14 Best Existential Sci-Fi Books To Read

In this article, I will be sharing with you the best Existential sci-fi books to read.

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1. The Martian by Andy Weir

books with existentialism

The Martian is definitely one of the best sci-fi books out there. It won Best Science Fiction Goodreads Award back in 2014 when it was published.

On a mission to Mars, Mark Watney became the first person to walk on the planet, but chances are he might never return home. After a dust storm separates him from the others and nearly kills him, he gets left behind by his crew who thought he was dead.

With the help of the limited supplies and damaged machinery, he must somehow send a message back to Earth and hope for a rescue mission. Relying on his determination to not die along with his engineering skills, he confronts one obstacle after another.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Existential Sci-Fi Books

As far as she can remember, Kathy’s entire world has been the English boarding school Hailsham where she grew up. She went from a small girl to a young woman without ever having much contact with the outside world.

Hailsham has strict rules and that involves having as little contact with the outside world as possible. But, now it’s time for her and her friends to enter the world, and for the first time in their lives, they realize the truth behind Hailsham.

3. Neuromancer by Willian Gibson

Henry Case is the best data thief in The Matrix, a world within the world. That is until he messed with the wrong people and they destroyed his nervous system, banishing him from the Matrix.

Now, a mysterious new client wants to hire him. The target is a powerful AI orbiting the planet and under the control of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a street samurai watching his back, he embarks on the most dangerous job of his career which could possibly be his last.

Willian Gibson’s Neuromancer is the most famous influence on The Matrix movies, so, if you’ve liked the movies, you’ll also love this book.

4. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

Existential Sci-Fi Books

A secret military space project has been sending signals into space to make contact with any possible alien lifeform advanced enough to catch the signals.

An alien civilization almost on the brink of extinction captures the signal and plans to take over Earth as their new home.

Some people want to welcome the alien civilization as they see the world as corrupt and believe that the aliens can lead them to salvation. While others want to fight the invaders and protect their home. Which side would win?

5. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

books with existentialism

It has been decades since humans abandoned Area X. Nature has claimed the area and now, humans plan to reclaim it. The first expedition they sent reported an Eden-like land ready for the taking, but the second group they sent committed mass suicide after returning.

Every group they sent to Area X somehow ended up dead after coming back, like the eleventh expedition which died of cancer within weeks of return. But, it’s too late to stop.

We follow the twelfth expedition group consisting of four women. Their mission is to collect data, map the area, and most important of all, survive.

6. Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Existential Sci-Fi

Humans discover a planet with a strange ocean as it could possibly be alive, but it seems to not care much about humans. So, they sent scientists to study the ocean and discover its secrets.

When scientist Kris Kelvin arrives on the planet Solaris to study the ocean, he discovers there’s something wrong with the other scientists. The ocean is hell-bent on torturing the humans who come to study it by showing them living ghosts from their past, and in his case, it’s his long-dead wife.

Before understanding aliens and the universe, humans must first understand themselves and what lies in their hearts.

7. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

In a world with all kinds of problems, George Orr is a peaceful and simple man who wants the best for everyone. He discovers that his dreams are changing reality itself and he’s the only one who can remember the original timeline.

To not cause any harm to the world, he seeks the help of psychiatrist William Haber who soon learns a way to control Orr’s dreams and change reality at his whims. At first, he uses it for the betterment of the world but soon, the greed for power and control takes over him.

Now, it’s up to Orr and his new friend Heather Lelache, a Black civil rights lawyer, to stop Haber’s quest for power.

8. Diaspora by Greg Egan

It’s the end of the 30th century and humanity has evolved beyond anyone could have imagined. Traveling through space at light speed is fairly easy now and humans are divided into three categories – fleshers, the true Homo sapiens without any altercations done to their bodies, Gleisners, robots with human brains, and polises, supercomputers with billions of human personalities stored in them.

Diaspora is the story of Yatima, a polis, and the discovery that could make humanity the most powerful being in the known universe.

9. Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Rant Casey escapes his small town home to move to the city and join an urban demolition crew called Party Crashing. He lives a short life as he soon dies in a highway crash, but before dying, he committed all kinds of cruel acts and he may have been the most efficient killer of his time.

We follow the people who knew Rant at one point or another and their testimony about his violent life, needed to show the world what kind of man he was and why he did everything he did.

10. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

This classic book by Harlan Ellison, first published in 1967, is a short book with only seven stories and a total of 134 pages.

The main story focuses on five unlucky people and an all-powerful artificial intelligence torturing them. The people have been living for hundreds of years and they will continue to for the rest of eternity.

11. Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson

Thomas Covenant is a selfish and self-loathing man and why wouldn’t he be? After everything that has happened to him, it makes sense. He became an outcast after contracting leprosy, his wife left him and took their son with her.

But, that changes when he finds himself in a new world. All of a sudden his illness is gone, he’s no longer an outcast. He’s now the reincarnation of this world’s greatest hero and possesses the mysterious power of White gold.

As the new hero, he must use this power to defeat the ancient evil, Lord Foul, terrorizing the lands.

12. All Our Wrongs Today by Elan Mastai

Tom lives in a different world than ours. In his world, humanity has created a techno-utopian paradise with flying cars and bases on the moon. But, he ends up losing this dazzling world after a time-traveling accident throws him into our version of 2016.

To him, this world is a dystopian wasteland that must be returned to how it was before his mistake. But, here he finds a new version of his life, his soulmate, and his career. It is a version he desires for.

What’s the right thing to do? Correct his mistake and lose the perfect life, or forge a new life in this world?

13. Evolution by Stephen Baxter

As the name of the book might suggest, Baxter takes us on a journey of human evolution starting from the very beginning, exactly sixty-five million years ago, when dinosaurs ruled the planet.

From there we track the human lineage through time and a path that ends with extinction for most species. Would it be the same for humanity?

14. Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear

A man wakes up on a spaceship hurtling through the emptiness of space. The ship, Hull 03, was headed to a new planet that would become the future home of humanity.

He was supposed to have the love of his life in his arms, instead, he finds himself on a spaceship, naked and freezing to death with no memories of who he is and where they’re going.

The spaceship is filled with monsters ready to eat him and the other passengers. He must survive with the help of fellow survivors and make it to their destination. But, maybe the humans he’s with are more dangerous than the man-eating monsters.

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