The best books to make you think, think, & rethink evolution (human, animal & alien)

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by both evolution and sentience. The debates ranging about them, endless research, personal suppositions, all of it. I view Sci-Fi written in the same vein as the works below as a means for scientists/writers to draft their own thoughts about evolution and sentience, almost philosophically and not wholly restrained by pieces of information (just or far) beyond our grasp. My own writing often focuses on both topics too, especially the standalone Siouca Remembers – in which two species, one just having evolved to sentience, intermingle for the first time. Amongst many other books, Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, is a wonderful non-fiction complement to this.

I wrote...

Siouca Remembers

By James Murdo,

Book cover of Siouca Remembers

What is my book about?

“The quest to unlock the secrets of interstellar travel leads a Roranian crew on an epic journey across space. Saved by a dying machine-lect, stranded in a failing ship, faced with an ultimate choice. Were they too eager in their attempts to reach the stars?” If you enjoy Space Opera, and authors such as Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds and Dan Simmons, then Siouca Remembers is for you.

"An epic sci-fi fantasy!… intricate tales begin to mesh to create a final outcome that is fantastic and startling! Very well written!" – Bookbub reviewer

The books I picked & why

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Children of Time

By Adrian Tchaikovsky,

Book cover of Children of Time

Why this book?

This book made me question my own arachnophobia, and that’s saying something. Sentient spiders evolving physiologically and socially both terrified and reassured me. This is a case of anthropomorphisation (did I spell that right?) done bang on. Tchaikovsky takes us on a Sapiens-esque journey of evolution for a species that we all know, albeit with a foreign intellect, and makes us actually root for them…spiders! 


By David Brin,

Book cover of Sundiver

Why this book?

(Admittedly a series, not one book.) These represented a memorable introduction for me to the notion of patron species “uplifting” (genetically engineering) client species to improved sentience. A key example is the uplifting of dolphins by humans. We are introduced to many variants of dolphin evolutionary efforts, and the struggles involved in uplifting. There are also many examples of aliens uplifting other aliens, so you won’t be disappointed by the variety offered by David Brin. Added to that, I contacted him after publishing my first book, and he was gracious and encouraging in his reply, so I’m biased.


By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Seveneves

Why this book?

This is an intriguing foray into the potential evolution of our own species into many sub-species. We are taken on a journey of evolutionary discovery. I was absorbed in understanding the characteristics of the sub-species Neal Stephenson wove into the story. Whilst very different, in terms of exploring evolutionary offshoots of our own species, Seveneves reminded me of HG Wells’ The Time Machine.


By J.P. Landau,

Book cover of Oceanworlds

Why this book?

This is a harder-SF book that deals with the near-term search for life in our solar system. What I found great about Landau’s writing is that everything seems incredibly realistic, well thought out, and researched. The life that is found is not a carbon copy of our own (hint, hint), and has come through an altogether different evolutionary pathway. This book made me want to go back to university and study anything that would get me into space.

Project Hail Mary

By Andy Weir,

Book cover of Project Hail Mary

Why this book?

Project Hail Mary packs a great deal of scientific detail. However, that’s a good thing, since we learn a lot about Andy Weir’s thoughts (via this story) on “what could semi-realistically be out there.” We deal with the quest to understand life outside our solar system, and are introduced to the very interesting biology of the lifeform “Rocky,” as well as other more cellular alien life. I was left wanting to know more about Rocky and his Eridian civilization. 

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