Sci-Fi Essentials | Must Listen Science Fiction Audio Books
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Sci-Fi Essentials


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  • The Warrior's Apprentice: A Miles Vorkosigan Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 16 mins)
    • By Lois McMaster Bujold
    • Narrated By Grover Gardner
    Overall
    (1517)
    Performance
    (672)
    Story
    (680)

    Miles Vorkosigan makes his debut in this frenetic coming-of-age tale. At age 17, Miles is allowed to take the entrance exams to the elite military academy; he passes the written but manages, through miscalculation in a moment of anger, to break both his legs on the obstacle course, washing out before he begins. His aged grandfather dies in his sleep shortly after, for which Miles blames himself.

    Readalot says: "What a great character!"
    Why we think it's Essential: When we are first introduced to Miles Vorkosigan, he is annoyingly unlike what we expect to find in a space opera hero, especially one who anchors a series of popular novels—a deformed misfit and a failure. Are we supposed to like this guy? Is he some kind of antihero? Narrator Grover Gardner cleverly gives us no more than the text, keeping us at a distance as the story develops and the character is revealed. In the end you'll grow to love Miles, as well as Bujold's richly imagined universe of personal and interplanetary politics and war.—-Frank Linkh
  • The War of the Worlds (Dramatized)

    • ORIGINAL (59 mins)
    • By Mercury Theatre on the Air
    • Narrated By Orson Welles
    Overall
    (277)
    Performance
    (171)
    Story
    (174)

    One of the most memorable programs in broadcast history, the Halloween Eve 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds set off a nationwide panic that's almost unimaginable today. Presented by the Mercury Theatre on the Air and its creatve genius, Orson Welles, the drama based on H.G. Wells' classic novel tells the story of a Martian invasion of Earth.

    Sandy says: "Classic"
    Why we think it's Essential:Some literati may question our choice of Orson Welles' historic radio adaptation over H.G. Wells' original novel. To them, we say, "Give a listen." Hearing the broadcast for yourself exemplifies how the full listening experience, in the hands of a master dramatist and showman, can deliver something that is simply impossible on the printed page or the big screen. Some call it "theater of the mind", but we just call it fantastic listening.--Ed Walloga
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog: Or How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump at Last

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By Connie Willis
    • Narrated By Steven Crossley
    Overall
    (1709)
    Performance
    (946)
    Story
    (948)

    In this Hugo-winner from Connie Willis, when too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned's holiday anything but restful - to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

    Amazon Customer says: "Sci-fi Comdey of Manners"
    Why we think it's Essential: The search for a gaudy relic of Victoriana at the behest of a well-moneyed American woman is only the first domino that falls in this expansive time-traveling epic. Willis' serpentine story starts with a simple mission that collapses into bumbling chaos; and time itself must be rescued! It's not easy to write a novel that is at once science fiction, historical romance, comedy of errors, and mystery, but this author's multi-genre mastery is apparent. The result is sheer delight—one of the great entertaining books of the last 10 years (and a Hugo Award winner) that is especially well-served in audio. Steven Crossley's comic timing and the ease with which he gives listeners an immediate sense of character is
  • Starship Troopers

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 4 mins)
    • By Robert A. Heinlein
    • Narrated By Lloyd James
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2263)
    Performance
    (1093)
    Story
    (1106)

    Join the Army and See the Universe. That is the motto of The Third Space War, also known as The First Interstellar War, but most commonly as The Bug War. In one of Robert Heinlein's most controversial best sellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe - and into battle with the Terrain Mobile Infantry against mankind's most alarming enemy.

    Michael says: "Well Aged Heinlein"
    Why we think it's Essential: Fans of today's best militia-in-space epics (from John Scalzi's Old Man's War to TV's Battlestar Galactica) will want to hear this explosive salvo that ignited the genre. Reimagining the struggles of an infantryman in a future of interplanetary travel, powered armor and horde-minded, bug-like combatants, Heinlein's work delivers both action and political philosophy, while Lloyd James' first person narration reminds us that the tale of the foot soldier is universal.--Ed Walloga
  • Spin

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 33 mins)
    • By Robert Charles Wilson
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    Overall
    (3138)
    Performance
    (940)
    Story
    (945)

    One night when he was 10, Tyler stood in his backyard and watched the stars go out. They flared into brilliance, then disappeared, replaced by an empty black barrier. He and his best friends, Jason and Diane Lawton, had seen what became known as the Big Blackout. It would shape their lives.

    Robert says: "A Classic"
    Why we think it's Essential: Yes, Spin is about a mysterious alien force taking control of Earth. And, yes, it incorporates elements of physics, astronomy, and the like. But at its heart, the novel is about how people—ordinary and extraordinary—respond when the unthinkable becomes the mundane. Through the reliable voice of narrator Scott Brick, Spin is sci-fi for people who don't think they like sci-fi. --Steve Feldberg
  • Seeker: An Alex Benedict Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Jack McDevitt
    • Narrated By Jennifer Van Dyck, Jack McDevitt
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (866)
    Performance
    (360)
    Story
    (361)

    Thousands of years after an entire colony mysteriously disappears, antiquities dealer Alex Benedict comes into possession of a cup that seems to be from the Seeker, one of the colony's ships. Alex and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, follow a deadly trail to the Seeker, strangely adrift in a system barren of habitable worlds. But their discovery raises more questions than it answers, drawing Alex and Chase into the very heart of danger.

    A User says: "Great mix of sci-fi, mystery and adventure."
    Why we think it's Essential: In space archaeologist Alex Benedict, author McDevitt has created a memorable Indiana Jones-style adventurer of the future. Aside from being a great mystery, what makes Seeker a must-listen is that the story is told in the voice of Benedict's female partner, Chase Colpath. Her point of view adds an unexpected and provocative layer, making Seeker much more than the usual sci-fi.--Steve Feldberg
  • A Scanner Darkly

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By Philip K. Dick
    • Narrated By Paul Giamatti
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (470)
    Performance
    (234)
    Story
    (232)

    Bob Arctor is a dealer of the lethally addictive drug Substance D. Fred is the police agent assigned to tail and eventually bust him. To do so, Fred takes on the identity of a drug dealer named Bob Arctor. And since Substance D, which Arctor takes in massive doses, gradually splits the user's brain into two distinct, combative entities, Fred doesn't realize he is narcing on himself.

    Darwin8u says: "Paranoid road trip through the Hell of addiction"
    Why we think it's Essential: Philip K. Dick's deftly plotted novels are always filled with clever ideas. No wonder he is now regarded as a major force in American literature, with volumes of his writing available from the prestigious Library of America imprint. The trouble with reading Philip K. Dick, in this particular instance, is that you'd miss a great performance if you avoided Scanner in audio. Paul Giamatti's perfectly nuanced performance matches the very best I've heard—and you'll sense it from the very first word. See the green "sample" button above this review? Click it and be convinced.--Corey Thrasher
  • Old Man's War

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 58 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By William Dufris
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3228)
    Performance
    (2227)
    Story
    (2251)

    John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First, he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce - and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So, we fight, to defend Earth and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

    Michael says: "As good as Heinlein"
    Why we think it's Essential: Senior citizens with nothing to lose are reborn in young bodies to fight an intergalactic war. In a way, I guess that makes Old Man's War the geriatric's Ender's Game. But there's nothing creaky about this surprisingly-emotional story of comrades under fire. William Dufris proves why he's one of the go-to voices for sci-fi audio. --Steve Feldberg
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

    • UNABRIDGED (14 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Robert A. Heinlein
    • Narrated By Lloyd James
    Overall
    (2640)
    Performance
    (1486)
    Story
    (1504)

    In what is considered one of Heinlein's most hair-raising, thought-provoking, and outrageous adventures, the master of modern science fiction tells the strange story of an even stranger world. It is 21st-century Luna, a harsh penal colony where a revolt is plotted between a bashful computer and a ragtag collection of maverick humans, a revolt that goes beautifully until the inevitable happens. But that's the problem with the inevitable: it always happens.

    Gerald says: "Very Good Interpretation"
    Why we think it's Essential: This is Heinlein at his best: lots of philosophical chit-chat but never at the expense of the pace of a thrilling story of interplanetary revolution.This is a Cold-War era book, a tale about nations exploiting nations,about workers throwing off the mantle of oppression.It also raises troubling questions for the post-9/11 listener about just how far you may have to go in the name of freedom. Narrator Lloyd James gives us an interesting take on what a Lunar Colonist will sound like,giving lead character Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis a somewhat Russian inflection.He also creates distinct voices for the story's numerous characters to keep us well oriented within this dialogue-rich novel. --Frank Linkh
  • March Upcountry: Prince Roger Series, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (17 hrs and 15 mins)
    • By David Weber, John Ringo
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki
    Overall
    (1344)
    Performance
    (685)
    Story
    (687)

    Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang MacClintock was young, handsome, athletic, an excellent dresser, and third in line for the Throne of Man. So it wasn't surprising that he became spoiled, self-centered, and petulant. After all, what else did he have to do with his life?

    Euryleia says: "Lots of fun!"
    Why we think it's Essential: Pampered prince is forced to become a man in this series opener by Ringo and Weber. With a backdrop of damnbeasts, killerpillars, carnivorous plants, and barbarian hordes, Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang MacClintock must hike halfway around the planet, capture a spaceport from the Bad Guys, commandeer a starship, and go home, all within this breathless, lively narrative. Penned by two titans of contemporary sci-fi, March Upcountry also benefits from the supurb narration of Stefan Rudnicki, whose credentials in sci-fi are extensive and always welcome news to the ears. --Corey Thrasher
  • The Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Jack Finney
    • Narrated By Kristoffer Tabori
    Overall
    (289)
    Performance
    (125)
    Story
    (126)

    On a quiet fall evening in the small, peaceful town of Mill Valley, California, Dr. Miles Bennell discovers an insidious, horrifying plot. Silently, subtly, almost imperceptibly, alien life-forms are taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, his friends, his family, the woman he loves, and the world as he knows it.

    Thomas says: "Classic Fun"
    Why we think it's Essential: When there was such a thing as the Cold War, the threat of invasion—or obliteration—by a hostile (Soviet) force was very much on the minds of Americans. Enter Jack Finney's Body Snatchers in 1955. Finney's concept of invasion came in the form of seeds from outer space, pods sprouting exact replicas of human beings that looked, but did not act, like their originals. This plugged right in to the paranoia of the period, affording Finney's pulp novel a place in the canon (and in the cinema) ever since. Kristoffer Tabori digs deep into the author's clean, unfussy prose; his hard, mildly wizened timbre drawing the listener in with every economical word. --Corey Thrasher
  • I, Robot

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 25 mins)
    • By Isaac Asimov
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1493)
    Performance
    (480)
    Story
    (495)

    They mustn't harm a human being, they must obey human orders, and they must protect their own existence...but only so long as that doesn't violate rules one and two. With these Three Laws of Robotics, humanity embarked on a bold new era of evolution that would open up enormous possibilities, and unforeseen risks.

    Herb says: "Forget the violence - Read this one for the humor"
    Why we think it's Essential: This loosely joined collection of 1940s short stories is probably one of the most influential works in the history of the genre. Fortunately, it is also one of the most fun books to listen to. In these early years of his career, Asimov was already a superb and clever craftsman, cranking out one nearly flawless piece after another. Superstar narrator Scott Brick handles the material deftly, bringing a slightly old fashioned yet completely unselfconscious tone to some of Asimov's slightly cornball protagonists. --Frank Linkh
  • Hyperion

    • UNABRIDGED (20 hrs and 44 mins)
    • By Dan Simmons
    • Narrated By Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (3314)
    Performance
    (1896)
    Story
    (1914)

    On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.

    aaron says: "A LESSON in How to Write Smart, Dark, ADULT SciFi"
    Why we think it's Essential: Think The Canterbury Tales set in an apocalyptic far future, as a convoy of pilgrims travels to a distant world, each telling their story in turn. A classic "big" sci-fi novel, perfectly structured for the team of five narrators, who bring the divergent characters vividly to life. Hyperion will consistently challenge your brain—and bend your mind. --Steve Feldberg
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Primary Phase (Dramatised)

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 56 mins)
    • By Douglas Adams
    • Narrated By Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, and others
    Overall
    (950)
    Performance
    (692)
    Story
    (698)

    A Special Edition of the original radio series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978 and recently voted the Nation's Favourite Audiobook in a Guardian poll. Starring Peter Jones, Simon Jones, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey, Susan Sheridan and Stephen Moore, these six episodes (Fit the First to Fit the Sixth) have been remastered to modern-day standards by Dirk Maggs, and for the first time feature Philip Pope's arrangement of the familiar theme tune.

    Thomas says: "Difficult to listen to in the car!"
    Why we think it's Essential: You're probably already familiar with Hitchhiker's Guide from the novels, TV show, or (gods forbid) the movie, but if you haven't heard the radio serial that spawned them, you just don't know it at its best. This is a work that was written to be heard—a fully dramatized, sound-effected and scored late 20th Century radio production. The plot is epic in scale, and the ideas explored touch on the ultimate questions of life, the universe and, well—everything. It is a kick-ass adventure with plenty of intellectual nutrition—but more than that, it's a can't-help-laughing-to-yourself comic treat. --Frank Linkh
  • Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 42 mins)
    • By Mary Shelley
    • Narrated By Simon Templeman, Anthony Heald, Stefan Rudnicki
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (168)
    Performance
    (92)
    Story
    (93)

    Dr. Victor Frankenstein, an ambitious young scientist, is consumed by a fanatic desire to create a living being. He fashions an eight-foot-tall creature and succeeds in animating him, but, horrified by his visage, perceives his creation to be a monster and frightens him away. The monster, wandering in search of human companionship, is spurned and repulsed by all he approaches and learns to hate and to kill.

    Jefferson says: "What's a Lonely Creature to Do?"
    Why we think it's Essential: Unlike most of horror's canon, the tale of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster is rooted in technology rather than fantasy, and is considered the first science fiction novel. In this rendition, the story of man pushing medicine to its ungodly (or perhaps too-godly) limits is masterfully performed by three narrators, each delivering a unique performance as the narrative shifts among perspectives. Most powerful for me is Stefan Rudnicki as the creature himself, using his deep tones to evoke a being who is at once disturbingly inhuman and yet utterly humane.--Ed Walloga
  • The Forever War

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 19 mins)
    • By Joe Haldeman
    • Narrated By George Wilson
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1173)
    Performance
    (620)
    Story
    (628)

    William Mandella is a soldier in Earth's elite brigade. As the war against the Taurans sends him from galaxy to galaxy, he learns to use protective body shells and sophisticated weapons. He adapts to the cultures and terrains of distant outposts. But with each month in space, years are passing on Earth. Where will he call home when (and if) the Forever War ends?

    John says: "A classic."
    Why we think it's Essential: Much more than a counter-point to Heinlein's Starship Troopers, The Forever War stretches the space militia milieu to exciting and outrageous extremes. Richly mining the time-distortion of interstellar travel, the novel creates a future of conscripted soldiers who experience just months of off-world combat duty while Earth advances centuries, making every return a re-entry into a strange and changing culture. Matching this tone perfectly is narrator George Wilson, who imbues both character and action with a lively cynicism that recalls Catch-22 by way of the Sci-fi Channel.--Ed Walloga
  • Ender's Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 57 mins)
    • By Orson Scott Card
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki, Harlan Ellison, Gabrielle de Cuir
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (19915)
    Performance
    (11516)
    Story
    (11633)

    Why we think it’s a great listen: It’s easy to say that when it comes to sci-fi you either love it or you hate it. But with Ender’s Game, it seems to be you either love it or you love it.... The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Enter Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, the result of decades of genetic experimentation.

    Kapila says: "6 titles in the series so far"
    Why we think it's Essential: Here's a book where the main character is a young boy, yet he's brought to life by a narrator with an almost basso voice. But Stefan Rudnicki pulls it off famously and creates audio magic. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Ender's Game is an emotionally compelling story with more than one surprising twist. You'll find yourself rooting for Ender—and fearing for his survival—as Mankind faces its last stand against an alien force. --Steve Feldberg
  • Dune

    • UNABRIDGED (21 hrs and 8 mins)
    • By Frank Herbert
    • Narrated By Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, and others
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (8351)
    Performance
    (4132)
    Story
    (4187)

    Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud'dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream.

    Joshua says: "Wonderful production!"
    Why we think it's Essential: It's fitting that one of the richest works in science fiction has received one of the lushest productions in audio. Featuring a full cast of voices (including Scott Brick and Euan Morton), anchored by the eloquent narration of Simon Vance and augmented by a multi-layered soundtrack of music and ambient effects, the audio matches Frank Herbert's imaginative tale moment-for-moment, and has been anointed an all-time favorite by AudibleListener members. --Ed Walloga
  • The Diamond Age

    • UNABRIDGED (18 hrs)
    • By Neal Stephenson
    • Narrated By Jennifer Wiltsie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (2961)
    Performance
    (1023)
    Story
    (1038)

    Neal Stephenson, "the hottest science fiction writer in America", takes science fiction to dazzling new levels. The Diamond Age is a stunning tale; set in 21st-century Shanghai, it is the story of what happens what a state-of-the-art interactive device falls into the hands of a street urchin named Nell. Her life, and the entire future of humanity, is about to be decoded and reprogrammed.

    Tango says: "The rock could use a bit more polishing"
    Why we think it's Essential: It was the best of futures, it was the worst of futures. This ambitious Hugo Award-winning novel takes us to a world where nanotechnology has eliminated scarcity and transformed society. Old fashioned geographic divisions no longer apply. People now group themselves around other concepts, "vickies" for example, who revere the philosophical and social perfection of Victorian England. At the heart of the story is a little girl named Nell and a technologically magical book that promises (and threatens) to transform her and her entire culture. Narrator Jennifer Wiltsie brings superb discipline to her performance, smoothly transitioning between different accents and affects to bring the book's extra large and
  • The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Jack Campbell
    • Narrated By Christian Rummel, Jack Campbell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (4169)
    Performance
    (2728)
    Story
    (2759)

    Captain John "Black Jack" Geary's legendary exploits are known to every schoolchild. Revered for his heroic "last stand" in the early days of the war, he was presumed dead. But a century later, Geary miraculously returns from survival hibernation and reluctantly takes command of the Alliance fleet as it faces annihilation by the Syndics.

    Appalled by the hero-worship around him, Geary is nevertheless a man who will do his duty. And he knows that bringing the stolen Syndic hypernet key safely home is the Alliance's one chance to win the war. But to do that, Geary will have to live up to the impossibly heroic "Black Jack" legend.

    Howard says: "Great Military Science Fiction"
    Why we think it's Essential: If there's ever a space war, Dauntless could well be the military's manual. Author Campbell, a former Navy officer, infuses Dauntless with the kind of details that make "Black Jack" Geary's futuristic exploits seem as if they're ripped from today's headlines. Narrator Christian Rummel gives this blood-and-guts adventure just the hard edge it needs. --Steve Feldberg
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