genetic engineering sci-fi books

23 Must-Read Genetic Engineering Sci-Fi Books [2023 Updated]

One of the most popular and one of my personal favorite sci-fi tropes is genetic engineering. Sure, spaceships and aliens are amazing as well, but genetically enhanced people with all kinds of abilities are the best way to create a super interesting world unlike ours.

Without further ado, here are some of the Best Genetic Engineering sci-fi books for you to read…

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1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Must-Read Genetic Engineering Sci-Fi Books

The world is at war with an alien species which is hell-bent on destroying humans. Genetically modified Andrew Ender may be the military genius humanity needs to win this war.

He must endure harsh training from the age of six, destroy the child in him, and find the genius strategist inside.

But, he’s not the only result of the genetic experimentation. His siblings are also just as good as him and they have their own plans that would change the destiny of Earth and all the people in it.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The world has finally created the “perfect” society in which children are created in machines and women don’t get pregnant anymore. The concept of family is considered disgusting and sexual acts in public are considered normal.

People are divided into castes and their future jobs depend on their caste. Children born in the lower class are taught to hate books and are designed to do physical work in the future.

The book follows some people who are not “normal” in this society. Which one would you choose, freedom or perfection?

3. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Scientists discovered an astonishing method to use the DNA of dinosaurs and clone them, and so, the dinosaurs were revived in the modern world. A park called Jurassic Park is created where all the newly created dinosaurs are kept and people can visit them.

But, when a power failure leads to the dinosaurs getting free and running loose, people start dying and it is up to a touring paleontologist to protect a couple of kids and find a way to get out of the Jurassic Park alive.

4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

The story is told from the perspective of Snowman, formerly known as Jimmy, living in a world where genetic engineering has led to the destruction of the human race and he may be the last human left.

Using genetic engineering, powerful corporations created the newer generation of humans to be physically flawless, devoid of emotions like envy, jealousy, joy, and sexual desire.

As the story progresses, we learn how the world came to be like this and how Snowman also played a part in it.

5. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kathy grew up in a boarding school called Hailsham, never knowing who her parents were or even having any contact with the outside world.

She finally leaves the school along with her friends Ruth and Tommy and realizes that they are not prepared for the world. They soon understand the truth about what Hailsham actually is and why the teachers always told them that they were “special”.

6. Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev will be killed and their organs will be transplanted into someone else.

In a world gone mad, a law was passed that children must not get hurt from the moment of conception until the age of thirteen, but thirteen to eighteen-year-olds can be “unwound” by their parents which means their organs will be taken out and transplanted.

Connor’s parents want him to be unwound. Risa and Lev are in a similar boat, so, they run away from the world itself. Can they survive on their own?

7. Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway

Cal Sounder works on special cases that are too sensitive for the police to handle, which is why he’s surprised when he’s called to the scene of a murder in a local apartment, but he soon learns why they called him.

The murdered man is 7 feet tall and looks barely above 30 years old but is actually ninety-one years old. He is a Titan, a genetically engineered human with extraordinary strength, durability, and near-immortality.

What could have possibly killed a Titan? It is up to him to solve the case but some people are not keen on him looking into things he should stay away from.

8. The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

Max Ride and her five friends have all kinds of superhuman abilities like the ability to fly that she possesses.

But someone is hunting them. They don’t know why or who’s hunting them. They don’t know why they have superpowers while no other humans seem to have them. One thing they do know is that they must run from whoever’s after them.

Do they have a higher purpose like saving the world or are they the ones meant to destroy it?

9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Genly is sent as an envoy to the alien world of Gethen to persuade its people to join a growing galactic alliance called the Ekumen Union.

The only problem is the Gethian people don’t have a gender and he’s a proud male who doesn’t feel comfortable around them since it’s a concept foreign to him.

To complete his mission, he must first change his views and start understanding their culture which is the completely opposite of his. Maybe his new Gethian friend Estraven can help him.

10. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

After visiting his wife’s grave, the only thing left for 75-year-old John to do is join the military, but not the regular one.

Humanity has been fighting a war in space against an alien race and they don’t want young people, they want old people with the experience and skills necessary. Their weak bodies are not an issue since they can be upgraded using genetic engineering.

For the next two years, he will serve at the front line and if he survives, he gets his own piece of land on one of the hard-won Earth colonies.

11. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The last living members of the human race left the dying planet in a spaceship, looking for a new home. Fortunately, they discover a terraformed planet fit for humanity that was abandoned a long time ago.

But, the world is not exactly waiting for them unoccupied. Years since the planet was abandoned, new masters have taken control of the world.

How will their first contact turn out since both civilizations would do anything to guarantee their survival and become the heirs to this new Earth?

12. The One: A Novel by John Marrs

Match Your DNA promises to find your soulmate by simply taking your DNA and finding the one you’ve been made for.

The company has helped many people find their soulmate but it has also led to many breakups and now, dating, romance, and love are seen as old fashioned.

The story focuses on five very different people who recently received the notification from Match Your DNA that they’ve been matched and they can now meet their soulmate. But, every person has secrets even your soulmate, and some are more shocking than you can imagine.

13. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

An unforeseen catastrophe signs the death warrant for every species on Earth. Nation throughout the world comes together to make sure humanity survives by leaving the planet, but they underestimated the unpredictability of human nature and in the end, only a handful of people made it off the planet and everyone else perished before it got destroyed.

Five thousand years have passed since then, and seven distinct descendant races of the remaining humans embark on a journey to settle on an alien planet terraformed by nature for human survival, the planet formerly known as Earth.

But, even though most of the people who stayed on Earth died, some survived.

14. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Set in a future where consciousness can be stored and transfered into new bodies, convict Takeshi Kovacs is released from prison and his consciousness is downloaded into a nicotine-addicted thug.

The person who had him released from prison is a billionaire whose previous body was recently murdered and he wants Takeshi to solve the murder. If he can catch the murderer, he gets to be free but, he soon learns that a huge conspiracy underlies the murder and stretches across the space.

There’s also a great Netflix show called Altered Carbon based on this book with a 7.9 rating on IMDb. If you like the book, you can also check out the show.

15. Upgrade by Blake Crouch

A gene-editing tool called Scythe has been created that can give people unimaginable abilities.

When Officer Logan Ramsey gets caught up in an explosion, his hazmat suit punctures and he gets infected by a virus similar to Scythe. But after some mild fever, the doctors inform him that the virus is gone from his body.

Soon, he starts seeing things differently than he used to. He can now retain information much better, solve complex problems, and even move faster than he could before.

Someone used him as a guinea pig and things will only get crazier for him from here on out.

16. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

The Culture, a peaceful society of humanoid people, has given the world many great Game Players. Among them is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, one of the best game players, a master of every board game, and computer game. He knows every strategy possible and is extremely bored with success.

So, he decides to travel to the Empire of Azad to try their famous game. A game so amazing that the winner becomes the next Emperor. After getting almost killed on the planet, he decides to take on the impossible challenge that might just become his last.

This is the second book in the Culture series by Iain Banks. You should also check out the first book which focuses on a mercenary group in the same universe.

17. Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

Lilith had just lost her family when an atomic war threatened to destroy the entirety of human civilization.

Hundreds of years later, she wakes up on an alien ship piloted by the aliens called Oankali. They had saved several humans at the last minute and were keeping them asleep as they studied Earth.

They need humans as they survive by taking over the body of a host and living on their planet, and the humans don’t get a say in it. Now, they want Lilith to lead them back to her home planet. Earth will once again have humans on it but they’re not what they used to be.

18. To be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Instead of simply terraforming planets to suit their needs, scientists decided to terraform people to better suit the planets.

Ariadne is one such astronaut who has been modified. Most of the time she sleeps as the spaceship heads to their next planet, and each time she wakes up with new abilities.

Back on Earth, society is changing every day. The next time she wakes up, she may find that her home country is no more or that some cult has taken over the world, but none of that matters since her only goal is to collect data and send it back home.

19. Blindsight by Peter Watts

Two months ago, thousands of alien objects surrounded Earth. Everyone on Earth waited for the aliens to make contact but nothing. There is also some object outside the solar system sending a signal to some distant star.

So, humans decided to make first contact. But, who do you send to meet aliens? A woman with sentient processing cores as a brain, a vampire brought from the dead, a modified man who can see X-rays, and you send some more freaks and misfits who might be more alien to humans than the ones in space.

20. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

A biotech organization called The Company experimented and tortured a bear named Mord until he grew wings because of the experimentation and escaped by flying.

Rachel works as a scavenger and one day finds a small green lump-like creature and names it Borne. She manages to convince her lover Wick to let her keep him and not sell him in the illegal market.

But, Wick is keeping secrets from her. He has built their home exactly like The Company’s layout and he won’t tell her what happened when he used to work for the company. All of it is somehow connected to Borne.

21. Nexus by Ramez Naam

A drug called Nexus has changed the very way people look at science and humans. It can link people’s minds together and enhance their brains.

Some people want to improve the drug, some want to destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands, and some want to exploit it. When a scientist is caught trying to improve the drug, he’s forced into a world of danger.

22. Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh

Ariane II becomes a brilliant scientist and rises to power on Cyteen but who is she supposed to trust when her predecessor and genetic duplicate Ariane I was murdered by one of her trusted advisors?

Filled with murder and politics, the first novel in the Cyteen trilogy is one of C.J. Cherryh’s best works.

23. Upgrade Soul by Ezra Clayton Daniels

Upgrade Soul is a graphic novel both written and illustrated by Ezra Daniels.

Hank and Molly Nonnar decide to undergo an experiment called “cell cleansing” that can give them back their youth, extend their life, and give them physically superior bodies.

But, the scientists left out one important detail about the experiment, it’s not their bodies that are being modified, instead, they are being cloned. To make matters worse, the experiment goes horribly wrong.

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