Gateway Sci Fi Books


When it comes to sci fi, I hardly consider myself an expert. I’ve just not been reading it all that long and haven’t ventured that deep into this space yet… which is (funnily enough) why I do think I’m in a good position to tell you what worked as gateway books to get me into the genre! Here are some of my first forays sci fi and the books I think newbies will get the most out of:

the martian

The Martian– this was one of the first books I ever read in the genre where I thought “huh I could really get into this”. Led by a strong voice and plenty of humour, this “oh shit I’m stuck on Mars let’s plant potatoes” book was a very pleasant adventure into outer space. While it will satisfy diehard sci fi fans with its scientific accuracy (or so I’m told), I personally was blown away by this character driven story and fell head over heels for the protagonist Mark Watney. From there, there really was no going back!

ender's game

Ender’s Game– after that I realised I had to try this classic bad boy and I wasn’t disappointed. If you’ve not read much of the genre, this classic is a great place to start. It definitely helped me find my footing (which is pretty hard to do when there’s less gravity about 😉 )

war of the worlds

War of the Worlds– okay I’m not exactly going in order of when I read them now, cos this might have been the first sci fi I picked up. Admittedly, I think this is very light on the scientific elements, but it more than makes up for that in its (rather advanced) philosophical musings.

shades children

Shade’s Children– going back in time further to a childhood favourite, this futuristic setting features kids just trying to survive in a bleak landscape… annnnd I don’t want to tell you anything more than that, because the twists and turns of the plot really make this story magnificent. But of course, it’s by the master himself, Garth Nix… so who’s surprised?!


Scythe– speaking of great concepts, the world building for this series has totally blown me away. I always appreciate a good dystopia and this is a particularly interesting take. Aside from great characterisation and plot, this does the job all speculative fiction should do by really making you think!


Lunar Chronicles– on a lighter note, these retellings are perhaps more in the fantasy realm… which is why I think they make the perfect gateway drug for more YA fans. Plus, there’s loads of adventure and romance- can’t go wrong!


The Illuminae Files– I think this series is single-handedly responsible for opening up the YA doors to a lot more sci fi- which is fantastic! Writing duo Kauffman and Kristoff really knocked it out of the park with this one- the layout alone is one of the most unique and brilliant experiences I’ve ever had with a book series. Totally worth the hype!

aurora rising

Aurora Rising– at this stage, I can’t really talk about one series without giving a mention to the other. For me, the more traditional format allows for some *out of this world* characterisation- I ended up completely digging the new gang! Plus, the story is action packed and explosive and everything you’d want in a space opera!

Red Rising Pierce Browns

Red Rising– on the topic of space adventures, you can’t go wrong with Brown’s series! Also, gonna point out it’s ROMANS IN SPACE- what more could you ask for?! I live for this series and cannot wait to read the next one!!


Skyward– this is one of the newest books on the list and I’m SO EXCITED to talk about it! I loved the first instalment and have such high hopes for where it’s headed! I also can’t stop singing the praises of the lead- Spensa is one of the best protagonists I’ve read in a long time- she’s such a knockout character! After this, I think it’s high time I read more Sanderson!

one word kill

One Word Kill– this is another newer series- but fortunately (for us fans) there are two books out already (and another set to come out in autumn- *squeeess*!!!) I’m loving every second of this dungeons and dragons themed time travel romp- not just for the characters and plot but for the complexity! It’s definitely opened the portal for greater interest in time travel books!

dark matter

Dark Matter– now this is quite similar with its time travel theme- and yet it’s handled so differently- it really does represent how multi-versed this subject is! And that leads me onto why sci fi is so great in the first place: there’s endless potential for something new out there!

So, what do you think about this list? Are you tempted to try any gateway sci fi? Have you got any books of your own to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

81 thoughts on “Gateway Sci Fi Books

  1. The Martian and Ender’s Game were some of the first adult (? not sure if Ender’s Game is considered adult tbh) sci-fi I ever read, and the rest is history! This is such a great list – I LOVED the Lunar Chronicles and Skyward, and Scythe, Illuminae, and Red Rising are on my eventual to-read pile 😀 I think these are all great books for people just getting into sci-fi!

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  2. I loved Skyward (can’t wait for Starsight) and Aurora Rising. I have problems with the illuminae files due to the format (it’s kind of being interrupted all the time). I really want to recommend you Honor Among Thieves! So unique!

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  3. I agree The Martian and The War of the Worlds are excellent sci-fi introductions. I would add Luke Smitherd’s The Stone Man, which is light on sci-fi elements as well. Character development and interesting prose are not its strength, but it is original and an amazing page turner (ideal in audio format).

    The rest are not familiar to me, but I would love to read Scythe at some point.

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  4. I love so many of these! The Martian is maybe the funniest book I’ve ever read, and definitely a great gateway into sci-fi. We all know how much I love Red Rising lmao and Dark Matter is such a great book!


  5. Yes! I love this topic! SciFi is a genre that I think a lot of people are scared to pick up, I know I was! Many of the books that made me fall in love with the genre are one this list- Red Rising, Dark Matter, The Martian, and Illuminae. Another great one if you just want to dip your toe in to the genre is The Sleeping Giants!

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  6. I appreciate all of these recommendations!! I’ve always said that I don’t really like sci-fi, however, I kinda enjoy ~certain~ dystopian novels, and I feel like that definitely falls under the sci-fi genre. So, I’ve come to the realisation that maybe I do like sci-fi, and as I’ve not read any of the titles on this list, I’m gonna have to give a few of them a go and see how I like them! Already thinking of getting into The Lunar Chronicles, so maybe I’ll ease into sci-fi with those x

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  7. I used to read stacks of sci-fi (started with Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke), but I don’t seem to have read any for ages! There are a few here I’m unfamiliar with so I’ll give them a try. Might I suggest, despite their age, John Wyndham’s books as a very gentle intro to sci-fi? I think they still hold up.

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  8. Old man here. Frank Herbert’s Dune series, the original Asimov Foundation Trilogy, Robert Heinlein’s short stories, pretty much anything from Philip K. Dick. Cut your science-fiction teeth on the true classics.


  9. These are some great choices 🙂 Weir and Card especially, from my perspective, although I would certainly add Asimov to the list, Heinlein and Bradbury. And Dick. There are so many classic writers that made me interested in the genre 🙂

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    1. Thank you 🙂 I have actually been meaning to read Asimov for a while, so I’m glad to hear it’s good. And Bradbury I’ve only read Fahrenheit 451- and love it!- so definitely want to read more 😀 Should really check out Dick and Heimlein too! That’s great!

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  10. I loved all your choices! I’m currently reading Aurora Rising right now and it’s FANTASTIC. Space opera is definitely a good way to describe the story! XD Unfortunately I started reading it right around classes starting, and now I don’t have time to finish it! Hopefully I’ll make some time to sit down and finish the book!

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  11. Yeah, this is such a vast genre that I will never claim to know anything about it even though I have read a fair amount.

    Didn’t read The Martian but I did see it in the theater and, like you, I was completely won over by the humor and lack of self-pity.

    I recommend Six Wakes (recent), Childhood’s End (a classic), and anything by Ursula Le Guin (which feels more like fantasy but is technically sci-fi because it all takes place on different planets with different types of humans that have evolved in the distant future).

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    1. Yeah I get what you mean.

      And it was a really fun film- very similar in tone to the book- and the lack of self-pity was definitely a winning quality 🙂

      Oh that sounds really good. And I have been meaning to check out Le Guin properly (only read a short story, but I don’t think that’s a fair metric cos it was set in her world and I didn’t know what was going on).

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      1. Yes, much of Le Guin’s stuff features kind of a steep learning curve for the reader. I can think of several short stories/novellas by her where I was kind of frustratingly disoriented at the beginning, but I hung on because I trusted her as a writer and I ended up completely loving the story by the end.

        It does improve if you continue to read short stories set in the same world (like an anthology about that world). Also, the Earthsea Trilogy doesn’t have this problem but I’d call it fantasy not sci-fi.

        I think that being disoriented feature is actually a consequence of her subtle world-building. She world-builds without a lot of info dumps, usually not telling the reader information unless that information would also interest the MC. So if to the MC it’s boring background information, the reader is kind of on his or her own to figure it out. This is how we’re told to do it, but she’s waaay on that end of the continuum and there is a cost in that it requires more patience from the reader.

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  12. I’ve only read a handful of these (Red Rising, One Word Kill, Dark Matter and Illuminae) but they are all great picks and entry level books.

    I always like to recommend books based on movies people have seen assuming they are fairly in track with each other.

    I think Crichton is a good gateway sci-fi author too. I feel like his stuff was always marketed as thrillers/horror- but he seems to have more science in his books than other science fiction I read.

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  13. Lovely list!! I still haven’t read the Martian, but it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while now! I did adore the movie with Matt Damon when it released a few years back. Ender’s Game was one of the first sci fi’s I ever read, and I thought it was PHENOMENAL! It’s such a spectacular story! I just recently read Illuminae, and I fell in love with it! I unfortunately wasn’t a huge fan of Aurora Rising or Skyward, but I think that was more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” problem. Haha. The Lunar Chronicles will always be one of my favorite series! Cinder truly helped fuel my interest in YA SFF! ❤

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    1. Thank you! Ah the movie was fun and very similar in tone 🙂 Ah glad you agree! It really was! Me too! Ah that’s fair. Oh glad you think so- I totally get what you mean- it was one of the very first books I read in the genre and didn’t even bat an eye at the sci fi elements (which might’ve put me off before that point) so it kind of made me realise this was something I could enjoy 🙂 ❤


  14. Great list. I’ve read most of these and second all of your recommendations. I have to confess to being one of those who keep saying they don’t read sci fi before realising most of the books I love could really be considered sci fi. The Hunger Games instantly springs to mind, it’s probably considered more of a dystopian but it is sci fi.

    I’d add to your list Invictus by Ryan Graudin for it’s time travel fun and pretty much any of Becky Chambers’ books which are space set but are all about the characters.

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    1. Thank you! Really glad you agree! hehe I do get what you mean! It took me ages to realise “oh I do really like this genre”, I just also think that I’m not so well versed to claim I am super knowledgeable about it (and yeah I considered including things like hunger games, but then thought the list could turn into purely dystopias, cos I’ve read a lot of those 😉 )

      Oh I really want to read Graudin- I liked her other series and have had Invictus on my radar a while 🙂


  15. Casually adding just about all of these to my Goodreads. The Martian was one of my first scifi books, too, and definitely a gateway one for me. It opened up a word of space fiction & nonfiction that I never thought I’d enjoy, and I’m so grateful to it for that!

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  16. This looks like a wonderfully varied list. I usually turn to @breakerofthings for my science fiction recommendation as he’s not let me down. Of your list, I really enjoyed Red Rising, have The Martian on my TBR pile & think this is the Dark Matter I was planning to read when I ended up mistakenly reading a ghost story! I shall have to put that little mistake right. 🙂

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  17. These look like some good choices. My personal gateway into sci-fi was short stories. I think those are a great way to start, because the authors don’t seem to go as deep with the science-heavy descriptions that seem to be most people’s barrier to entry. My favorite when I was younger was a collection called Where Do We Go From Here that was edited by Isaac Asimov and had stories by a lot of the sci-fi greats. Any of Connie Willis’ short stories would be another good option, as would N.K. Jemisin’s short story collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?

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    1. Thanks! Ah that’s fair- I haven’t read many of those, but have been planning on trying some short stories (especially by Asimov). And I really need to try Jemisin as well. Thanks for the recommendations 🙂


  18. I have Skyward on my tbr and I’m hoping for it to be a gateway into Brandon Sanderson’s other books because I’ve not read anything by him before. I know it is completely different to everything else he’s written but I want to start with Skyward because I am a little intimidated by his other works and this one does appeal to me on a sci-fi level.

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  19. Great list! I definitely think The Martian is a great gateway, it’s filled with sci-fi bits while also being entertaining. Cinder is a very great YA sci-fi, and also not too heavy on the sci-fi part. I’ve always wanted to read Aurora Rising.

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  20. I love sci-fi and time travel (hello, Doctor 😂), but I do realise that they can be daunting. You often need to reread (or rewatch) in order to understand what’s going on…which is what I’m doing with the book you sent me…but that’s half the beauty of it! A book I’d recommend is Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman (YA). A female time travel student makes friends with a non-binary, fellow student alien (actually, they form a telepathic link); lots of snark and humour ensue; they embark on a quest; and a grandfather’s paradox in reverse happens! Definitely more accessible than one would think from my description LOL.

    I’m going to investigate some of your books now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I think that was what I found tough at first- even though I liked some sci fi shows (hello Doctor 😉 ) Oh that sounds very interesting- I hadn’t heard of it before- good it’s accessible as well 🙂
      Awesome! Glad to hear it! 😀


  21. So even though I’ve only read one book off this list, I think I can safely say that you nailed this list!

    Off this list I’ve only read Dark Matter, which I read a few months ago and really enjoyed. I think it is a great book to get into sci-fi. Even though the sci-fi elements are fairly complex, Blake Crouch has this way of making complex theories very accessible to a wide audience.

    Most of these other books are already on my TBR and I cannot wait to get to them 🙂


  22. I’ve only read three of these, Dark Matter, Illuminae and Red Rising–I think they’re all great as intro for their individual categories of SF. They’re each a bit different, but still pretty accessible. Great picks!


  23. This is such a helpful list! I recently finished Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi (his first ever book I think) and would recommend that as a fun read for anyone getting into sci-fi. Also the Joe Ballen series by David M. Kelly. Great characters & plenty of snarky/cynical humor.

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  24. You should absolutely read Isaac Asimov’s stories as well! I’d recommend picking up the collection of short stories, The Complete Robot, after a couple in that book I was hooked on Asimov.


  25. Such good choices!! Ender’s Game was my gateway sci-fi book and ever since I read it I’ve picked up much more science fiction. It’s one of the few classics I recommend people start with (I get sick of people recommending Dune to newcomers… yes I know it’s a classic, but it’s also that dense old-school kind of sci-fi that is not very welcoming for newbies, so I think it’s better attempted once you’ve developed a taste for the genre). Nowadays I think I read almost as much sci-fi as I do fantasy.
    I really must finally read Scythe, and you’ve intrigued me about Skyward! I love Sanderson but I haven’t read that yet.


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