Audiobooks are more popular than they’ve ever been, and many book lovers have permanently switched to ‘listening’ rather than reading.
While you might not be done with the printed page forever, it’s definitely worth giving audiobooks a try. Nowadays, most popular titles come in audiobook format as well as in regular print, and the sci-fi genre is no exception.
An audiobook is a great way to experience classic and contemporary science fiction titles when you don’t have time to dedicate exclusively to reading. You can ‘read’ on your drive to work, your daily run, or while you’re cleaning the house; all of which are pretty much impossible with traditional books!
Listening to these science fiction stories, rather than reading them directly, can also add new dimensions to the plot. When they’re narrated well, characters come alive in a way that they can’t on the page.
That said, a bad narrator can completely ruin a story, so it’s important to find sci-fi audiobooks that are both superbly written and awesomely narrated.
I know it’s not always easy to find both of those things, so that’s why I’ve put together this list of the best sci-fi audiobooks to enjoy in 2021. I’ve considered the quality of both the novel itself and the narration so that you can enjoy these thrilling titles to the fullest.
Best Sci-Fi Audiobooks
You may remember this sci-fi classic from high school. It tells the tale of a fireman named Guy Montag, but he’s not what you expect from a regular fireman.
In Guy’s world, the firemen are the ones starting the fires, not putting them out. He lives in a time and place where television rules over everything, and books are illegal contraband. He’s tasked with finding and destroying every printed book left on the planet.
Guy goes about his business destroying literature without a second thought. He never questions why he’s being asked to do such a heinous thing, that is until he meets Clarisse.
She’s not like everyone else. She remembers how things used to be before, when there was freedom and people weren’t controlled by what they saw on the box. Once she introduces Guy to this alternate world, there’s no going back for him, but it’s a dangerous road ahead.
Even if you’ve already read this book in print, I’d highly recommend you try the audio version. It’s narrated by actor Tim Robbins, who does an incredible job of bringing Guy Montag’s character to life. His fear and uncertainty is presented in such a realistic and captivating way; you feel as if you’re right there in the story with him.
Here’s another sci-fi classic that you might have enjoyed as a kid. You may have also seen the TV show back in the early ’80s or seen the smash hit movie adaptation made in 2005. Well, according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide uber-fans, this audiobook version trumps them all.
It’s narrated by the fabulous Stephen Fry, whose charming British humor and gentle gait bring a whole new flair to this book.
The chapters are short, so it’s a great one to listen to in bitesize chunks, perhaps on your way to work or whenever you have a spare 30 minutes.
If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a quick re-cap:
Arthur Dent is an ordinary, average earthling, going about his ordinary, average earthling day when suddenly everything changes. Just moments before the Earth is blasted into oblivion, his friend, Ford Prefect, zaps him to the safety of space. Ford announces he’s an alien and that the pair are about to embark on an epic, intergalactic adventure, wearing nothing but a towel.
This is a fast-paced, hilarious, and incredibly clever novel that is loved by readers (and now listeners) of all ages.
The Martian documents the journey of astronaut Mark Watney, who becomes one of the first people ever to set foot on Mars. But things take a terrifying turn when a dust storm rolls in and almost kills him.
When the rest of his crew leave the red planet, thinking he’s dead, Mark is left alone and stranded, millions of miles from Earth. He has no way of communicating with anyone, and even if he could send out an alert, he’ll run out of food long before they can ever come to rescue him.
But despite the incredible odds stacked against him, Mark isn’t ready to give up just yet.
Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, is the narrator for the audiobook version of this tale. Previous fans of the print version adored Wheaton’s take on Watney’s dry, witty and irreverent character. His intonation and timing also make the funnier parts of the book even more hilarious to listen to.
This book, originally published exclusively in Chinese, has also become a sci-fi phenomenon for English speaking readers in recent years.
The story begins back in 1967, at the heart of China’s Cultural Revolution. Ye Wenjie is forced to watch as the Red Guards brutally beat her father to death. But it’s not just Ye’s life that is changed forever on that day; the future of the planet is irreversibly transformed too.
Fast forward four decades, a nanotech engineer named Wang Miao is tasked by Beijing police to go undercover to solve a mystery. There’s been a spate of suspicious suicides within a secretive scientific community, and they need him to investigate.
But Wang discovers more than he bargained for when he finds a hidden online game. It takes him into a virtual world where there are not one, but three suns. But this is not just a game; it’s the key to solving the mystery of a long-buried conspiracy that threatens to destroy the planet, soon.
This book delves into some pretty complex scientific theories, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. The narrator, Luke Daniels, has a wonderful way of making these concepts easier to digest through his easy pace and style.
Many Chinese language readers of the original publication also loved listening to the English audiobook version, as the translation shows the story in a new light.
Have you ever picked up a book so massive that the thought of reading it cover to cover completely overwhelmed you? That’s exactly what happened to me when I attempted to read Stephen King‘s classic, The Stand.
I was so relieved to discover this fantastic audiobook version, narrated by Grover Gardner. His style, pace, and intonation are unbeatable and really pack a punch for those dramatic moments. Each character is meticulously acted, with varying tones that give individuality and personality to each one.
King transports us into a dystopian, apocalyptic future, where a deadly virus has ravaged the planet. The population is almost entirely wiped out, and those that remain are forced to choose sides in a bitter fight for survival.
This audiobook takes a whopping 48 hours to complete, so it’s certainly a time commitment, but it’s absolutely worth it for the wild ride.
This brand new offering from the legendary sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson is so well narrated, it received an AudioFile Earphones Award for the audiobook presentation.
Unlike many sci-fi novels, which feature visions of dystopia, this is an optimistic take on the future of planet Earth and the battle against climate change.
It takes us into 2025, where a new organization has been created to protect the planet from the impending and irreversible consequences of global warming. They call this organization the Ministry of The Future, and all of humanity’s hopes ride upon its success.
This isn’t some fantastical story of an unimaginable world; it’s a poignant tale of a future that is right before our eyes.
Kim Stanley Robinson’s startling take on the future of climate change is shocking but also hopeful. It paints a vivid picture of humanity working together to overcome the tremendous challenges that we’re already faced with.
Despite being almost 30 years old, this book is still regarded as a contemporary classic. It takes us into a terrifying dystopian future, where the entire human civilization is under threat of destruction from a dark alien force.
The Earth’s only hope of survival is pinned on one man; the brilliant Ender Wiggin. But he must first undergo a military training program that will push him to his very limits. He’ll be transformed into the ultimate leader, the greatest commander who ever lived, but are they pushing him too far?
The audiobook version of this sci-fi smash hit is narrated by a team of voice actors, who bring something unique to each character. There’s real passion, feeling, and a genuine authenticity in their readings that take this book to new heights.
Brave New World is another classic piece of sci-fi literature that you may have come across back in high school. It’s narrated by British actor Michael York, whose voice you might find familiar; he’s appeared in countless movies, including Romeo and Juliet, The Austin Powers series, and The Three Musketeers.
York uses his incredible voice acting skills to subtly change each character’s voice and intonation, which helps to make the scene to scene transitions much smoother than in the print version of the book.
The story is set in a dystopian future, where each citizen is a product of genetic modification. The social hierarchy is based on induvial intelligence levels, and scientists are practicing womb altering techniques to psychologically manipulate future generations.
This book was first published back in 1932, but it still regularly features in the top 100 lists, even those that span all genres. It’s considered a true science fiction masterpiece. If you read this book years ago and enjoyed it, I strongly recommend you give the audio version a try and rediscover this gripping tale.
Andrew Wincott wonderfully narrates George Orwell’s timeless masterpiece in this audiobook version of 1984. His fluid reading and perfectly paced intonation suit the pages of this book so well.
If, like many people, you’ve been planning to re-read this dystopian classic, then why not give the audiobook format a go? It’ll shine a new light on a familiar tale.
For anyone who is still uninitiated into Orwell’s unsettling dystopian future, here’s a quick re-cap: The government, or ‘Big Brother’, are watching every citizen, almost 24 hours a day. Even in their homes, people are monitored by ominous TV screens that scrutinize their every move.
Our protagonist is Winston Smith, a government employee tasked with rewriting history and destroying any evidence of the truth.
But Winston slowly begins to question the state’s authoritarian values, and he begins to break the rules. Will he survive the wrath of Big Brother?
The audiobook version of Max Brooks’ cult novel features a star-studded cast of voice actors, including Carl Reiner, Martin Scorsese, Mark Hamill, and F. Murray Abraham. And Max Brooks himself reads the character of the interviewer.
World War Z documents the zombie apocalypse that shook the Earth. It came in the form of a pandemic and slowly swept across the world, turning innocent people into mindless, man-eating zombies.
The book is a compilation of interviews with survivors from all walks of life. Each interview is a story in itself, so it’s a fantastic book to listen to in bite-sized chunks if you can’t commit to hours at a time.
Together, the book chapters help us understand the events that transpired in the aftermath of the most devastating season planet Earth has ever seen.
Thanks to the talented narrators, these books take on a whole new life when they’re enjoyed in audiobook format. They also allow you to enjoy these gripping sci-fi tales in more places than ever. They’re perfect for long car journeys, your daily commute, or to simply enjoy through headphones for a little bit of ‘me time.’
I hope you enjoy these sci-fi audiobooks. Have you listened to any great audiobooks recently? Let us know in the comments below!