Generally-speaking, science-fiction is a genre where authors are allowed to virtually take as many liberties as they want in regards to realism without adverse consequences, so long as they do it correctly of course. This makes sense, too: most authors aren’t well-versed in scientific fields, and studying them would take years which many people simply don’t have.
As such, we’ve come to accept most science-fiction novels as being relatively close to fantasy, and we inherently accept to suspend our disbelief when we choose to read them.
This has been the way until 1957 when John W. Campbell published Islands of Space. The term “hard science-fiction” was used to describe it in a review by P. Schuyler Miller, and things were never the same again.
Hard science-fiction novels make one of their primary concerns the maintenance of scientific accuracy and logic, no matter how futuristic or improbably any society or piece of technology might be. These novels lay a groundwork of hard realism to support their fantasy, to the point where they can feel as real and plausible as an actual peer-reviewed study.
Here you will find all types of hard science-fiction novels, from the classics of a few decades ago to modern bestsellers, as I try to single out the ones which really achieve an excellent balance between scientific accuracy, thought-provoking ideas, and relatable entertainment.
David Koepp has taken a long time to transpose his screenwriter’s talents into the form of a novel, but in 2019 he finally did so with his first published work of fiction, Cold Storage.
It tells the story of Roberto Diaz who once managed to contain an organism capable of causing a total extinction of humanity.
Decades later, the organism has found its way out of containment, and the old Diaz has only the night to try and contain it, with his help being two unwitting security guards.
Blake Crouch has shown a remarkable ability to put humanity into inconceivable scenarios, and in Recursion he does so once again, pitting it against a nigh-incomprehensible invader.
The story follows Barry Sutton, a New York cop tasked with investigating False Memory Syndrome, an affliction driving people mad with the memories of others.
Digging deeper, however, only brings him closer to a nearly-undetectable invader, dead-set on tearing apart the fabric of the past and unmaking the world.
Adrian Tchaikovsky has for a long time been a prominent figure in the realm of science-fiction literature, and for many the pinnacle of his work, so far at least, can be found in Children of Time, winner of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award.
It tells the story of humanity’s last remnants as they leave a dying Earth in search of a new home. The new planet they find is perfect at first sight, but hope quickly turns to despair as the lethal dangers of the unknown world begin rising to the surface.
Tom DeLonge and Andrew James Hartley have achieved quite a bit of success in their own respective fields, and thus their collaboration in writing Chasing Shadows was an intriguing turn of events to say the least.
In it, we are told the story of four different people who find themselves on a collision course with otherworldly alien technology.
Each one of them will have to make hefty choices in the face of powers which could either change the course of human history for the best, or wipe it off the face of the galaxy.
Tom DeLonge and AJ Hartley have begun a rather ambitious series not long ago, and with Sekret Machines Book 2: A Fire Within they have added a second entry to the saga of four connected people through time and space, marked by otherworldly alien powers.
Now bonded by what they have all witnessed, they find themselves hunted by the ruthless black suits.
While Alan and Barry test the limits of their powers in a military complex, Jennifer and Timika go on a quest for a tablet which may hold many more answers than humanity ever bargained for.
Cixin Liu has broken many frontiers in international science-fiction with his highly-acclaimed Three-Body Problem trilogy, and it seems the rest of the world couldn’t get enough as another one of his inventive novels received a translation, titled Ball Lightning.
In it, we follow the story of a young man who devotes his life to deciphering the unnatural phenomenon which took the life of his parents, the titular ball lightning.
His search, however, takes him to an entirely new frontier where generals, physicists and madmen pursue scientific discovery, no matter the cost.
Peter Watts has won a number of awards for his tremendously original science-fiction stories, and few exhibit this quality with the same aplomb as his novel The Freeze-Frame Revolution.
It follows a protagonist trapped on a starship with the intent of creating a massive human uprising.
The only problems? He’s only awake one day out of a million, his potential allies keep changing from one shift to the next, and he’s facing an enemy who never sleeps, can see and hear everything.
Is a successful revolution even possible under these circumstances, or is it yet another pipe dream for desperate humans?