Best Hard Science Fiction Books

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I chose not to attempt to rank these books. Instead, I just present a list of some of the best hard science fiction books that I am aware of in no particular order. I am only including one book per author, although most of these authors have multiple excellent books in this category.

Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds

Revelation Space weaves together three story lines into a spectacular space opera: An archeologist who has discovered evidence that an ancient civilization was far more advanced than previously thought, the crew of the Nostalgia for Infinity who are desperate to find the archaeologist believing that he alone can cure a disease that afflicts the ship's captain, and an assassin seeking to infiltrate the Nostalgia for Infinity.

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Foundation - Isaac Asimov

Foundation grapples with the possibility that one day science may be able to predict the future. The master of this field of study (called psychohistory) comes to realize that the future of the species is in peril and endeavors to retreat out to the edges of the galaxy with a team of brilliant minds from which he might launch efforts to steer the course of the galaxy towards a softer landing.

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Ringworld - Larry Niven

Ringworld is a fascinating story about an oddball collection of individuals that are recruited by a highly advanced, but timid, alien species to investigate a discovery that could have serious implications for all life in the known universe. What they discover is both alien and familiar and Mr. Niven uses that plot as a vehicle to tell an adventure tale while at the same time engaging in some fascinating distant future speculation.

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Accelerando - Charles Stross

Accelerando spans from the near future to the very distant future. That format gives Mr. Stross an excellent format to explore both the implications of technology on humanity that we can already see starting to take shape around us and the possible implications advancing technology could have on humanity over the very long haul and he does it in a very cohesive, entertaining, fashion.

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Spin - Robert Charles Wilson

Spin has a simple and tantalizing premise- one day, all the stars blink out. Nothing else appears to change and humanity spends years trying to figure out how something so seemingly impossible could have happened. The book is partly about how humanity responds to the rationally impossible and partly a story about humanity's quest to understand what happened.

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A Fire Upon The Deep - Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep's plot is engaging and entertaining, but what really stands out about the book is the creative setting- the galaxy, it turns out, is stratified into rings centering on the galactic core, and in each ring, different rules of physics prevail. The closer in to the core one is, the slower things- in particular, thoughts- move. The concept is oddly scientific while at the same time being scientifically absurd, and the bizarre universe Mr. Vinge creates opens up a wealth of creative opportunities for an exciting story.

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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is story about the rebellion of the moon colony against the control of Earth. It is full of Mr. Heinlein's libertarian views, but not to the extent that it undermines the exciting story. The book takes the reader through the entire process from the origins of an underground rebellion to the eventual military conflict between the liberated moon and Earth.

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The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson

The Diamond Age is ostensibly about a girl learning about the world from an incredibly sophisticated book designed to tutor the children of the elites. Using this storyline, Mr. Stephenson takes us through a vast and complex picture of a future dominated by nanotechnology and explores the implications it might have for life, relationships and knowledge.

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Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars explores the initial colonization of Mars. The plot carries the reader through the trip to Mars and the establishment of an initial colony. Much of the plot grapples with very different sets of ideological views regarding terraforming as well as sociological issues related to the colonization of another planet. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the book is Mr. Robinson's close attention to scientific detail.

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