Science-fiction thrillers are epic stories that span planets and focus on the line between humanity and machinery. They often comment on how science and technology dictate our lives.
Sci-fi thrillers blend the best things that science fiction and thrillers offer their readers: the fear of the unknown and the excitement of what is to come.
Best Science Fiction Thrillers
If you’re looking for novels with heart-racing plots that feature time travel, aliens, and futuristic technology, then this genre is right up your alley! Below are some of the best sci-fi thriller books to add to your reading list.
1. The Gone World By Tom Sweterlitsch
Shannon Moss is assigned to track down a missing teenager whose family has been brutally murdered.
To her shock, the main suspect is a former Navy Seal involved in a secret program presumed lost in time and space. To find answers, Moss jumps through time and learns that her mission may decide the fate of the world itself.
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A pandemic devastates the world’s population and ends civilization as we know it. Twenty years later, Kirsten and a band of performers travel between settlements to entertain people.
But when they arrive at a small town, they encounter a violent prophet who threatens their existence. As they disappear one by one, Kirsten discovers they are all connected by the lives they led before the world ended.
3. What’s Left Of Me By Kat Zhang
In an alternate reality, everyone is born with two souls. As people grow, these two souls take turns controlling the body. Eventually, one soul becomes dominant, the other recessive.
Addie and Eva are a rare case of two souls existing without one fading away. Now 15, both are struggling to share a body meant for only one. They have to keep it a secret, otherwise it can mean death for both of them.
4. Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie
In the vast Radch empire, ships are sentient and control numerous bodies called ancillaries. The Justice of Toren, in particular, is a colossal starship that controlled the minds of thousands of soldiers.
An act of treachery results in its destruction, reducing it to only one fragile human body. Seeking answers as to why it was betrayed, it won’t stop at anything to fulfill its vengeance.
5. Vurt By Jeff Noon
Society is a mess and many are desperate to escape reality. The most popular escape, Vurt is a virtual reality halfway between drugs and video games.
Desdemona is in the thrall of the Curious Yellow, the most dangerous type of Vurt of which there is no escape. Her brother, Scribble, will do anything to get her back, and is willing to pay anything.
6. Jack Four by Neal Asher
Jack Four is one of 24 clones created to be sold. His buyers, the alien Prador, only want him for one thing: experimentation.
But Jack’s different from other clones. He can think and learn despite these functions never being programmed into him. As he copes with his life of slavery, he turns his thoughts to one thing: escape.
7. The Luminous Dead By Caitlin Starling
Gyre Price lies her way into a gig that offers a fat paycheck. The job requires mapping out a half-submerged cave system and wearing a suit for weeks without taking it off.
However, her boss, Em, has a different agenda and is not above drugging, blackmailing, and threatening Gyre for the mission. And Em’s far from the only dangerous thing in the caves.
8. Rabbits by Terry Miles
Rabbits is a dangerous game but many still try to enter. Rumors of the rewards range from riches to immortality.
But something’s gone wrong with the game. K is hired to fix it before the next game starts. If he fails, then the whole world pays the price.
9. Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton
It is the year 2204 and humanity is rapidly expanding across the universe. The development of warp gates has made travel between every human-settled planet instantaneous.
A derelict spaceship is discovered and a team is sent to investigate. What they discover raises questions that could predict humanity’s demise.
10. The Gun Machine By Warren Ellis
Detective John Tallow survives a shootout that leads to the discovery of an apartment full of guns. Each gun can be traced to an unsolved murder from the past decade; an altar of sorts to what could be the city’s most prolific killer.
As Tallow works to catch the killer, he uncovers a conspiracy that enabled the rise of some of the city’s most prominent figures.
What Is a Sci-Fi Thriller?
A science-fiction thriller is the result of blending two genres (science fiction and thriller) into one narrative.
Science fiction is characterized by futuristic technology being a prominent aspect of its storytelling. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and space travel are common elements of this genre.
Thrillers bank on excitement and anxiety to keep you at the edge of your seat. These kinds of stories often center on how characters act once the danger is established.
Sci-fi thrillers take these two components to create a new type of narrative, one that drops characters into high-risk situations that unfold in epic proportions.
Human flaws such as moral corruption and pride are explored alongside the rise of technology. There is an emphasis on how both sides feed on each other, often to the disadvantage of humanity.
A good sci-fi thriller blends fiction with credible reality. Though most are set in the far future, they feature one consistent subject: the ability of people to become good and evil through the choices they make.
Cole is a blog writer and aspiring novelist. He has a degree in Communications and is an advocate of media and information literacy and responsible media practices. Aside from his interest in technology, crafts, and food, he’s also your typical science fiction and fantasy junkie, spending most of his free time reading through an ever-growing to-be-read list. It’s either that or procrastinating over actually writing his book. Wish him luck!