Modern science fiction has recently gone through another renaissance.
Hard science fiction—novels that speculate from real science—have grown in popularity and many new exciting series have popped into existence.
The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey is a perfect example of this new boom of science fiction.
Starting with the first novel Leviathan Wakes, we are introduced to a future vision of the galaxy that sees humanity colonizing the solar system.
The story follows a series of characters as they race to bring peace to a fracturing society.
With great prose, captivating characters, and intriguing technology, The Expanse is one of the best examples of what modern science fiction has to offer.
If you enjoyed the Expanse series, then you’re likely to enjoy these 5 other sci-fi epics, including The Three-Body Problem, Dune, Earthlight, The Forever War, and Mars Prime.
Main Themes In The Expanse
Power And Control
In Leviathan Wakes, we are presented with three major space factions who are the driving force behind the plot.
Each faction has a different level of power, including the Martian Congressional Republic which looks to serve itself at the expense of other factions.
Power and control for the wider solar system are some of the central struggles of the series that characters must contend with.
Humanity Vs. Technology
Another key theme in The Expanse is the difficult relationship between technology and the human spirit.
By the time we get to the future setting of the series, humanity has created some incredible space technology and powerful weaponry.
A major problem of the plot is whether or not they should use ethically gray technology in order to further the goals of a specific faction.
Linked to the theme of power/control is the concept of unity.
Although humanity has developed enough to colonize the solar system, many of the same divisions between factions exist that have caused problems throughout history.
This theme links back to modern issues we deal with today, and asks the reader to question how important unity is for us as a species.
5 Books Like The Expanse
The Three-Body Problem By Cixin Liu
First up we have a novel that is often seen as a distant relative to The Expanse, and the first in a series of novels that showcase the masterpiece of Chinese sci-fi writer Cixin Liu.
This novel takes place in the near future when humanity makes first contact with alien life.
The reader is taken through a story where humanity has to contend with the idea of extraterrestrial life, and how we can bond together to deal with an existential threat.
This is a series that is gigantic in scope and thought-provoking to the very end.
- This novel and the following series question what it is to be human and what would happen if we were to make contact with aliens.
- Features realistic science and poses probable questions.
- Epic in scope, spanning three thrilling novels.
- The characters in The Three-Body Problem aren’t as captivating as in The Expanse.
Themes Similar To The Expanse: Power and Control, Humanity, Extraterrestrial Life, Unity.
Dune By Frank Herbert
Dune is to sci-fi what The Lord of The Rings is to fantasy fiction.
If you’re interested in reading a novel that inspired The Expanse, then Dune is going to be a great pick for you.
The story follows Paul Atredis in a far-future version of human civilization, as his noble household is tasked by the Emperor to govern the desert planet Arrakis.
Soon, a terrible government plot unfolds and he is forced to fight for survival.
With some of the most unique worldbuilding in all of sci-fi, and a wealth of unique characters, this is a novel that has captivated the minds of even those who don’t read all that much sci-fi.
Dune is a great choice if you love the more epic qualities of The Expanse and want to read something as rich and well-crafted.
It’s also the first part of a long series that explores its central ideas in much greater detail.
However, you can always just read it as a standalone if you don’t want to commit to another series.
- This novel is one of the most important sci-fi epics ever written.
- It includes a far-future version of humanity that has discovered interstellar travel.
- A twisting plot that will keep you hooked to the very end.
- Some people find the novel challenging to get into because of its rich universe and dense prose style.
Themes Similar To The Expanse: Space Travel, Power and Control, Humanity.
Earthlight By Arthur C. Clarke
This novel takes place in a very similar scenario as The Expanse, where humanity has populated the solar system.
As the different factions each make their own bids to control the solar system, the reader follows the story of a CIA agent trying to fix a civilization on the brink of interplanetary war.
Earthlight is part sci-fi epic, part detective story, and will keep you hooked with its tight plot and enthralling worldbuilding.
- Features a similar setting to The Expanse, with an impending war between different interplanetary factions.
- Has a punchy plot with lots of twists and turns.
- Part detective story, which is great if you’re not so familiar with sci-fi as a genre.
- Lacks some of the epic qualities that you might find in The Expanse.
Themes Similar To The Expanse: Space Factions, Humanity, Power and Control, Secrets.
The Forever War By Joe Haldeman
If you liked the alien aspects of The Expanse, then The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is bound to scratch a similar itch.
Part space opera, part military sci-fi, this is the tale of William Mandella as he partakes in a war against a brutal alien civilization.
This story will take you through a plot that weaves hard sci-fi elements like the effects of time dilation together with a classic tale of humanity fighting back against an interstellar enemy.
It’s also book 1 of a three-part series.
- A mix between military sci-fi and a space opera.
- Uses hard sci-fi elements to make the setting more realistic.
- Has some classic elements of humanity fighting against an alien threat.
- This novel has more of a focus on general military life, making the characters feel different from The Expanse.
Themes Similar To The Expanse: Power And Control, War, Secrets, Humanity.
Mars Prime By William C. Dietz
Mars Prime is a novel that starts with a simplistic premise—a colony ship on its way to mars has a crew member with a deadly secret.
The novel then follows Rex Corvan after realizing that the ship might be home to a serial killer.
A cat and mouse game unfolds after the ship’s artificial intelligence gives Rex an indication of who the killer might be, and the rest of the plot unfolds with thrilling consequences.
This is a great novel to pick up if you liked the detective elements of The Expanse and want to read more of something set in a similar scenario.
- This novel features a captivating plot, written in a thriller style.
- The sci-fi setting is reminiscent of The Expanse.
- The main character of Rex Corvan is awesome to read and well-developed.
- Slightly more formulaic compared to something like The Expanse.
Themes Similar To Mars Prime: Secrets, Humanity vs. Technology, Space Travel.
Although The Expanse is a standout, modern sci-fi epic, there are many other novels that have been written around the same time for you to get invested in.
If you’re looking for something that emulates the fast plotting and mysterious elements of the series, then it’s best to go for something like Mars Prime or Earthlight.
If you’re looking for something that features an expansive universe for you to explore, then we’d recommend Dune, The Three-Body Problem, or The Forever War.
Whatever you choose, you should know that sci-fi is a diverse genre with something for everyone.
We hope that this list has given you some ideas for your next book or series to sink your teeth into, and that you have a wonderful time exploring space through the medium of the written word.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Military Science Fiction?
Military science fiction is a subgenre of sci-fi that revolves around military institutions in space. Often, the main character is a soldier fighting their way through an interplanetary war.
What Is Space Opera?
You can think of a Space Opera novel as a story that is an adventure story set in space. They often feature diverse characters and expansive plots.
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