The best science fiction books about survival that even non-sci-fi fans will love

Who am I?

My favorite books are a mix of classics, scientific, and recent thrills. They are relatable, underdog personal stories of survival and how we fit into our world, which I think match well with After Mind. Many years ago, after reading the adapted screenplay for Blade Runner from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I fell in love with the idea of living a lot longer than humans are supposed to. Since then, I’ve worked in movie marketing, engineering design, and construction. Basically, I think humans need more time for all our dreams. I hope you enjoy these books for our road ahead. We’re on a lifelong journey and there’s a long way to go.


I wrote...

After Mind

By Spencer Wolf,

Book cover of After Mind

What is my book about?

After Mind is the story of a boy’s mind who wakes up in a computer and must figure out if he’s human or AI. He pieces together his identity through memories and imagination. We’re side by side at home, in the forest, and on a starship through space, discovering the past and exploring new worlds. Alive or AI, no one can ever be the same human twice. 

After Mind begins with the same sense of innocence and uncertainty as the main character, Packet. I hope you enjoy the discovery. After Minds humanness, entanglements, and resolution are what I found most rewarding to write. Maybe one day an AI will read it and find bits of fun, truth, and equally thrilling adventure.

The books I picked & why

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Project Hail Mary

By Andy Weir,

Book cover of Project Hail Mary

Why this book?

Project Hail Mary is a thrilling novel where the main character, Ryland, wakes up with no memory of who he is or how he got there, and he quickly realizes that he is the only hope for saving humanity from a dire threat.

The protagonist waking up at the beginning of the book reminded me of how I started my book. I was hooked as Ryland uses science to figure out who he is, and I loved how that thread of science takes on a life of its own. But most of all, I loved the crisp writing and how only two incredible characters with the will to live can lead an entire book. Get the characters right, and the rest will follow. Amazing, emotional journeys transcend science fiction.

Project Hail Mary

By Andy Weir,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Project Hail Mary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space…


Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Why this book?

Slaughterhouse-Five is a literary classic about a man who becomes "unstuck in time" and travels between different points in his life. The blending of grim reality with science fiction elevates the book above a single anti-war genre. I was so intrigued by the idea of reliving any moment of your life as non-linear events. Everything always has existed and always will.

Foreshadowing and free will are strong undertones. How much of life is designed and how much do we get to choose? Mixed timelines can be confusing, but often the end is worth the journey. After all, a lifetime’s worth of reality and imagination can be pieced together in strange and wonderful ways.

Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
 
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
 
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had…


Contact

By Carl Sagan,

Book cover of Contact

Why this book?

Contact explores the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and humanity's place in the universe. What I loved about Contact is what’s often overlooked in its common description. The contact being made is not only with life beyond Earth but also with those people most dear to us who we’ve loved and lost. This longing to reconnect fits perfectly with the idea of survival, not only for oneself, but for the memories of others.

Sagan's writing is wonderfully descriptive, and he does a masterful job of weaving together science, philosophy, and fiction to create a memorable story. We follow the main character, Ellie, from her first young thought to the openness of a universe of possibilities. The character development is strong, and the themes, including the search for meaning and the importance of communication, are beautifully explored.

Contact

By Carl Sagan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In December 1999 a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who - or what - is out there?


How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

By Ray Kurzweil,

Book cover of How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

Why this book?

How to Create a Mind is a fascinating non-fiction book that explores the intricacies of the human brain and the potential for creating artificial intelligence. It does an excellent job of weaving together scientific research, personal anecdotes, and philosophical musings. Powerful computers are essential to solving human longevity. So, I ask what if those computers need to be partly human themselves? I wish we could simply feed this book into an AI, let it know this is the blueprint to how our human minds work, then set it free to do its best creation. Make us into a human-computer that can live past our expectations. Whether fictional or real, this is a survival story that will leave even non-sci-fi fans with a lot to consider.

How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed

By Ray Kurzweil,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Create a Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bold futurist and bestselling author of The Singularity is Nearer explores the limitless potential of reverse-engineering the human brain

Ray Kurzweil is arguably today's most influential-and often controversial-futurist. In How to Create a Mind, Kurzweil presents a provocative exploration of the most important project in human-machine civilization-reverse engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works and using that knowledge to create even more intelligent machines.

Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the world's problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional…


Red Rising

By Pierce Brown,

Book cover of Red Rising

Why this book?

Red Rising is fast-paced science fiction that follows the journey of Darrow, a low-caste member of a society divided by color, as he rises up against the tyrannical rulers of his world. There’s a single sentence on the first page that I think bridges sci-fi with human emotion in such a striking way that I had to stop and say out loud, “If I were a publisher, I would buy this book right here, on this crazy-good concept alone because whatever comes next has got to be amazing.” The writing is engaging and immersive, and while set on Mars, the world-building is rich and detailed, and the characters are well-developed and complex. I read this book not only as a sci-fi story, but as a tale of real personal drama.

Red Rising

By Pierce Brown,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Red Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, BUZZFEED, GOODREADS AND SHELF AWARENESS

Pierce Brown's heart-pounding debut is the first book in a spectacular series that combines the drama of Game of Thrones with the epic scope of Star Wars.

**********

'Pierce Brown's empire-crushing debut is a sprawling vision . . . Ender, Katniss, and now Darrow' - Scott Sigler, New York Times bestselling author of Pandemic

'[A] top-notch debut novel . . . Red Rising ascends above a crowded dystopian field' - USA Today

**********

Darrow is a Helldiver. A pioneer…


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