The 9 Best Short Sci-Fi Books to Read Right Now

Science fiction has the power to transport us to far-off worlds and introduce us to innovative technology, all while exploring timeless themes of humanity and social dynamics. If you don’t have the time for lengthy epics, never fear – short sci-fi books offer the same thrills and thought-provoking content, but in a smaller package. In this article, we’ll introduce you to 10 of the best short sci-fi books that you can read right now, categorized into different sections for your convenience.

The 9 Best Short Sci-Fi Books to Read Right Now

Why Short Sci-Fi Books are Perfect for Busy Readers

Gone are the days when you had to slog through 800 pages of dense text just to get a taste of a captivating sci-fi world. With short sci-fi books, you can dive into fascinating stories without sacrificing weeks of reading time. These shorter novels not only fit into your busy schedule but also offer the benefits of quick, immersive stories that leave you wanting more.

The appeal of shorter novels

Shorter novels have a unique appeal, especially in the realm of sci-fi. The compressed nature of their stories often requires deft storytelling and imagination, leading to tales that pack a powerful punch. But just because they’re shorter doesn’t mean they lack depth. In fact, the best short sci-fi books are often able to explore complex ideas and themes in a more concentrated and impactful way.

For example, Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” is a collection of short stories that explore humanity’s colonization of Mars. Each story is self-contained and explores a different aspect of the colonization process, from the first settlers to the eventual abandonment of the planet. Despite its brevity, “The Martian Chronicles” is a profound and thought-provoking work that has influenced countless sci-fi authors.

Fitting reading into a busy schedule

Life gets busy, and it’s not always easy to find the time to read a lengthy book. Short sci-fi novels offer the perfect solution for avid readers who struggle to fit reading into their daily routines. It’s easier to commit to a book you know you can finish within a few days or even a single weekend, allowing you to feed your love for reading without feeling overwhelmed by the size of your to-be-read pile.

But short sci-fi books aren’t just for busy readers. They’re also great for those who want to break up their reading habits and try something new. If you’re used to reading epic fantasy novels or sprawling historical fiction, a short sci-fi book can be a refreshing change of pace.

The benefits of quick, immersive stories

Quick, immersive sci-fi stories provide an excellent opportunity to experience a variety of worlds and ideas in a short amount of time, which can be incredibly satisfying. With their smaller scope, short books allow readers to complete stories at a faster pace, offering a sense of accomplishment and a faster turnaround between novels which can, in turn, maintain reading momentum and motivation.

Short sci-fi books can also be a great way to discover new authors or revisit old favorites. Many established sci-fi authors have written short stories or novellas that are just as compelling as their longer works. For example, Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” is a collection of short stories that explore the relationship between humans and robots. Each story is a self-contained mystery that builds on the larger themes of the book, making it a great introduction to Asimov’s work.

In conclusion, short sci-fi books offer a wealth of benefits for busy readers. They’re a great way to experience compelling stories in a short amount of time, and they can provide a refreshing change of pace for readers who are used to longer novels. So if you’re looking for a new sci-fi adventure but don’t have weeks to spare, consider picking up a short book and diving in!

The Classics: Timeless Short Sci-Fi Books

No list of short sci-fi works would be complete without paying homage to the classics of the genre. These timeless tales have captured the imaginations of countless readers and continue to influence the science fiction world today. Here are some of the most outstanding short classic sci-fi books:

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

The Time Machine

First published in 1895, this novella is often hailed as the first true science fiction story. It follows an inventor who creates a time machine and finds himself thrust into the distant future, where he encounters societies of vastly different creatures living in what used to be England. This timeless classic explores themes such as industrialization, evolutionary theory, and the ultimate fate of humanity.

The Time Machine is a fascinating exploration of the possibilities of time travel. Wells’ vivid descriptions of the future world are both imaginative and thought-provoking. The story raises questions about the nature of progress and the dangers of unchecked technological advancement. At its core, The Time Machine is a cautionary tale about the perils of ignoring the consequences of our actions.

The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick

The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories By Philip K. Dick

This 1956 short story takes place in a world where crime has been virtually eliminated thanks to Precrime, a division of the police force that arrests people for crimes they haven’t yet committed. However, when the protagonist is accused of a future murder, he must unravel the truth behind the system he once believed in. Philip K. Dick’s story challenges the ideas of free will and determinism in a gripping tale of suspense.

The Minority Report is a haunting exploration of the nature of guilt and innocence. Dick’s futuristic world is both fascinating and terrifying, with its emphasis on preemptive law enforcement and the manipulation of human behavior. The story raises important ethical questions about the balance between personal freedom and societal safety, and the dangers of relying too heavily on technology to solve our problems.

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

The Stars My Destination

Originally published in 1957, this novel combines elements of science fiction and noir in a thrilling tale of interstellar intrigue. Gully Foyle, a lowly space traveler, survives the destruction of his ship and embarks on a relentless quest for revenge against those who left him for dead. Along the way, readers are treated to a dazzling array of futuristic concepts that continue to captivate even today.

The Stars My Destination is a masterful blend of action, suspense, and social commentary. Bester’s world is a vividly imagined universe of corporate power struggles, genetic engineering, and interplanetary politics. The story raises important questions about the nature of identity and the role of technology in shaping our lives. At the same time, it is a thrilling adventure that keeps readers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

Modern Gems: Recent Short Sci-Fi Books

While it’s important to appreciate the classics, there’s no shortage of modern short sci-fi books that deserve recognition as well. These newer titles have made a significant impact on the genre and provide fresh takes on familiar tropes. Be sure to check out these captivating modern gems:

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor


This 2015 novella tells the story of Binti, the first member of the Himba people from Earth to attend the prestigious Oomza University in space. On her journey, she must navigate the complexities of intercultural understanding and face the deadly alien force known as the Meduse. Okorafor artfully weaves themes of identity, culture clash, and the power of diplomacy into this compelling science fiction tale.

As Binti travels through space, she reflects on her heritage and how it has shaped her view of the world. She is proud of her people and their traditions, but also recognizes the limitations they face in a world dominated by other cultures. Her journey to Oomza University forces her to confront these limitations and find a way to bridge the gap between her people and the wider universe.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (Kindle Single): The Murderbot Diaries

All Systems Red is the first installment in the Murderbot Diaries series and was published in 2017. The story follows an artificial security unit, known as Murderbot, as it struggles with newfound self-awareness and a team of hapless human scientists. With a blend of humor, action, and social commentary, this novella is a delightful exploration of what it means to be sentient and alive.

Murderbot’s journey is one of self-discovery and self-acceptance. As it learns more about its own nature and the world around it, it begins to question the assumptions it has always held about itself and its place in the universe. The interactions between Murderbot and the humans it is tasked with protecting are both humorous and poignant, highlighting the complex relationships that can exist between beings of different species.

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

The Test

Released in 2019, The Test centers around Idir, an immigrant taking an intense citizenship test in a dystopian future version of Britain. As the test takes a sinister turn, Idir finds himself making impossible decisions that blur the lines between right and wrong. This powerful, thought-provoking novella is a stark examination of the ethical implications of immigration policy and the power of individual choices.

The Test raises important questions about the nature of citizenship and the responsibilities that come with it. Idir’s journey through the test is harrowing and emotionally charged, forcing him to confront his own beliefs and values in the face of extreme adversity. The novella’s dystopian setting serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked government power and the importance of individual agency in shaping the future.

Award-Winning Short Sci-Fi Books

Lastly, let’s turn our attention to some award-winning short sci-fi books that have garnered critical acclaim and recognition. If you’re looking to read the best of the best, you can’t go wrong with these celebrated titles:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness: 50th Anniversary Edition (Ace Science Fiction)

Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1970, this groundbreaking novel follows the story of Genly Ai, a human emissary tasked with bringing the planet Gethen into a galactic alliance. Throughout his journey, Ai faces numerous challenges due to the androgynous nature of the Gethenians, forcing him to confront his own preconceived notions about gender and society. A masterful exploration of social constructs and the human condition, The Left Hand of Darkness is a must-read for sci-fi enthusiasts.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle)

Another double-award winner, The Dispossessed picked up both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1975. Set in the same universe as The Left Hand of Darkness, this novel chronicles the lives of two planets, Anarres and Urras, and their vastly different societies. As physicist Shevek works to bridge the gap between the two worlds, Le Guin explores themes of utopia, ideology, and the inherent cost of freedom.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl

Paolo Bacigalupi’s 2009 debut novel earned both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for its richly detailed and provocative exploration of a world ravaged by corporate greed, environmental collapse, and biotechnology. The Windup Girl follows the interwoven stories of several characters as they navigate this tumultuous landscape, ultimately converging in an unforgettable climax that challenges the notion of what is truly valuable in society.

In conclusion, each of these short sci-fi books offers a captivating journey into other worlds and possibilities. No matter your preferences or time constraints, there’s a short sci-fi book out there that will satisfy your craving for adventure, intrigue, and thought-provoking concepts. Happy reading!


What are the benefits of reading short fiction?

Short fiction allows readers to try a range of genres without committing hours of time to a novel they are not sure they are going to enjoy. Reading short fiction is a great way to trial different genres and authors.

Who are the most popular Sci-Fi authors?

Ursula K. Le Guin, Jules Verne, Philip K. Dick, and Andy Weir are considered to be among the best writers of the Sci-Fi genre.

What is the average length of a Sci-Fi novel?

On average, Sci-Fi novels range between 170 and 500 pages in length. This breadth is produced by the vast range of story arcs and plots that come under the umbrella term of Sci-Fi.

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