The best “what if” books in science fiction

Laurence E. Dahners Author Of Quicker (an Ell Donsaii Story #1)
By Laurence E. Dahners

Who am I?

As a surgeon and scientist who has had a lifelong interest in science and science fiction, I can’t help being fascinated by “what if” questions, especially as regards the impact of inventions on human society and the world. As an optimist, I tend to enjoy exploring inventions that benefit mankind much more than those that bring on an apocalypse.


I wrote...

Quicker (an Ell Donsaii Story #1)

By Laurence E. Dahners,

Book cover of Quicker (an Ell Donsaii Story #1)

What is my book about?

What if a girl was born with a nerve mutation that made her faster and smarter than normal humans? What if she turned out to be an extraordinarily dangerous, yet decent, kind, generous, and creative, human being?

What if her ability to understand the math underpinning quantum mechanics let her improve our world with inventions that change almost everything?

The books I picked & why

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A Fire Upon the Deep

By Vernor Vinge,

Book cover of A Fire Upon the Deep

Why this book?

This fascinating book asks “what if” someday we were to meet aliens who form group minds of three to eight individuals whose minds are connected into a collective intelligence by ultrasonic data transfer? With too few individuals such group minds wouldn’t be very smart. Minds with too many individuals would tend to be troubled by internal conflicts. 

When two group minds get too close to one another, the ultrasonic messaging from one confuses the other’s group mind. 

There are many other “what ifs” explored, including the idea that technology and brains work better in some areas of the galaxy, a possible explanation for why aliens don’t visit us—because Earth’s in a “slow” zone.

In all, it’s a story filled with interesting things to think and wonder about.


The Peace War

By Vernor Vinge,

Book cover of The Peace War

Why this book?

This riveting tale asks “what if” a future technology allows the “bobbling” of spherical volumes of invincible space within which time is stopped. In a misguided effort to stop a war, the Peace Authority bobbles military groups and war-making machinery all around the world with unexpected consequences. 

But, for me, the stars of the show are the bobbles themselves, especially when they unexpectedly start popping, releasing people, war machines, and exploding bombs that have been in stasis for decades. 


One Second After

By William R. Forstchen,

Book cover of One Second After

Why this book?

“What if” someone attacked the United States with nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons? Such weapons don’t cause a lot of destruction or radiation but the pulse fries electronic devices, especially small and delicate ones. What would happen? Hint, modern cars would stop working. This story leaves you pondering how greatly our society and ourselves depend on delicate electronics….


Far Seer

By Robert J. Sawyer,

Book cover of Far Seer

Why this book?

This book asks “what if,” on another world dinosaurs evolved intelligence. What if they were discovering the same things about the universe that humans such as Galileo and Copernicus discovered here on Earth? How would their path of discovery be influenced by their biological differences and the fact that their world orbits a gas giant?


The Last Policeman

By Ben H. Winters,

Book cover of The Last Policeman

Why this book?

A science fiction mystery that asks “what if” we knew the apocalypse was coming—in this case because for six months before the impact we knew an asteroid was going to hit the Earth. You might expect—and you’d probably be right—that society would fall apart when everyone expects to die. You might hope that farmers might stay in their fields to feed us in our last days. But, what if one of the few people who stay on the job is a policeman trying to solve a murder?


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