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Which Hard SF Authors Would You Recommend?

A reader named Kevin writes in looking for a recommendation for a hard science fiction author to try:

I really, really like hard SF in the vein of Arthur C. Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson (the Mars Trilogy specifically), Stephen Baxter and Gentry Lee. I’ve tried to read some other, more contemporary authors, like Alastair Reynolds, but i just can’t get into his style (specifically when he writes in 1st person…) and his subject matter is just too space opera and “flowery” for me. The only one i really liked of his was Pushing Ice…I couldn’t put that one down. It just seems most of the current authors write space opera, or western, or almost more “fantasy”. I want and love super hard SF, where it takes a loooong time to travel through space, no ESP or special powers or whatever.

How about it, readers? Which Hard SF authors would you recommend?

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

24 Comments on Which Hard SF Authors Would You Recommend?

  1. Chris Moriarty’ Spin State, William Barton & Michael Capobianco’s Iris, Jed Mercurio’s Ascent, Paul J McAuley’s The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun, Robert Zubrin’s First Landing.

  2. The above ideas are great.  If you want your science really hard – try Incandescense by Greg Egan or one of his early novels Permutation City.

  3. +1 on Watts, but make sure you start with Blindsight or the bleakness of the Rifters might put you off (not that Blindsight is a merry romp through the flowers, but hey).

     +1 on Egan as well, my personal fave of his being Shild’s Ladder, but you can literally pick any of his books and you will not be disappointed.

    For something with a slightly more feminine, but still very hard-sciency whiff, I’d recommend Linda Nagata, for example her novel “Vast” seems to fit well into what you are looking for.

  4. I’d have to second the Paul McAuley Quiet War/Gardens of the Sun!  Amazing reads!  Vernor Vinge’s Fire upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky are pretty awesome (but kind of more singularity than hard sf).

  5. You might like Greg Egan’s new Clockwork Rocket.

  6. McAuley and Watts were the first couple of authors that immediately come to mind.  


    I don’t think Kevin would like Clockwork Rocket, it sounds like he wants stuff set in our universe.



  7. Ben Bova’s Grand Tour

    Which include:

    Powersat, Empire Builders, Moonrise, Mars, Moonwar, Return to Mars, The Precipice, Jupiter, The Rock Rats, The Silent War, Saturn, Titan, The Aftermath, Mercury, Mars Life, Venus, and Leviathans of Jupiter.

  8. I’d recomend James P. Hogan (Two Faces of Tomorrow, Thrice Upon a Time, Voyge From Yesteryear), Gregory Benford (Heart of The Comet (with David Brin) and The Galactic Center series, Vernor Vinge (Marooned in Realtime, A Fire Upon the Deep)and Gred Bear (Queen of Angels, Darwin’s Radio) to name a few.

  9. Matt Phelps // September 14, 2011 at 9:24 am //


    I really liked the Coyote series by Allen Steele. Straight-up interstellar colonization stuff.



  10. David Brin’s Uplift series is pretty good.

  11. I’ll also add to those recommending Blindsight by Peter Watts.  It was the best hard SF I’ve read in a long time.

  12. Destructo the Mad // September 14, 2011 at 10:57 am //

    Another vote for Greg Egan – the hardest of hard SF.  I’d reccomend Distress and Quarantine as his most accessible (and in my opinion, enjoyable) novels.

  13. I’ll second Egan, of course, with a shout out for DIASPORA. For hard sf with more emphasis on bio-engineering, let me heartily recommend HIGHEST FRONTIER by Joan Slonczewski. 

  14. I cannot get enough of anything by Larry Niven.

  15. This is really awesome guys. Thanks for all the suggestions. Time to start hitting the used bookstores again! 🙂

  16. Peter F. Hamilton.  Just try it.


  17. Jack McDevitt.

    Also: there was a book out earlierthis year called “LEviathan Wakes.”  Excellent SF book.



  18. +1 again for Greg Egan. I’m currently reading his short story collection “Oceanic” and there’s some great pieces in it. He has some really clever ideas but fleshes them out with detailed scientific premises.

    I’d recommend you dip into his shorty story collections first: “Axiomatic”, “Luminous” or “Oceanic”. Some of the best hard sci-fi I’ve ever read in there.

  19. Gully Foyle // September 14, 2011 at 7:55 pm //

    I liked Blindsight, very nice investigation of conciousness, but the vampires made me cringe.  Oh sure, there is some window dressing, but still, vampires in hard sf?


    how about forward’s ‘Dragon’s Egg’?


    or, Allen Steele’s ‘Near Space’ stories and novels, they are pretty damn hard.

  20. Hal Clement. The first hard SF writer I ever read and his stuff still holds up.

  21. Ok, I also recommend Peter F Hamilton, but since you don’t like space operas, read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained instead of the Night’s Dawn trilogy (which is the best space opera I’ve ever read).

  22. Michael Burstein.  His collection “I Remember the Future” mixed character development, story and hard science in a way I haven’t seen since Asimov.

  23. Burstein’s collection is currently <a href=”″>on Amazon in Kindle format for $3.99</a>.

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