover of The True Game

Why this book?

Within the lands of the True Game, humans possess specific 'talents', such as shape-shifting or telekinesis. Much like a planet-sized game of chess each player is utilised in great 'games' of war that ravage the planet. Enter Peter, a young necromancer, who must uncover the truth behind the disappearance of prominent gamesmen from the board.

Wildly clever and surprisingly touching, it's a novel I've read and re-read many times over the past 35 years.

The True Game

By Sheri S. Tepper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The True Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Cat's Cradle

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Cat's Cradle

Why this book?

Ice-nine is a substance that freezes any liquid water into more ice-nine, created for military use, and so obviously overpowered and out of control that any actual use of it would mean the end of the world as we know it. But humans, being the stupid, greedy beings that we are, will find a way...

Vonnegut wrote this novel in 1963 yet it remains as grimly relevant to the world of today. A true classic.

Cat's Cradle

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Cat's Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of America's greatest writers gives us his unique perspective on our fears of nuclear annihilation

Experiment.

Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global destruction preys on our deepest fears of witnessing Armageddon and, worse still, surviving it.

Solution.

Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in satire, spiders, and substance abuse?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about satire, spiders, and substance abuse.

Satire Explore 97 books about satire
Spiders Explore 10 books about spiders
Substance Abuse Explore 40 books about substance abuse

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Plague, A Clockwork Orange, and The Handmaid's Tale if you like this list.