13 Science Fiction Books That Will Make You Question Everything You Thought You Knew

This past Sunday, sci-fi lovers everywhere were given something none of us thought could be possible: a new episode of The X-Files. This January marked the highly anticipated return of the '90s cult classic, starring Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, and with it came not only the revival of the amazing original theme music, but that old familiar feeling of uncertainty that's stirred up when watching an sci-fi movie or TV show, or reading science fiction books.  

Now that The X-Files has returned, your world can once again be shrouded in mystery and paranoia. Binge watch the old episodes on Netflix and get ready to relive the glory (and fear) of it all with the current six episode miniseries. And, if that doesn't make you suspicious enough, there are plenty of science fiction books, both classic and more recent, that have the power to make you question everything you thought you knew. 

Whether it's a post-apocalyptic novel about what happens when our aliens make contact with humans a space odyssey spanning thousands of years, a good science fiction book entertains, enthralls, but most of all, makes you really think, not only about the world the books takes place in, but the one you're living in. 

Throw away your cell phone, check your street for mysterious vehicles, and find out where you're new neighbors are really from, because here are 13 science fiction books that have you wondering: is anything as it appears? 

1. Anathem by Neal Stephenson

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Neal Stephenson's bestselling science fiction books are all the type that make you ask the tough questions, and his 2008 Anathem is no different. It's a dark, inventive book about a future where mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers are hidden away in monasteries and segregated from the rest of the world in an attempt to preserve human culture and intellect — that is, until, everything is jeopardized by powerful outside forces. A challenging read to say the least, Anathem is worth the time, effort, and subsequent questions it will raise about the mankind.


2. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

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In his ecological dystopian novel The Water Knife, Paolo Bacigalupi raises important questions about not only the dwindling resources of the United States, but of the entire world. Dark, scary, and all too familiar, if this thrilling sci-fi novel will doesn't make you more curious about the threats to our environment and their implications, then nothing will.

3. The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang

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The further technology is developed and the more we incorporate it into our daily lives, the more complicated our relationship with it becomes. Ted Chiang examines this very idea in his sci-fi novella, The Lifecycle of Software Objects, which uses the relationship between two people and the artificial intelligences they've created to to explore concepts of artificial and genuine intelligence, existence, and the responsibility humans have to their own creations.

4. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

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Without reading science fiction, you probably have plenty of questions about the future — what will your life be like, what's in store for our country, and what will the world look like after you're gone? In his Nebula Award winning novel, Kim Stanley Robinson looks into the unknown (the year 2312, to be exact) and presents a remarkable, technologically advanced future that extends throughout the solar system, but one built on mysteries and lies. A complicated story about past mistakes and future problems, 2312 is a smart, imaginative novel that will make you ask questions about all the possibilities the future holds, and what has to be done to create it.

5. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

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Philip K. Dick is one of the most celebrated writers of the genre, and while all of his novels are groundbreaking, it's The Man in the High Castle that shatters your sense of reality. What would the world be like if Germany and Japan had been victorious in World War II? How much can the outcome of one event shape history? Dick's Hugo Award winning novel asks these questions, and so many more.


6. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

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Science fiction does a great job making us question our reality, become suspicious of our governments, and ask tough questions about what we think to be true, but it's also the perfect genre to use to examine the mysteries of humanity itself — love, hate, and faith included. Scott Hawkins's The Library at Mount Char, a breathtaking fantasy novel about the fight to become God and control the universe, does just that: makes you ask what exactly makes us human, and what how much power we'd give that humanity up for.


7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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Aliens, alternate realities, time-traveling — Kurt Vonnegut's cult classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, has it all. A hilarious, provocative work from a true master of satire and sci-fi, this novel will make you question... well, everything, but at least it makes you laugh while you do it.


8. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

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If you had to pick three people to represent all of humanity, would a scientist, a rapper, and a soldier be your top choices? In Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon, the world has no choice but to accept these three very different people as its saviors. A blend of fantasy, science fiction, and folklore, Lagoon is a fun, witty, but ultimately thought-provoking book.


9. Feed by Mira Grant

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If you read a lot of science fiction, you're probably weary of law enforcement, the government, and mainstream media. Mira Grant's Feed brings all your paranoia to life with the help of a corrupt CDC, a dishonest politician, zombies, and two twin bloggers, Georgia and Shaun, who will stop at nothing to expose the conspiracy behind an infection that almost ended the world.

10. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Just how real are the virtual realities we spend so much of our time in? Ernest Cline asks this question, and many others, with his acclaimed bestseller Ready Player One, a dystopian sci-fi novel about a virtual utopia, a mysterious puzzle, and the the young man with the key to unlocking it all. Fast-paced and exciting, this cyber novel will make you wonder about the real life dangers of the virtual world.


11. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

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If you think you already know about the power — and dangers — of genetic engineering, Oryx and Crake will make you think again. Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel about a world where genetic engineering has altered and threatened the very existence of humans is an tragic love story that calls into question the power of scientific corporations and the implications of their power to shape mankind. Read this, and then make sure to finish the entire Maddaddam trilogy — just be prepared to question everything you thought you knew afterwards.


12. Chocky by John Wyndham

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Even a child's imagination isn't safe in the world of science fiction. In John Wyndham's Chocky, Matthew's parents are concerned about his imaginary friend, an unseen presence that is only growing with Matthew himself until it's clear that this isn't a product of a young boy's mind, but an alien presence among them. A short book to add to your must-read pile, Chocky will even have you questioning the inner workings of your own brain.


13. The Death of Grass by John Christopher

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What happens in a world pushed into global starvation? Total an utter violence, or at least that's the grim future imagined in John Christopher's The Death of Grass, a post-apocalyptic novel about what exactly people are willing to do to survive, and how much of their humanity they're willing to lose in the process.


Images: Sadie Trombetta; Giphy

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