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Top 10 Science Fiction Audio Books

One thing to keep in mind when picking an audio version is the production quality – e.g. I have encountered a few versions of Dune books I simply could not finish due to a monotonous or uninformed narrator.

Here is my top 10 list of books that do have great audio versions (some even with multiple narrators and music), along with corresponding links on Audible.

1. Frank Herbert: Dune Classic Series (6 books)

This original series containing Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune is perhaps one of the most profound and well written works of science fiction I have ever encountered.

Strong elements of philosophy and religion – combined with great writing. Where other writers tell the story, Frank Herbert shows it.

2. Dan Simmons: Hyperion Cantos (4 books)

Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion. As profound and memorable as Dune, the writing again near to perfect. Where Dune uses Near-Eastern inspired philosophy as a building block, Simmons pulls the reader/listener into a masterful transformation of the romanticist John Keats’ poetic legacy.

Very relevant references for present-day questions regarding the transformation and consumption of media as well as the interdependence of man and machine.

3. Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game (4 books)

Ender’s Game, Speaker of the Dead, Xenocide, Ender’s Shadow

Very popular, contemporary, again emotionally very engaging and well written. For me, especially books 2 and 3 were very powerful.

4. Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon

View Cryptonomicon on Audible

Not really science fiction, but a must-listen for computer scientists. A great novel interweaving stories in WW2 and the present day, with emphasis on cryptology and wide-spread hacker appeal.

5. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash

View Snow Crash on Audible

A great cyberpunk novel introducing the metaverse (inspired Second Life). Often surprising and funny, but also profound.

6. Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End

View Childhood’s End on Audible

An early Clarke novel, perhaps foolishly aspiring in trying to introduce one too many paradigm shifts in a few hours, but nonetheless thought provoking and a must-listen.

7. Neal Stephenson: Diamond Age

View Diamond Age on Audible

A novel about a young lady’s illustrated primer – contains a lot of visionary technological ideas and loads of good Stephenson writing.

8. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Mote in God’s Eye

View the Mote on Audible

Where Niven is good at dangling the carrot, Pournelle adds some excellent plotting in this very classical sci-fi novel. Hard sci-fi.

9. Larry Niven: Ringworld (2 books)

Ringworld, Ringworld’s Children

As with Mote, Niven’s novels are a bit blunt and straight-forward when compared to more profound masterpieces such Dune and Hyperion (at least in my opinion). But he definitely makes up with story-telling and just pure hard sci-fi.

10. Neal Stephenson: Anathem

Anathem on Audible – the link does not seem to work in Europe at the moment

At number 10 just because I have not managed to get through it. The premise has drawn me since before its release, so I will perhaps have to revisit this list once I am through.

That’s it – my top 10 sci-fi list for 2010.

I have been a fan of classic science fiction far longer than I have been listening to audio books, so I knew most of these books before getting an audio version.

A lot of people I know told me that they are not able to draw equal enjoyment from an audio book, especially not with fiction.

For me, the experience is very equal and I will often switch from audio to text and back in the middle of a single book, based solely on convenience (e.g. if I am traveling, enjoying the sun on a beach or jogging).

What is your top 10 sci-fi list? Am I missing a must-read/listen?

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Comments (24)

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  2. Calum

    I think you should put Isaac Asimov's Foundation series near the top of this list, is a masterpiece of sci-fi and the reading by Scott Brick read makes it great to listen to.

  3. Robert

    Anything by Neil Gaiman. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite between American Gods or Anansi Boys.

  4. Cassiusduke

    I am nearing the end of EE Doc Smiths Lensman series Read by Reed McColm. Its a lovely series and well worth a listen.

  5. Noirlecroi

    Good list…but should almost be a list of 10 classic audiobook experiences.  I would definitely add the series by Alistair Reynolds and Peter Hamilton.  I'm constantly trying to recreate the fun of listening to those 90+ hour trilogies trying to recreate the fun of listening to those 90+ hour trilogies

  6. Tadej Gregorcic

    Yes, the post is a year old and I would definitely add at least the Commonwealth and Void sagas in the mean time. Thanks for the Alistair Reynolds tip!

  7. Montag00

    Totaly agree about the Dune series and the narration being dull for some of the later 3 books

  8. Simon Hartman

    I much prefer American Gods to Anansi Boys.

    My favourite Sci-fi audio is definitely The Forever War, written by Joe Haldeman. I haven't seen it in any of these 'top sci-fi audiobooks' lists, and am truly surprised. It blew me away (my copy performed by George Wilson, who takes a bit of getting used to though).

  9. Andy Young

    my top 10 sci – fi audio books are :
    1. The way station – Clifford.D.Simack
    2.City – Clifford.D.Simack
    3.The forever War/Forever Peace – Joe Haldeman
    4.Childhoods End _ Arthur c clarke
    5.Shadow over insmouth/Whisper in the dark – H.P.Lovecraft
    6.Surface Tension – James Blish
    7.Convergance – Charles Sheffield
    8.Selected stories of Philip.K.Dick (Volumes 1 & 2)
    9.The humanoids – Jack Williamson
    10.Farewell to the master – Harry bates

  10. Porobot

    I agree completely, hyperion is propably best book in general for my taste and Rama may be mostly sci fi tourism but those vistas are spectacular.

  11. Sidnaw

    My list of 10, not in order of preference — some more fantasy than science fiction

    Brief History of the Dead – Kevin Brockmeir
    Soon I will be invincible – Austin Grossman
    Contact – Carl Sagan
    Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi
    The Road – Cormac McCarthy
    Most of the Jack McDevitt books
    More than human – Theodore Sturgeon
    A fire upon the deep – Vernor Vinge
    The Dying Earth – Jack Vance
    Stardust – Neil Gaiman

  12. Anthony

    Thanks for the list! (I know I’m late finding it.) I’ve listened to about half and read a few more in print. I might have to try Stephenson again at your suggestion. I listened to Anathem and thought it was a total bore.

  13. Andy Phillips

    No one has said Robert A Heinlein
    stranger in a strange land – 1961
    the moon is a harsh mistress – 1966
    starship troopers – 1959
    yes it’s the space bug movie, and yes it’s a must read

  14. Antigone

    Very nice! I have absolutely loved listening to The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, along with the other four books in the series. The first is read wonderfully by Stephen Fry and the rest by Martin Freeman :) I highly recommend!

  15. David Levin

    Ender’s Game is definitely one of my favorite Sci-Fi reads ever. I didn’t care for the sequels in the Ender series but the Shaddow series is an amazing follow up.

  16. Kevmo

    Foundation (1-3)
    Speaker for the dead
    Childhoods end
    Stranger in a strange land
    Hyperion
    Dune
    Those are my favorites, any suggestions on others and where to buy them?

  17. Max

    I’m so glad Sidnaw included Vernor Vinge. “Fire…” and “Deepness in the Sky” are some awesome examples of an author creating new alien species in cool and different ways.
    And for romping good times across the Milky Way you just can’t go wrong with Peter F. Hamilton’s space operas. Each series gives you a few thousand pages (or 100 hours) of steamy, action packed, brain candy.
    In the same vein, Iain M. Banks culture series is full of fun, stand alone, quality sci-fi. But several are kind of sad as well (“Use of Weapons”, for example) and can be hard to follow in audio form if you’re multi-tasking.

  18. Ed

    1. Frank Herbert: Dune Classic Series (6 books)

    Excellent

    2. Dan Simmons: Hyperion Cantos (4 books)

    Excellent

    3. Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Game (4 books)

    I quit reading it.

    It wasn’t just that the author made clear his profound ignorance of rudimentary science.

    It was that he did so in a juvenile and nonsensical passage, in a manner suggesting that anyone not sharing his silly perception is an idiot.

    He might as well have insisted that anyone not subscribing to the flat-Earth “theory” is an idiot, while embellishing this conclusion with drivel.

    4. Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon
    5. Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash
    7. Neal Stephenson: Diamond Age
    10. Neal Stephenson: Anathem

    Haven’t read the first three.

    After checking out Anathem, I avoided this author.

    Perhaps Anathem gets better, but the opening passages are boring, and don’t seem to be leading anywhere.

    6. Arthur C. Clarke: Childhood’s End

    Some interesting aspects, but not my cup-of-tea. I’ll omit specifics to avoid potential spoilage.

    8. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Mote in God’s Eye

    Maybe the best pure, hard sci-fi I’ve ever read.

    9. Larry Niven: Ringworld

    Couldn’t get into it.

    Long, boring build-up in which nothing much happens.

    Maybe the story gets good later.

    COMMENT

    Almost anything by Heinlein, and Asimov’s Foundation series are much better than anything on this list, except Dune and The Mode in God’s eye (well, I haven’t read most of the Neal Stephenson works).

  19. Tadej Gregorcic

    @Ed:

    It’s been more than 4 years since I posted this, and I agree with a lot of what you’re saying.

    Re Stephenson, I would start with Snow Crash and Diamond Age.

    I have read The Foundation Series since and would definitely include it in the list now (perhaps in stead of Ender’s Game, which although I still find quite good).

    I would also recommend Peter F. Hamilton,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_Saga#Judas_Unchained,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Void_Trilogy,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night%27s_Dawn_Trilogy.

  20. CyberTroll

    I would start with Snow Crash. it has the best chance of hooking you in. I have read all of Stephensons work and would say he is my most enjoyed author. Anathem being my faveorite out of his works. If you look at an audiobook like a movie. the first 8-10 hours of a 40 hour audiobook are like the first 20-30 minutes of a two hour movie. I find that, a lot of times, people give up after an hour or two but that doesn’t really give the book a fair shake.

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