25 Best Space Opera Science Fiction Books

Here is a list of the Best Space Opera Science Fiction Books. These Space Opera SciFi Books are some of the best and were selected because they are set in outer space and include a more melodramatic theme. Also, if you are interested in listening to any of these Space Opera Science Fiction Novels go to Audible's one month free trial and get yourself two free books.


The Big Jump

By Leigh Brackett

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In the year 2045 the world is an ugly place. The only place Wade Watts feels like a real human is in the virtual utopia, also known as the OASIS. Devoting his life to hidden puzzles inside of the OASIS, he finds himself accomplishing challenges no one has ever done before. 


Battlefield Earth

By L. Ron Hubbard

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Battlefield Earth is a landmark work of space opera science fiction by genre heavyweight L Ron Hubbard. The story centers on an Earth which has been occupied by alien forces for over a millennium. The story centers on the surviving humans attempts to fight back and overthrow their oppressors once and for all. A truly action packed science fiction tale for fans of the space opera subgenre.


Cities in Flight

By James Blish

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Being a four volume series written by James Blish, Cities in Flight is covers a span of two thousand years filled with entires cities capable of flying through space. The four novels in this series include, They Shall Have Stars; A Life for the Stars; Earthman, Come Home; A Clash of Cymbals.


A Fire Upon the Deep

By Vernor Vinge

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A Fire Upon the Deep is an exciting novel about a galactic war being told on a cosmic scale. Thousands of years in the future there are more than just humans roaming the lands of the universe.

The potential mind of the inhabitants are solely based on where their location is in space. Some of these minds include super intelligent entities in the Transcend, and then where minds are limited in the Unthinking Depths. Here only the simple creatures and technology reside.


Falling Free

By Lois McMaster Bujold

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Leo Graf was nothing special. He was a highly efficient engineer that did what he was told. Day after day he would mind his own business fixing what was broken and moving on to the next. However this was all changed when he was assigned to the Cay Habitat.

Graf was faced with an immediate challenge as hundreds of helpless children were wrongly treated by a heartless mega-corporation. 


Ender's Game

By Orson Scott Card

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Set in Earth’s future humanity has begun to master interplanetary spaceflight and have started to explore the Universe. In their explorations they have encountered a race of alien known as the “buggers”. This discovery of their base soon leads towards a war between the aliens and humans. In the end the human barely win with the help of a young boy.


Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams

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Written in 1979 the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a comedic science fiction by Douglas Adams. The story follows the adventures of the main character Arthur Dent, an Englishman, and follows the destruction of the planet Earth by the Vogons. 



By Amie Kaufman

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Just when Kady thought the hardest thing she ever have to do in her life was breaking up with Ezra, her planet gets invaded. In this thrilling space opera science fiction book you travel to the future of 2575. As two megacorporations continue to be at war over a tiny planet their fire rains down on Kady and Ezra and they are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship.


Honor Among Thieves

By Rachel Caine

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Honor Among Thieves follows the story of Zara Cole, a criminal with a painful past. Her past is what defines her and is the reason she moved to New Detroit in for the chose a new life.

However like everyone else she is not perfect. After committing a crime that leaves her running Zara Cole might be running herself right into jail.


Blood of a Thousand Stars

By Rhoda Belles

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As a revolution is on the table Blood of a Thousand Stars takes you through the life of Rhee and the big choice she is going to be forced to make. The choice being between making a deal with her life long enemy, Nero, or denounce him and put her crown at risk.


Into the Fire

By Elizabeth Moon

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As Ky overcomes the struggles of betrayal and sabotage he leads the small group of crash survivors to safety. She also cheats death after the unbelievable discovery of secrets that someone was determined to protect.

However with all of this in her life the biggest struggle of all was when she discovers that her family is in serious danger. 


Chasm City

Alastair Reynolds

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Chasm City is based around a security expert, Tanner Mirabel, who came to Chasm City in order to avenge the death of a former client's wife. The man he is after is Argent Reivich a "postmortal". 


Started Rising

By David Brin

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Far into the future a Terran spaceship; crewed by 150 dolphins, 7 humans, and 1 chimpanzee, discovers a fleet of 50,000 spaceships as small as small moons in a shallow cluster formation. From first appearance the would seem to belong to the Progenitors, who were the "first race" and uplifted the other species. 


Starship Troopers

By Robert A. Heinlein

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Following the story of Johnnie Rico you learn that he never had the intentions to join the infantry. Yet here he is, right in the middle of it all. Trying his best to get through combat training was one of the hardest things he had ever imagined. The hardest part for him and all of his comrades is knowing that if the training doesn't kill you, the Bugs are more than ready to do it instead. 



By Fredrick Pohl

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The Gateway: A space station built into a hollow asteroid and created by the Heechee. The technology of the starships found inside of the station is way beyond the understanding of most humans and is under the control of The Gateway Corporation administers. 

Yet through trial and error the humans are slowing figuring out how the spaceships work. With the coordinates pre programmed into the ships by the aliens that humans try to figure out where exactly they were trying to go.  


The Forever War

By Joe Haldman

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As a reluctant conscript is drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella gets shipped through space and time in order to stop the thousand year old conflict between Earth and the aliens. His mission is to perform his duties and do whatever he must in order to survive and return home. Yet "home" may never be the same due to the time dilation that was caused by his space travel in the beginning. 


The Paradox Men

By Charles L. Harness

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The Paradox Men is a science fiction book written by Charles L. Harness and was his first and most famous novel yet. Set after the Third Great War when North and South America are now one country, The Paradox Men is a thrilling space opera. As North and South America are combined into Imperial America, it has turned into a slave state run by a small group of the wealthy. However working underground is an organization dedicated in overthrowing the government and bring the Imperial America back to freedom. 


Revelation Space

By Alastair Reynolds

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Stepping back nine hundred thousand years ago something had annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as they were about to discover space flight. Now scientist, Dan Sylveste, dedicates the rest of his life to solving the Amarantin mystery before history decides to repeat itself again. 



By Frank Herbert

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Dune is set on the desert planet of Arrakis. It follows a boy who goes by the name of Paul Atreides and would later be known as Muad'Dib. The story also follows a family's great ambitions to bring back fruition to humankind's biggest unattainable dream. 



By Dan Simmons

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Set in the 27th century humans are dispersed all throughout the galaxy. Traveling on "Hawking drive" ships and then through "farcasters" to unknown planets, result in time dilation effects which in time cause "time debt" accruals. 


Old Man's War 

By John Scalzi

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For most people when they turn 75 they don't do much. Maybe a simple party and have family come over. But that is not the case for John Perry. On his 75th birthday he did two things. First was to visit his wife's grave. And the second was joining the army. 

The only good news about this was that humanity had finally made it into interstellar space. However the bad new was that they only planets capable of living there were very scarce. 


Shards of Honor

By Lois McMaster Bujold

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As captain of a Betan Astronomical Survey ship, Cordelia Naismith, is discovering a new planet her base camp gets attacked. While Cordelia was investigating she finds herself getting surprised by a soldier and her head being smashed up against a rock. She awakes only to find out her crew had escaped and she was left with an injured Betan ensign and Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan of Barrayar, also known as "Butcher of Komarr". 


The Stars Are Legion

By Kameron Hurley

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Far into the outer rim of the universe a large mass of decaying world-ships was traveling in the and out of the stars. Those ships were known as the Legion. A world that had waged war for control for generations and ended with no clear resolution. 

Yet as worlds die day after day a plan is put into motion out of pure desperation. 


Iron Gold

By Pierce Brown

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Ten years later, after their victory over the Golds of the Core Worlds, a new Solar Republic has come in. As the government is in disarray Dancer has risen into power in the Senate. Meanwhile ignoring all orders given to him by the Senate Darrow launches a massive assault on Mercury. 


Memory's Blade

By Spencer Ellsworth

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In the heart of the Dark Zone a dual for the universe continues on. As Jaqi faces the new ruler of the Empire, who set flame to all the worlds in his quest to destroy humankind, he swears to stop him at all costs. However the issue is that Jaqi is not a fighter.  

What is a Space Opera?

What makes a great Space Opera?

Is it a Martian Pavarotti? Or the acoustic of the Interstellar Opera House? Or maybe it's just those little Poppler blinis and expensive glasses of sparkling blue milk they serve after the show.

As fun as this sounds, Space Operas aren't necessarily fancy galactic musical numbers (Unless your Catherynne M. Valente in which case... Lemme at them Popplers).  But all jokes aside, space operas have many great defining characteristics. These include over-the-top adventure, steamy yet noble romance, space warfare, and great interplanetary battles. 

If you're still having trouble imagining it... Just think Star Wars. George Lucas' series is the absolute definition of a Space Opera. 

Why are they called Space Operas?

The genre was first christened the "Space Opera" back in 1941 by fan fiction writer and independent author Wilson Tucker. And it wasn't very nice at the time either. 

Tucker used it as a derogatory term in Issue 36 of science fiction fanzine Le Zombie. So... why is space opera such a bad thing. It sounds pretty fun. But... 

In the late 1930s and 1940s, there were several radio dramas that aired. Remember this was the golden age of radio. These radio dramas were often hokey dramas sponsored by soap companies. (Thus, soap operas.) The term had extended itself to some the Spaghetti Westerns being produced at the time as well under the term "horse opera". 

SciFi fans of the time started to notice something funny... That many of these "horse operas" were simply being moved to outer space-- with the details changed to suit galactic conditions. This inspired Tucker to first use the phrase "space opera". A story that was little more science fiction than fantasy.

The term has stuck and later evolved to be one of the most popular areas of science fiction.

The Space Opera Strikes Back

So, if space operas didn't start out so great... What happened? What changed?

Well, despite having a jaded name, space operas remained a guilty pleasure for readers. And their ever-growing popularity reached a milestone in the 60's and 70's. Readers had redefined the negative connotation associated with Space Operas as now a specific type of SciFi adventure. 

Around this time, British writers also help to propel space operas into commonplace SciFi during the British Golden Age of SciFi. Authors such as M. John Harrison, Gary Gibson, and Paul McAuley are all great contributors to this time.

Despite all these wonderful contributions, the space opera didn't  become recognized as its own legitimate genre until the early 1990's. In The Space Opera Renaissance, Kathryn Cramer and David Hartwell had this to say about space operas:

"... colorful, dramatic, large-scale science fiction adventure, competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focused on a sympathetic, heroic central character and plot action, and usually set in the relatively distant future, and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone. It often deals with war, piracy, military virtues, and very large-scale action, large stakes."

Best Space Operas on TV

Get These Best SciFi Space Opera Books for Free!

Are you interested in finding some of the best science fiction space opera books for free? If so check out the two ways you can find them for free: 

1. Audible's One Month Free Trial: When you sign up for Audible's free trial you are able to receive two absolutely free books. If you decide to later on cancel your account you can still keep your books. However if you wish to continue your subscription it is only $14.95 per month. 

5 thoughts on “25 Best Space Opera Science Fiction Books”

  1. I see some old titles in there. To leave Iain M Banks and Neal Asher (currently the top selling author!) books out of the list is almost a criminal offense to the genre.

    • Hmmm… Looks like I may need to go back in revise this list.

  2. Peter F Hamilton is arguably the best living writer of space opera at the moment, since Banks. In my opinion of course.

    • Looks like we need to get our hands on some more Peter F. Hamilton. Thanks for the homework!


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