17 Best Sci-Fi Books To Read If You Loved ‘The Martian’


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Books similar to the Martian

Andy Weir’s debut novel ‘Martian’ takes you on an interstellar journey. As a sci-fi novel it explores elements of science, space and the solar system. But what makes this space adventure standout from others is the comedy elements. The unexpected humour is one of many reasons for the ‘Martian’s’ huge success. 

The ‘Martian’ tells an incredible story of an astronaut who uses applied knowledge, ingenuity and sheer will power to find a way to survive, and even escape after being stranded on Mars. After the failure of the Ares 3 mission to Mars, the crew members of the ship return to Earth and leave behind Mark Watney, presuming that he died in the storm. With only a little food and supply, Watney is alone on the red planet. Now he has to use his knowledge and spirit to survive in this new environment. As he tries to work things out one by one, readers will be on the edge of their seats, desperate to know he’ll get through his life-and-death situation on Mars. 

If you loved this risk-taking space adventure, here are 17 similar books like the ‘Martian’!

Just like Andy Weir, authors of these space operas have created the perfect mix of science, action and space adventure. The list also has Andy Weir’s 2021 release ‘Project Hail Mary’. Similar in theme and writing to the ‘Martian’, the ‘Project Hail Mary’ is the story of a high school teacher who is on a one-way trip to save the Earth from extinction. 

So if you’ve already read the ‘Martian’, time to grab these 17 space adventure novels immediately! 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams’ novel narrates the endless troubles of the last surviving man of Earth. Arthur Dent is furious to find out that his house is about to be demolished to make way for a highway. However, just as he tries to wrap his head around the matter, he learns from his friend Ford Perfect that Earth is about to be destroyed as well. Soon both travel together through the galaxy. Unlike Mark Watney, the protagonist of the ‘Martian’, Arthur is not alone, he meets so many unique and bizarre creatures, including a depressed robot. Basically this is a light-hearted space adventure that follows a group of people who get along exceptionally well and travel through space, despite the differences. It’s funny and entertaining but also a brave story of survival. 

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Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s latest is another terrific sci-fi novel that you wouldn’t be able to put down.  School teacher Ryland Grace wakes up in a spacecraft without any memory. It took him a while to recall his own name and where he is. However, he has no clue about his mission. He examines his spaceship and concludes that it must be an important mission otherwise he wouldn’t be in a different star system. He also discovers that other astronauts who had accompanied him couldn’t survive and it’s up to him to figure out everything, including the purpose of his journey and flying the spaceship. Just like his debut novel ‘Project Hail Mary’ has a rare combination of  science and emotion. The tension and the suspense never lets up from the beginning till the very end! 

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Dune by Frank Herbert

American author Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel ‘Dune’ is a classic sci-fi, in the distant future. The setting of the novel is in the year 10191, and  humans have colonised numerous planets. One such planet is Arrakis, a desert planet which also happened to be the source of one rare spice called melange. This precious spice can help humans to achieve great power. Duke Leto Atreides has been appointed to take over Arrakis from its enemies. As his family relocates to the desert planet, they are about to realise the truth about this new planet. ‘Dune’ is less about astronauts or spaceships but more about fate and prophecy. The novel has unusual elements of fantasy and sci-fi. Just like Mark Watney, who fought to survive in the alien environment, the Atreides are also grappling with difficulties on this new planet. 

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The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Rosemary is certain that her new job as a clerk to the spaceship The Wayfarer is the perfect opportunity to escape the past. A fresh start that she has been looking for a while. As she gets to know the other crew members on the ship which includes, reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks and the captain, she realises that each member hides their own secrets. Soon Wayfarer is offered a crucial task, building a subspace tunnel. As the tunnelling operation takes a lot of work and time, their secrets begin to unfold. During the  journey the crew also encounters various aliens, because of which their relationship is threatened. Just like Martian, ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ by Becky Chambers is an exciting adventure in space but it elucidates the themes of chosen family and friendship. It shows how crew members provide comfort and support in the face of adversity. 

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The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Nive &Jerry Pournelle

Published in 1974, ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’ is another fascinating sci-fi which is quite similar to the ‘Martian’ in terms of it’s appealing and intriguing plot. Given that the novel was written in 1970’s the story is an epic tale about alien encounters. Set in 3017, humanity has many empires in the galaxy. Faster-than light travel has empowered mankind to spread across space. Soon, unique intelligent beings have been found in the Mote, in an remote star. Subsequently more officials are sent to communicate with the aliens, most of which seems to be less effective. The sequel to the novel ‘The Gripping Hand’ was published in 1993, followed by the third novel ‘Outies’ in 2010. 

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Blindsight by Peter Watts 

Canadian author Peter Watts’ novel is set in the year 2082. There has been a peculiar event that has almost confirmed the invasion of aliens. Around Sixty-five thousand objects have burned up in Earth’s atmosphere and scientists couldn’t really discover what it is or the possible reason behind it. After a few months, another mysterious whisper is heard at the edge of the solar system. Yet, scientists were unable to identify any of these phenomenons. Soon a team is sent to investigate the matter. And this is when a group of mostly unlikely heroes team up. There is a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, a soldier, a biologist and even a vampire. Watts crafts a logical plot to fit all his characters. This is a fascinating sci-fi novel with a unique approach to science and extraterrestrial life. 

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Andromeda Strain by Crichton 

This fast-paced techno-thriller is written by an actual scientist. Just like Andy Weir, Michael Crichton has done meticulous research to write this riveting thriller. It tells the story of a project that was introduced to investigate the mysterious organisms in Arizona and its repercussions. When a satellite, designed as a part of the Wildfire Project, crashes into Earth, near Arizona, everyone is killed in the town. As the lead scientist Jeremy Stone and his team members visit the affected area, they find a satellite along with two survivors,  an old man and a baby. They take them to a secret lab to  investigate further about possible alien infections. Books like ‘Martian’ often narrates situations of which humans have no control of. Andromeda Strain is one such book.

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Way station by Clifford D Simak

Civil War veteran Enoch Wallace is leading a secluded life in the backwoods of rural Wisconsin. Although his birth record says he is more than 100 year old, he doesn’t seem to age over thirty which is why the government begins to pay close attention to his life. And what they don’t know is that Enoch is a caretaker for an alien way station. His house is the resting place of aliens who travel across the Galaxy. As they teleport to his house, they are often interactive and leave gifts for Enoch who hardly understands the purpose behind these little offerings. Soon a series of events begin to threaten Enoch, the way station and the entire human kind. Compared to ‘the Martian’ ,Way station is a short novel with only ‘250 pages’. 

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ is a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. It was published in 1966 and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967!

The story takes place in 2075, when the Moon has been colonised by Earth’s governments and is used as a penal colony. These prisoners are under the surveillance of a supercomputer. When the protagonist, Manuel Garcia O’Kelly Davis, a computer technician, arrives to fix the computer, he makes a surprising discovery. The supercomputer has developed a feeling of emotions and a sense of humour. It even began to pull pranks on humans. Manuel names the computer Mike and advises him not to play any tricks on the prisoners. The people in the lunar colony, known as loonies, are the major producers of the food for Earth. When loonies realise that sending produce can actually break down their own life, they demand the declaration of independence. And Mike, the supercomputer is a key factor in this revolution. 

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Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

Russian-born, American author Isaac Asimov’s novel ‘Robots of dawn’ is the third novel in the ‘Robots’ series. The previous books in the series  were ‘The Caves of Steel’ and ‘The Naked Sun’. These novels mostly feature the unlikely partners: city detective Elijah Baley and a humanoid robot, R. Daneel Oliver. 

In ‘Robots of Dawn’ the pair reunite again to solve a bizarre case of roboticide. The renowned Dr. Han Fastolfe is accused of roboticide in order to protect his secrets. Although Fastolfe doesn’t admit the crime, he confirms that he is the only person who is knowledgeable on the matter. The detectives are summoned to the Spacer planet, Aurora to do the investigation. Baley quickly realises this case can not only ruin his career but also lives on Earth. ‘Robots of dawn’ similar to the ‘Martian’ in terms of background (both take place on other planets) but also involving a variety of themes in the main story. 

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The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes

J.S. Dewes’ military sci-fi debut novel is as exciting and thrilling as Andy Weir’s debut novel. Even though the story is science fiction, Dewes doesn’t bore the reader with heavy technical details. In fact, it’s an easy to read space opera that combines vivid characters and an interesting plot. A spaceship called The Argus is at the edge of the universe with a crew of outcasts including, a former prince and a soldier. Despite the differences and inner conflicts, they are all forced to work together to stop the destruction of the universe. With no communications and help from anyone they band together to protect the universe. 

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

‘Station Eleven’ is ​​a post-apocalyptic novel set in the near future. The plot of the novel follows ‘the collapse’, a deadly flu that kills most humans. But there are a few who were able to survive the deadly virus. The story then progresses towards the lives of those main characters offering glimpses of their life before “the collapse” and after. St. John Mandel narrates the story through numerous perspectives. There is a group of entertainers called ‘Travelling Symphony’ who travel across America to perform for a few remaining  people. When the story begins, we are introduced to an ageing Hollywood actor Arthur Leander who is performing Shakespeare’s King Lear in Toronto, minutes before his death. ‘Station Eleven’ and ‘Martian’ explore similar themes- culture and civilization. 

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Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein’s speculative fiction is narrated by Johnny Rico, a young soldier who has been recruited to the toughest Federal Service of Earth’s Terran Federation. This military life is not for the faint-hearted. It’s one of the most dangerous jobs and Rico is well aware of that. All are heavily armed and are often required to travel to distant planets. By the time Rico becomes an officer, the interstellar war has begun between humans and aliens, known as “Arachnids” or “Bugs”. Although on the surface this is a military space adventure, the novel also discusses the author’s own political views, juvenile delinquency and more.   

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How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu 

Sequoia Nagamatsu is taking you on an utterly heart-wrenching journey through his books. The story is set in 2030 when a recently found virus is spreading rapidly. As a grieving archaeologist arrives in the Arctic Circle to carry on with his deceased daughter’s project, the long-buried secrets are revealed. An unearthed Neanderthal corpse containing  a deadly virus is exposed, it’s devastating effects will transform life on Earth for generations. Because of this catastrophic virus, humans are forced to invent bizarre rituals to cope with the tragedy. Which includes, theme parks for terminally ill children and funerary skyscrapers. There are also others who find peace in virtual reality or some set forth on a cosmic quest to find a new planet. Nagamatsu’s prose is much more intense and emotionally compelling than Weir’s Martian. But both writers have meticulously crafted a unique concept. 

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The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez 

This 2020 space opera debut novel follows several characters from many different galaxies whose lives are interconnected. We meet Nia Imani who is a captain of a crew. The primary task of hers includes transporting goods to Allied Space. She travels in “pocket space” which brings a huge difference in the travel time. While it takes 8 months for her to reach the particular planet, the number equivalent to the planet is 15 years. This makes others grow old, meanwhile Nia remains young.  She watches all of her loved ones grow older. During one of these trips, she meets a mysterious boy with a traumatic past. Since the people on the planet are afraid of him and his strange way of communication, Nia decides to take the boy with her. As the two strangers begin to spend their time alongside each other, they both discover something unique about one another.

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Contact by Carl Sagan

American scientist Carl Sagan’s novel follows an astronomer who is on a mission to find extraterrestrial life. Dr. Ellie Arroway, a director of a science research team, which focuses on the signals emerging from other planets. When a computer detects a signal from the surroundings of the star Vega, Dr. Ellie discovers  a unique sequence of prime numbers. Ellie and the team confirm that it’s coming from an intelligent civilization. And the message, however, turns out to be a blueprint of an advanced travelling machine. A group of world leaders and scientists discuss the matter and soon a team is chosen to work on the trip. As the plot thickens, Sagan goes deep into the complex mathematics and science, explaining the main purpose of the program and the advanced space technology, including how satellites are launched in space. Other than science, the novel also explores the themes of religion, spirituality and humanity. 

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Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson 

Neal Stephenson’s timely novel is a speculative fiction that focuses on the near future and climate change. People are struggling to survive in the scorching heat, global flooding and deadly pandemics. In order to save humanity, a Texas oil-industry billionaire introduces a project called solar geoengineering. The process includes firing massive amounts of sulphur into the air to cool down the planet. However, the project has different effects on different parts of the world. While the project benefits the below sea-level areas, the other areas get affected terribly. The novel follows several characters including members of Dutch royal family, Punjab-Canadian Sikh and a Comanche exterminator of feral hogs. Just as Mark Watney had to re-engineer ‘Martian’ nature to survive, the same can be seen in Termination Shock.

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Ready to get started with these thrilling sci-fi novels like The Martian?

What other books would you include in the list? Let me know in the comments

Stephy

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