Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction, usually dealing with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific, social, and technological innovations.

Philosophical science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction that explores the nature of philosophy itself. These books are usually more concerned with ideas than with action or plot.

How Science Fiction and Philosophy Come Together?

Science fiction and philosophy have always had a close relationship. Many of the most famous science fiction stories are actually allegories for philosophical ideas. Even today, there are many popular science fiction novels that explore deep philosophical concepts.

One of the best examples of this is Frank Herbert's Dune. This classic science fiction novel is also a profound work of philosophical speculation. In it, Herbert asks questions about the nature of power, religion, and what it means to be human.

Frank Herbert was not the only one to be inspired by philosophy. Many other science fiction authors have used philosophical ideas in their stories. For example, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is based on the idea of ​​an all-powerful government controlling the lives of its citizens.

These stories show us that science fiction and philosophy can really come together to create something special.

In the following philosophical sci-fi book list, I ordered the books in reverse chronological order:

What Are The Top Philosophical Science Fiction Books? (In Order)

Conjunction, by A. D. Zoltan and Steven N. Nagy (2022)

Few works of science fiction are as ambitious as this one. Not only does it ask big questions about the nature of humanity and democracy, but it also posits that we may be more than just physical beings.

This book is sure to provoke thought and discussion among readers, and its vision of the future is both fascinating and troubling.

We are in the near future of 2610, AI is part of everyday life. Everything is handled by automations, and people are free to choose what they do. This sci-fi book envisions a world where people have more time to pursue their passions and enjoy life. But our inner “mean” human nature is still with us.

The authors are seeking to answer how humanity could grow beyond technological advanced race. They believe that consciousness is the key to unlock our potential as a species and that it is something that we should all strive for. On both a personal and global level.

The answer? Maybe we should visit another planet, Füzen and learn from a more advanced species.

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021)

Klara and the Sun is a philosophical science fiction that shows us a not so distant future with robots (RBs) and genetically modified humans. In a world ruled by chaos, where human solitude is essential, he asks whether robots can replace humans not only intellectually but also emotionally.

Klara, the robot friend developed for children. She is faithfully waiting for Josie in the shop, with whom she eventually goes home. Klara, who is thirsty for learning and can perceive more of the world than humans, decides to heal her owner's illness. While she would do anything for Josie, in the eyes of others he is just an object, not unlike a vacuum cleaner but definitely not a human.

The entire book consists of the detailed observations of Klara, whose only purpose and meaning in life is to help the girl who chose her.

Exhalation, by Ted Chiang (2019)

The author travels on the philosophical side of science fiction in these stories. He explores topics such as what it means to be human, whether there is free will, the meaning and moral weight of our decisions.

Of the 9 short stories, you won't like all of them on the same level, but there are definitely interesting and lovable thoughts and parts in all of them. It sharply points to social and psychological phenomena.

For example the story, What’s Expected of Us, is a little reflection on free will. I don't know how I would react to the “game” in real life, but I'm confident that even if I didn't shrug it off, I wouldn't get depressed.

My personal favorite story was Omphalos. It started as an average story that it could happen in our everyday life. Then suddenly an archaeologist comes with the indisputable fact that he figured out when God created the Earth.

Overall this is a great story collection from the author, slightly even better than Stories of Your Life and Others.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin (1974)

There are two twin planets, but when we read Le Guin's novel we do not see the similarity between them, but everything that separates them. Isolation is the most important theme that the author explores here, and accordingly the spaceport the surrounding wall, that is, the wall that prevents the two worlds from passing through.

Urras is the home of hedonism and capitalism, and Anarres defines itself with its spartan lifestyle and communist ideology. Annares is a society based on sharing, but isolates itself from the rest of the world.

The author strongly suggests that a society based on separation and built on extremes is doomed to failure. No matter in which direction it starts to build a utopia. Harmony, balance is what could start the different worlds towards perfection.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick (1968)

The eternal dilemma around empathy, the unanswerable questions of the humanity.

The main character, Rick Deckard, is a bounty hunter who is tasked with “retiring” androids who have come to Earth. As he goes about his job, he begins to question what it means to be human.

In this story there are the borders that separate us, which are increasingly difficult to clearly define. The location is the dark, sunless Earth. From which almost everyone has already emigrated, and those who haven't, are the pure heritage of the human race.

Dick's novel is set in a murky borderland, where you don't know where the human ends and the android begins. The author examines the human existence, the “self” in a moral-philosophical-metaphysical approach.

Philip K. Dick asks the question: how do we know we are human? What is it that separates us from machines? Is it our capacity for empathy? Our ability to love? There is no easy answer, but part of the beauty of literature is that it can make us question things that we take for granted.

A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr (1959)

They say life always finds a way. Well, science always finds a way. People want to minimize suffering and maximize safety, and therefore will do anything.

For centuries, humanity has been searching for a way to escape the tyranny of the night. Now, in the post-apocalyptic age, our only hope lies in these ancient relics.

Miller is apparently immersed in religious philosophy, he uses religious themes to explore the human condition and to ask what it means to be human.

Memorable Quotes From Philosophical Science Fiction Books

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.

― Frank Herbert, Dune

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Isaac Asimov

I wanted to be a psychological engineer, but we lacked the facilities, so I did the next best thing – I went into politics. It's practically the same thing.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Final Thoughts on Philosophical Sci-fi Books

Science fiction is a genre that has been around for centuries. It is a genre that allows writers to explore different worlds, different ideas, and different cultures. Philosophical science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on the big questions: the nature of reality, the meaning of life, and the purpose of existence.

Philosophical science fiction books are often some of the most thought-provoking and challenging reads. They make us question our beliefs and our assumptions about the world. They force us to think about things in new and different ways.

If you're looking for a book that will make you think, challenge your beliefs, and force you to question everything you know, then check out some of the best philosophical science fiction books as listed above.

If you want to find the most prominent sci-fi novels, check out our ultimate science fiction book collection.

Featured on Joelbooks