Here are the ten book series that I consider to be the best that I’ve read. I must stress, these are in no particular order, the numbers are there to count not to rank.
I count a series as being more than 3 books. My Top Ten Best Book Trilogies and Duologies will happen at another time.
1 TimeRiders (YA SCI-FI Time-Travel) by Alex Scarrow
This 9-book series (and short stories and extra content on the website as well as a 10th book promised for the near future…) follows 3 young people who are plucked from the brink of death by a time traveller and are recruited into a mysterious agency where they become guardians of time itself. Their job is to monitor reality and if the detect any changes made by other time travellers; they are to go to the source of the disturbance and correct the timeline.
What makes this series so good is that, despite starting off in an episodic style with each book dealing with a different time period, the series soon departs from that and quickly evolves into something else. This is inspired as it deliberately limits the tellable stories. Some authors may have been tempted to write dozens of adventures based in every time-period but lose any substance the series may have had. By limiting the number of books in the series, the content can be richer and the overarching story arc can have a greater impact in each book.
The small cast of characters makes it easier to get to know them. We get to know Sal through her diary entries, we follow Liam on his missions through time and we get to hear all about Maddy’s hang-ups a she tries to keep the group functioning. The mysterious Foster has quite the reveal and the two support units Bob and Becks are fantastic editions to the group.
This would make an excellent TV series with extra adventures possibly thrown in
2 The Stainless Steel Rat (SCI-FI Space Adventure/Spy) by Harry Harrison
This 11-book series (and a few short stories) follows master thief James “Slippery Jim” DeGriz AKA The Stainless Steel Rat in a future where mankind has populated the stars and Earth is a lost myth. In the original book Jim is captured by the Special Corps, a secret agency who use ‘good’ criminals to stop ‘evil’ criminals and despots. Each book sees Jim being sent off by the agency to stop the latest evil mastermind from doing bad stuff. It’s a bit like James Bond in space (but Jim doesn’t do killing if he can help it).
Not only is this series full of great adventure, it’s also highly satirical towards things like war, corporations, prejudice, corruption and so on.
This series has often been misunderstood under the humour category. This isn’t a series that’ll make you laugh out loud, but one that’ll give you food for thought on how the world is run and a smile knowing they’ve got it wrong. Some of the context may be a bit dated now, but much of it is still relevant.
There is a chronology to the books (Jim marries and has a family and his sons join him on his adventures in the later books) with the argument about if you should read the prequels first.
Unfortunately, not every book is of the same high standard, there are definitely some weaker ones in here, but overall, it’s a good time to be had.
This would make an excellent series of movies.
3 Galactic Milieu (SCI-FI Mental Powers/Family Saga) by Julian May
Two epic sagas in one. The Saga of the Exiles and the Galactic Milieu.
The Exiles follows a group of eight misfits and outcasts of the Galactic Milieu as they jump through a time portal to the Pliocene, a path many have taken before them, to live out their lives away from a civilisation they can’t deal with. Unfortunately, Pliocene Earth already has visitors, this time from another planet, and they are very much in charge. Written on a scale and scope A Song Of Ice And Fire attempts to mimic, these four books are filled with battles, politics, mental powers and conflict as the group splits up, some joining with the aliens, some fighting for freedom and some following an agenda of their own.
The Galactic Milieu has a very different tone from that of the Exiles in that it is mostly a family saga. On the brink of humanity’s evolution into having mental powers, the five alien races of the Galactic Milieu monitor the Earth, unaware of the attention, to see if humans are eligible to join them. Chronicling the events is Rogi Remillard, whose amazing family orchestrates humanity’s rise to the stars, and near total destruction. This is another four books that follow the various family trees leading to the pivotal characters of Marc and Jon Remillard and Dorothea Macdonald. The story is told along with extracts of Rogi’s memoirs as alternating chapters.
Despite being almost two completely different series, they are linked strongly by Marc Remillard so I count them as one.
When HBO have finished with Game of Thrones, they should use what they have learned and do this.
4 The Expanse (SCI-FI Space) by James S. A. Corey
Six books so far with more on the way. I’ve heard described as Game of Thrones but in space and good. In the near future, mankind has begun to colonise Mars, the Moon as well as the larger asteroids and moons of the Solar System. Earth is still the dominant power but with the growing strength of Mars and the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance) that power is contestable. In the middle of this is an ice hauler named James Holden who finds himself and his crew in the middle of a System-wide conflict for power and control. To make matters worse, there’s an alien menace with the power to wipe-out every living thing…or to save humanity.
These books show the sequence of events that sees humanity reach the stars and beyond with greed and politics never giving up for a minute.
There are now two excellent seasons of this on Sci-Fi with a third season on the way.
5 Discworld (Fantasy humour) by Terry Pratchett
With over 50 novels, short stories, maps, the science ofs, and other supplementals, Terry Pratchett’s masterpiece is based on a flat world that rests on the shoulders of four immense elephants who, in turn, stand upon the shell of a turtle as it swims through space. Within these books he tackles topics such as death, life, politics, war, crime, religion, faith, class, race, gender, and people – without whom none of the other topics would be all that relevant. The books are either stand-alones or part of sub-series be it the fan favourite Night Watch (the detective novels); the Witches of Lancre (the battle against the big bad novels); Moist Von Lipwig (the underdog novels); DEATH (featuring the Anthropomorphic Personification of death, his granddaughter Susan and his horse Binky); Tiffany Aching (the Young Adult series that follows a young witch as she starts her witching); and Rincewind (the guided tour of the lands of Discworld, usually as Rincewind runs past them being chased by something unpleasant).
With such a variety of characters, genres, topics and themes there should be at least one book in this series that anyone could enjoy.
I enjoy the lot of them.
Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were each televised animated series. The Colour Of Magic, Hogfather and Going Postal were TV 2-part movies and Unseen Academicals is currently in the pipeline. I would love to see a detective series based on the Night Watch, possibly with the title: ‘Vimes’.
6 Tale Of The Ketty Jay (Steampunk Adventure) by Chris Wooding
This four-book series is best described as the honorary successor to the TV show Firefly. Set on a very different steampunk Earth, these adventures follow the crew of the airship Ketty Kay. Most of the crew are analogues of the crew of Serenity with similar chaos-ridden craziness embarked upon. With it confirmed that there will be no more books for this series, this makes it all the more precious (it takes up less space). No Reavers this time though…only Manes (zombies).
This would make a great TV series with the spin-off series following Samandra Bree and the Century Knights.
These last four series shouldn’t technically feature on this list as I’ve yet to actually complete them, but from what I’ve read so far, I’m pretty sure this is where they’ll end up.
7 Jan Darzek (SCI-FI Private Eye) by Lloyd Biggle Junior
I’ve only read the first two of this five-book series. However, they are my top two all-time favourite books so I’ll count this series even if I ever get hold of the other three books and find out they’re rubbish.
Essentially, Jan is a private eye on Earth when he’s recruited by an alien agency to solve stuff for them. Off he goes with his faithful secretary into a beautifully imagined galaxy filled with aliens of all shapes and matter transporters being the main mode of transport. Mysteries, intrigue, murder and a fish out of water story.
Yup, a TV series would work well here.
8 Star Wars Expanded Universe (SCI-FI Space Opera/Movie Tie-in) by various authors
I’ve currently read 133 of the hundreds of books in this series. As such I consider this world the true Star Wars (Disney Star Wars is a different thing entirely, it’s still good and enjoyable but a pale shadow of the original). Characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Prince Xixor, Guri, species such as the Yuunzhan Vong and planets such as Korriban and Zonama Sekot are to be found here.
Not every book is good, but the variety of authors and themes makes this universe from a rich tapestry of ideas. There’s military action with the Republic Commando and X-Wing series, there’s shenanigans with the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian trilogies, further depth given in the movie novelizations and more Force usage than you can shake a stick at. Some have Jedi, some don’t, some have characters from the movies, and some don’t.
When they announced Episode VII, I was all ready to see the Dark Nest trilogy brought to life, or the tail-end of the Yuushan Vong war. Sighs.
I might read Disney Star Wars books at some point, but in no hurry to do so.
9 The Long Earth (SCI-FI Multiverse/Exploration) By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Four out of five books read with book five at the bottom of my considerable TBR pile.
This wonderful collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter explores a world where, with a flick of a switch, a person can hop to an alternate Earth, untouched by human hands and only subtly different from the previous Earth. And nausea. With another flick another Earth. And nausea. And so on. Coupled with Lobsang, the first entity born of AI, these books are a fascinating exploration of people, evolution, planetary formation and exploration. The fact that the stepper boxes require a potato to work also keeps this story from going sci-fi dry.
A TV series based on some on the concepts would probably work better than any attempt to do a more book-faithful show.
10 Gone (SCI-FI YA Super Powers/Survival) by Michael Grant
I’m one book shy of finishing this six-book series. It’s in my current reading pile.
Suddenly everyone over the age of 15 vanishes. Also there’s an impenetrable dome covering the area. Also some of the kids have super powers. This is a story of survival against threats of the normal variety (hunger, predatory animals, and bad kids with guns) and less normal variety (voracious worms, an evil kid with a whip for an arm, coughing up your lungs). Sam, Astrid and friends must do what they can to survive, and a birthday’s coming up…
The warning on the back of these books is not lying. It is violent and graphic. Lovely stuff. There’s a good range of super powers, from the more well-known popular ones to some less-known and new ones. In each book, the chapter headings are a countdown to when the inevitable thing does whatever it does making for an increasing level of intensity as the end approaches.
With the things that happen to children in this one, there’s no way it will feature on screen as it is. It would need a Hunger-Games-Make-Everyone-Older thing, and even then it wouldn’t be enough. Frankly, there’s stuff I’ve read here I don’t want to see.