I love science fiction. The sheer possibility of it; the idea that there are grand vistas yet unexplored, living their lives with no notion that we even exist? It’s amazing to me. Science fiction is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “…a form of fiction that deals principally with the impact of actual or imagined science upon society or individuals.” Much of that imagined science involves space travel, but not all of it; time travel falls under sci-fi, as does any kind of miracle medicine, mech suit, or really anything you can think of that involves technology we do not currently have today. The scope, you could say, is very broad.
One of my favorite ways to read sci-fi is via audiobook. Narration lends a whole new aspect to books; narrators are often in on the jokes, and know how to pronounce the names of characters and planets. I can listen to the dulcet tones of my favorite narrators while I garden, commute, or do the dishes. For sci-fi, this is particularly great because while I’m doing boring 2022 human stuff, my brain is riding dragons on Pern or saving humans with a murderbot. It’s a win-win for both the chore list and my attention span.
If you’re looking to start with some solidly good audiobooks, I’ve gathered the first books of 10 sci-fi series audiobooks here. As a bonus, all are written by female authors (to the best of my current knowledge), and the list includes multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winners. Go forth and explore!
Sci-Fi Series Audiobooks by Women
The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N. K. Jemisin
Jemisin was the first Black woman to win the Hugo for Best Novel, and her brilliantly twisty Broken Earth trilogy won three times, earning Jemisin a well-deserved hat trick. Speaking of threes, The Fifth Season begins with an apocalyptic day in which three things happen: Essun comes home to discover that her husband has murdered her son and himself while her daughter has gone missing, the bedrock nation of the world has collapsed, and a giant rift has opened across the continent, spewing ash into the air that could make life on Earth unlivable for humans. Essun is willing to travel to the ends of the suddenly unknown Earth to find her daughter.
If you’re going to start with novel-length sci-fi, start here.
Binti: Binti Trilogy, Book 1 by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor is another heavy hitter when it comes to sci-fi in general, and also the category of sci-fi written by Black women. Binti is made up of 3 novellas, totaling around 150 pages in all, if I remember correctly. This series is excellent if you’re not sure this genre/reading combo is for you. It’s also simply excellent; it follows Binti, the first Himba to be offered a place at Oomza University — the finest school in the galaxy. But to get there, she will need to travel across space, putting her in proximity of the Meduse — a jellyfish-like people who have been gravely wronged by the same university that Binti is trying to reach.
Gideon the Ninth: The Locked Tomb, Book 1 by Tamsyn Muir
If you are still with me and haven’t heard of Gideon the Ninth yet, please come out of cryosleep and join the masterclass in weirdness. I’ll be honest: I’m not 100% sure what’s going on in these books, but I love them with my whole heart and cannot wait for the upcoming Nona the Ninth in September.
The Emperor has summoned contestants and their cavaliers from across the Houses to compete for a place as his immortal side. Gideon herself would prefer not to attend, but Harrowhark of the Ninth House has chosen her as her cavalier, so Gideon dons her traditional skull makeup, straps on her sword, grabs her dirty magazines, and goes.
Wild Seed: The Patternmaster Series, Book 1 by Octavia E. Butler
Octavia Butler is an O.G. of the sci-fi world, by which I mean she published the first sci-fi by a Black woman. The Patternist novels aren’t her best known, but they are a wild ride through genetic manipulation and demigods feuding over the fate of humanity.
Doro, who can change bodies at will, fears no one except Anyanwu. Anyanwu, who can shapeshift and heal with kisse, fears no one but Doro. Together, destiny leads them from Africa to the New World, weaving a new Pattern as they go.
The Madman’s Daughter: Madman’s Daughter Trilogy, Book 1 by Megan Shepherd
Inspired by the H.G. Wells classic, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Megan Shepherd’s trilogy is less space travel and more genetic experimentation. When Juliet Moreau learns that her father survived and is continuing his gruesome experiments on a tropical island, she sets out to discover exactly what is going on.
Chilling Effect: The Chilling Effect, Book 1 by Valerie Valdes
A ramshackle crew of space voyagers and their intrepid captain, Eva Innocente, are in search of Eva’s kidnapped sister. They are hampered by a hold full of psychic cats and a fish-faced emperor upset at Eva’s rejection. And if you think that’s their biggest issue, buckle up.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: Wayfarers, Book 1 by Becky Chambers
Another series premised on motley crews and shenanigans, Wayfarers won the Hugo for Best Series in 2016, AKA the year our current timeline took a turn for the WTF. Rosemary Harper joined the crew of Wayfarer to escape her past. When the crew takes on The Job of A Lifetime, difficulty and shenanigans ensue.
All Systems Red: Murderbot, Book 1 by Martha Wells
Murderbot is a series of novellas that currently ends in a regular-length novel, and I hope there is more to come. Our faithful SecUnit, “Murderbot” to itself, has hacked its governor module so that it can watch media and better ignore the humans giving it commands. Sadly, humans seem intent on getting into, causing, and perpetuating trouble that only Murderbot can protect them from.
I’ve read this series twice and am currently listening to the audio, which adds a whole extra level of snark. It’s indescribably delightful.
Dragonflight: Dragonriders of Pern, Book 1 by Anne McCaffrey
Anne McCaffrey was the first sci-fi author I ever read, and her Pern series has a very soft place in my heart. In the first Pern novel, Thread has not fallen in over 400 years. The Dragonweyrs are still collecting tithes, but those outside the weyrs are beginning to question the usefulness of dragons at all. But the dragon leader knows Thread will be back; he just doesn’t know exactly when.
Ancillary Justice: Imperial Radch, Book 1 by Ann Leckie
Ancillary Justice won the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Arthur C. Clarke awards. It’s really good, y’all. Breq is now in a human body, but she used to be a colossal starship called Justice of Toren, and Breq is not about to forget it. She is also almost ready to exact revenge for the treachery.
In all, this list of sci-fi series audiobooks comprises 10 series and over 50 books. With all that listening to do, my garden should be in pristine condition for a long time. What will you do while surfing the galaxy, and what other sci-fi series audiobooks do you recommend?