Best science fiction novels by year

Here are what I think are the best science fiction novels of the year plus runner ups, going all the way back to 1949. Prior to that, notable books include Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, The Time Machine and War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I’ve given out a fair number of ties for winner, but it’s my list so there.

The Hugo awards for best novel started in 1953. I’ll put a capital H beside titles that won the Hugo and a small h beside titles that were nominated. The Nebula awards for best novel started in 1965, marked with N and n. The World Fantasy awards for best novel started in 1975, marked with W and w.

One thing this list shows you is that there are lots of great books that weren’t nominated for awards. The best year for science fiction novels, in terms of the highest number of brilliant books, is 1992.

Here are the big winners:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert J. Sawyer are winners 6 times
  • Isaac Asimov and Robert Charles Wilson are winners 5 times
  • Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak, and Neal Stephenson are winners 3 times
Winner Runner Ups
Year Author Title Author Title
2012 John Scalzi Redshirts H Robert J. Sawyer Triggers
2011 Will McIntosh Soft Apocalpyse Robert J. Sawyer Wonder
Joan Slonczewski The Highest Frontier
2010 Robert J. Sawyer Watch
2009 Robert Charles Wilson Julian Comstock h Robert J. Sawyer Wake h
2008 Alastair Reynolds House of Suns Orson Scott Card Ender in Exile
2007 Joe Haldeman The Accidental Time Machine n Robert J. Sawyer Rollback h
2006 Peter Watts Blindsight h Julie E. Czerneda Regeneration
John Scalzi The Android’s Dream
2005 Robert Charles Wilson Spin H Julie E. Czerneda Migration
Karin Lowachee Cagebird
Robert J. Sawyer Mindscan
John Scalzi Old Man’s War h
Edward Willett Lost in Translation
2004 Julie E. Czerneda Survival
James Alan Gardner Radiant
2003 Robert Charles Wilson Blind Lake  h Julie E. Czerneda Hidden in Sight
William Gibson Pattern Recognition
Karin Lowachee Burndive
Robert J. Sawyer Humans h
Robert J. Sawyer Hybrids
2002 Stephen Baxter Evolution David Brin Kiln People
Robert J. Sawyer Hominids H Julie E. Czerneda To Trade the Stars
Karin Lowachee Warchild
Scott Mackay Orbis
Jim Munroe Everyone in Silico
Karl Schroeder Permanence
Michael Swanwick Bones of the Earth hn
2001 Connie Willis Passage hn Julie E. Czerneda In the Company of Others
Robert Charles Wilson The Chronoliths h Candas Jane Dorsey A Paradigm of Earth
James Alan Gardner Ascending
Scott Mackay The Meek
Adam Roberts On
2000 Ursula K. Le Guin The Telling Julie E. Czerneda Changing Vision
Robert J. Sawyer Calculating God h James Alan Gardner Hunted
Jim Munroe Angry Young Spaceman
Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space
Karl Schroeder Ventus
Joan Slonczewski Brain Plague
1999 Neal Stephenson Cryptonomicon h Orson Scott Card Ender’s Shadow
Vernor Vinge A Deepness in the Sky Hn Julie E. Czerneda Ties of Power
James Alan Gardner Vigilant
Robert J. Sawyer Flashforward
Peter Watts Starfish
1998 Robert J. Sawyer Factoring Humanity h Julie E. Czerneda Beholder’s Eye
Robert Charles Wilson Darwinia h James Alan Gardner Commitment Hour
Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring
Scott Mackay Outpost
Jack McDevitt Eternity Road
Connie Willis To Say Nothing of the Dog Hn
1997 Dan Simmons The Rise of Endymion h Julie E. Czerneda A Thousand Words for Stranger
James Alan Gardner Expendable
Robert J. Sawyer Illegal Alien
Robert Wright A Scientific Romance
1996 Robert J. Sawyer Starplex hn Orson Scott Card Children of the Mind
Orson Scott Card Pastwatch Dan Simmons Endymion
Alison Sinclair Blueheart
1995 Neal Stephenson The Diamond Age Hn Julia Ecklar ReGenesis
Robert J. Sawyer The Terminal Experiment hN
1994 Vonda N. McIntyre Nautilus Robert J. Sawyer End of an Era
Robert Charles Wilson Mysterium
1993 Joan Slonczewski Daughter of Elysium
1992 Neal Stephenson Snow Crash Greg Egan Quarantine
Vernor Vinge A Fire Upon the Deep Hn Maureen F. McHugh China Mountain Zhang hn
Vonda N. McIntyre Metaphase
Kim Stanley Robinson Red Mars hN
Connie Willis Doomsday Book HN
Robert Charles Wilson The Harvest
1991 Isaac Asimov Forward the Foundation Orson Scott Card Xenocide h
Vonda N. McIntyre Transition
1990 Robert J. Sawyer Golden Fleece Iain M. Banks Use of Weapons
Michael Crichton Jurassic Park
Dan Simmons The Fall of Hyperion hn
1989 Dan Simmons Hyperion H Vonda N. McIntyre Starfarers
Joan Slonczewski The Wall Around Eden
1988 Iain M. Banks The Player of Games Isaac Asimov Prelude to Foundation
Jack L. Chalker Masks of the Martyrs
Kim Stanley Robinson The Gold Coast
Kim Stanley Robinson Pacific Edge
Sheri S. Tepper The Gate to Women’s Country
1987 Iain M. Banks Consider Phlebas Jack L. Chalker Warriors of the Storm
Jack L. Chalker Pirates of the Thunder
1986 Orson Scott Card Speaker for the Dead HN Isaac Asimov Foundation and Earth
Joan Slonczewski A Door Into Ocean Jack L. Chalker Lords of the Middle Dark
Arthur C. Clarke The Songs of Distant Earth
Wayland Drew The Master of Norriya
Clifford D. Simak Highway of Eternity
1985 Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game HN Greg Bear Blood Music hn
Greg Bear Eon
Wayland Drew The Gaian Expedient
Carl Sagan Contact
1984 Kim Stanley Robinson The Wild Shore n Douglas Adams So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Wayland Drew The Memoirs of Alcheringia
Suzette Haden Elgin Native Tongue
William Gibson Neuromancer HN
1983
1982 Isaac Asimov Foundation’s Edge Hn Douglas Adams Life, the Universe and Everything
1981 Clifford D. Simak Project Pope h Julian May The Many-Colored Land hn
1980 Douglas Adams The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Joan Slonczewski Still Forms on Foxfield
Gene Wolfe The Shadow of the Torturer nW
1979 Douglas Adams The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Arthur C. Clarke The Fountains of Paradise HN
1978
1977 Frederik Pohl Gateway HN
1976
1975
1974 Ursula K. Le Guin The Dispossessed HN Joe Haldeman The Forever War HN
Niven & Pournelle The Mote in God’s Eye hn
1973 David Gerrold The Man Who Folded Himself hn Arthur C. Clarke Rendezvous With Rama HN
1972 Isaac Asimov The Gods Themselves HN John Brunner The Sheeep Look Up n
Robert Silverberg Dying Inside hn
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky Roadside Picnic
1971 Ursula K. Le Guin The Lathe of Heaven hn
1970 Larry Niven Ringworld HN
1969 Ursula K. Le Guin The Left Hand of Darkness HN Michael Crichton The Andromeda Strain
Philip K. Dick UBIK
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five hn
1968 Arthur C. Clarke 2001: A Space Odyssey Philip K. Dick Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? n
Anne McCaffrey Dragonflight
1967 Ursula K. Le Guin City of Illusions
1966 Ursula K. Le Guin Rocannon’s World Robert A Heinlein The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Hn
Ursula K. Le Guin Planet of Exile
1965 Frank Herbert Dune HN
1964
1963 Clifford D. Simak Way Station H Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Cat’s Cradle h
1962 Philip K. Dick The Man in the High Castle H Madeline L’Engle A Wrinkle in Time
1961 Harry Harrison The Stainless Steel Rat Robert A Heinlein Stranger in a Strange Land H
Stanislaw Lem Solaris
1960 Walter M. Miller, Jr. A Canticle for Leibowitz H
1959 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. The Sirens of Titan h
1958 James Blish A Case of Conscience H
1957
1956 Alfred Bester The Stars My Destination
Arthur C. Clarke The City and the Stars
1955 Isaac Asimov The End Of Eternity
1954 Arthur C. Clarke Childhood’s End Isaac Asimov The Caves of Steel
Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451
1953 Alfred Bester The Demolished Man H Isaac Asimov Second Foundation
Theodore Sturgeon More Than Human
1952 Clifford D. Simak City Isaac Asimov Foundation and Empire
1951 Isaac Asimov Foundation John Wyndham The Day of the Triffids
1950 Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles
1949 George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four

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