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14 Books Like The Expanse

Books Like The Expanse

Fans of The Expanse series, with its near-perfect world-building, complex characters, and gripping plotlines, often find themselves hungry for more stories that offer a similar blend of science fiction adventure. 

Thankfully, the genre is brimming with novels that capture the spirit of The Expanse while offering fresh perspectives, diverse settings, and thrilling narratives. 

In this blog, we’ll delve into some books that share thematic elements, tone, and style with The Expanse, ensuring you never run out of interstellar adventures to embark upon.

Books Like The Expanse

1. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

“The Forever War” is a military science fiction novel that tells the story of William Mandella, a soldier fighting in an interstellar war against an alien species known as the Taurans. 

The story explores the effects of time dilation on soldiers who, after months of combat, return to an Earth that has aged centuries. Haldeman’s novel is both a gripping tale of future warfare and a poignant commentary on the Vietnam War, exploring themes of time, love, and the unchanging nature of human conflict.

Major Similarities: 

Like “The Expanse,” “The Forever War” delves into the human aspect of interstellar conflict, focusing on the personal experiences of its characters against a backdrop of cosmic warfare. 

Both narratives address the challenges of space travel, the impact of time dilation, and the complexities of human-alien relations. 

Haldeman’s exploration of the psychological and social effects of war in space offers a complementary perspective to the political intrigue and character-driven drama of “The Expanse,” appealing to readers interested in the more personal dimensions of space opera.

2. Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

“Revelation Space” is a hard science fiction novel that marks the beginning of Alastair Reynolds’ universe of the same name. The narrative spans several timelines and follows a group of archaeologists uncovering a civilization-ending mystery, a spacefaring scavenger, and a lethal assassin. 

Reynolds, an astrophysicist, imbues the novel with a profound sense of cosmic scale and realism, exploring themes of space exploration, existential threats, and the complexity of human and alien societies.

Major Similarities: 

Like The Expanse, “Revelation Space” offers a richly detailed universe with complex characters and a story that spans across galaxies. 

The focus on hard science fiction elements, combined with a deep exploration of the implications of space travel and alien civilizations, mirrors the detailed world-building and scientific accuracy found in The Expanse. 

Both series delve into the politics of spacefaring humanity and the existential risks that come with encountering alien technologies.

3. The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

“The Collapsing Empire” is the first book in The Interdependency series by John Scalzi. It introduces readers to a universe where humanity lives in a vast interstellar empire reliant on the Flow, a unique phenomenon that allows for faster-than-light travel. 

When scientists discover that the Flow is shifting and may soon cut off all routes between stars, the characters must navigate political intrigue, economic interests, and survival strategies to secure humanity’s future.

Major Similarities: 

Scalzi’s work shares with The Expanse a focus on the socio-political ramifications of human life spread across the stars. The looming crisis of the Flow’s collapse parallels the existential threats faced by humanity in The Expanse, driving a narrative that explores how societies respond to impending disaster. 

Both series are praised for their compelling character dynamics, intricate plotlines, and the way they blend science fiction with political thriller elements.

4. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

“Ancillary Justice” is Ann Leckie’s debut novel and the first in the Imperial Radch series. 

It tells the story of Breq, who was once a warship AI and is now a single human body seeking vengeance. The novel explores themes of identity, consciousness, and imperialism as Breq navigates a galaxy-spanning empire. 

Leckie’s novel stands out for its unique perspective on AI and humanity, and its complex narrative structure.

Major Similarities: 

“Ancillary Justice” shares with The Expanse a deep interest in the moral complexities and societal implications of a technologically advanced future. 

While Leckie’s work delves more into the consciousness and perspective of AI, both series challenge readers to consider the ethics of empire, colonization, and the use of power. 

The expansive world-building and the backdrop of a galaxy-spanning empire provide a similar sense of scale and intrigue.

5. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

“Old Man’s War” is the first book in a series of the same name by John Scalzi. It follows John Perry, who enlists in the Colonial Defense Forces on his seventy-fifth birthday to fight for human colonies in space. 

The novel combines elements of military science fiction with humor and human emotion, exploring themes of aging, technology, and the cost of interstellar conflict. 

Scalzi creates a compelling universe where Earth’s elderly are given a second chance at youth — but at the price of engaging in warfare across the stars.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to The Expanse, “Old Man’s War” explores the human condition against the backdrop of space colonization and interstellar conflict. Both series address the complexities of human expansion into the galaxy and the ethical dilemmas that arise from it. 

Scalzi’s blend of scientific speculation, character-driven narrative, and the exploration of societal issues echoes the thematic and narrative depth found in The Expanse, making it appealing to fans of the series.

6. Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton

“Pandora’s Star,” the first book in the Commonwealth Saga by Peter F. Hamilton, embarks on an expansive journey across a future where humanity has spread across hundreds of worlds thanks to wormhole technology. 

The story kicks off with the mysterious sealing off of an entire star system by a force field, sparking a multi-threaded narrative that includes a vast array of characters from detectives to scientists and pilots. 

Hamilton crafts a universe teeming with life, political intrigue, and a looming alien threat, all underpinned by intricate world-building and technological innovation.

Major Similarities: 

Like “The Expanse,” “Pandora’s Star” excels in creating a detailed and plausible vision of humanity’s future in space, complete with political complexities and the impact of technological advancements on society. 

The series’ focus on a human civilization facing an alien menace, along with its richly developed characters and interweaving storylines, mirrors the narrative depth and scientific detail that fans of “The Expanse” appreciate.

7. The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton

“The Reality Dysfunction” is the first installment in the Night’s Dawn Trilogy, also by Peter F. Hamilton. 

This series introduces a far-future universe where humanity has colonized many worlds, thanks to technological advancements in space travel. 

The story dives deep into a universe where the dead begin to return to life, taking possession of the living and leading to a galaxy-spanning crisis. 

Hamilton combines elements of space opera with horror and science fiction, crafting a narrative that explores the consequences of human ambition and the mysteries beyond death.

Major Similarities: 

Hamilton’s “The Reality Dysfunction” shares with “The Expanse” a knack for building complex, believable universes where human societies face unprecedented challenges. 

Though incorporating more supernatural elements, the series parallels “The Expanse” in its exploration of human nature, technology’s impact on civilization, and the intricate dance of political and personal motivations against a cosmic backdrop.

8. Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune” is often hailed as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. 

Set in a distant future where the desert planet of Arrakis holds the galaxy’s most valuable resource, the spice melange, the story follows young Paul Atreides as he navigates political intrigue, ecological challenges, and a destiny far beyond his understanding. 

Herbert’s masterpiece combines themes of politics, religion, and environmentalism within a deeply complex and richly imagined universe.

Major Similarities: 

While “Dune” delves into more fantastical elements than “The Expanse,” both series share an emphasis on intricate political intrigue and the consequences of human actions on a vast, interstellar scale. 

The exploration of resource scarcity, power struggles, and the impact of a hostile environment on human society in “Dune” offers a thematic resonance with “The Expanse,” appealing to readers interested in the socio-political dynamics of future human civilizations.

9. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

“The Left Hand of Darkness” is set in the Hainish Cycle, a universe where planets are united by the Ekumen, a loose coalition of human and alien species. 

The novel follows Genly Ai, an envoy sent to the planet Gethen to convince its people to join the Ekumen. On a world where the inhabitants can change their gender, Ai navigates a complex society while facing the challenges of diplomacy, trust, and understanding across cultural divides. 

Le Guin’s work is celebrated for its exploration of themes such as gender, identity, and the nature of human relationships.

Major Similarities: 

While “The Left Hand of Darkness” does not feature the same level of space opera or military science fiction as “The Expanse,” its profound exploration of cultural and societal issues within a science fiction setting offers a complementary perspective. 

Both series engage deeply with the intricacies of human (and alien) societies, the challenges of communication and diplomacy in space, and the exploration of diverse worlds with rich cultural landscapes.

10. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

“A Fire Upon the Deep” is a grand narrative set in a galaxy where the laws of physics vary by region, allowing for a variety of civilizations and technological advancements. 

The story kicks off with a family’s discovery of an ancient data archive that unleashes a malevolent superintelligence. As the threat spreads, a diverse cast of characters, from humans to alien species, become entangled in a desperate struggle for survival. 

Vinge’s novel is celebrated for its originality, complex characters, and exploration of themes such as intelligence, technology, and the vastness of the cosmos.

Major Similarities: 

“A Fire Upon the Deep” shares with “The Expanse” a fascination with the potential and peril of advanced technology, as well as the complexity of interstellar politics and the dynamics of diverse civilizations. 

Both stories are driven by a compelling mix of human and non-human perspectives, offering a broad exploration of the potential futures of humanity in the cosmos. 

Vinge’s work, with its blend of high-concept science fiction and engaging storytelling, will resonate with readers drawn to the epic scope and detailed world-building of “The Expanse.”

11. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

“The Three-Body Problem” is the first book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by Chinese author Liu Cixin. 

This novel introduces readers to an ambitious narrative that begins during China’s Cultural Revolution and stretches into the far reaches of the future, exploring humanity’s first contact with an alien civilization from the star system Alpha Centauri. 

Liu combines complex scientific concepts with a deep philosophical inquiry into human nature and our place in the universe, creating a story that’s as thought-provoking as it is expansive.

Major Similarities: 

Like “The Expanse,” “The Three-Body Problem” delves into the implications of humanity’s encounter with extraterrestrial life and the potential for interstellar conflict. 

Both series explore the scientific realism of space travel and cosmic phenomena, alongside the sociopolitical ramifications of these encounters. 

Liu’s narrative, rich in complex characters and ethical dilemmas, mirrors the depth and intricacy found in “The Expanse,” appealing to readers fascinated by the blend of hard science fiction and profound philosophical questions.

12. Hyperion by Dan Simmons

“Hyperion” is the first book in the Hyperion Cantos series, a richly layered narrative that weaves together the stories of seven pilgrims traveling to the distant world of Hyperion on the eve of armageddon. Each pilgrim’s tale reveals part of the mystery of Hyperion and the terrifying Shrike, a being that looms over the planet’s future. 

Simmons’ novel is celebrated for its complex narrative structure, deeply philosophical themes, and the imaginative breadth of its world-building.

Major Similarities: 

“Hyperion,” much like “The Expanse,” is renowned for its epic scope, intricate plot, and the depth of its character development. Both series excel in creating a multi-layered universe filled with mystery, political intrigue, and the looming threat of cosmic disaster. 

Fans of “The Expanse” will appreciate Simmons’ ability to blend science fiction with elements of horror, mythology, and the exploration of existential themes.

13. The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian” follows the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars after a fierce storm forces his crew to evacuate, thinking him dead. 

With no way to signal Earth, Watney must rely on his ingenuity and spirit to survive on a hostile planet. Andy Weir’s novel is a thrilling tale of survival and human ingenuity, packed with accurate scientific details and a healthy dose of humor.

Major Similarities: 

While “The Martian” is more focused on the survival aspect of a single individual in space rather than the broad interstellar politics of “The Expanse,” both share a commitment to scientific accuracy and the exploration of human resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. 

Weir’s detailed depiction of space travel and problem-solving resonates with the realistic portrayal of life in space found in “The Expanse,” making it a compelling read for fans interested in the practical challenges of human existence in the cosmos.

14. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

“Children of Time” is a standalone novel that explores the evolution of life on a terraformed planet where a failed human experiment leads to the rise of a new civilization. 

The story spans millennia, alternating between the perspectives of the evolving inhabitants of the planet and the remnants of humanity aboard a generation ship searching for a new home. 

Tchaikovsky weaves a tale of survival, evolution, and the potential for understanding between vastly different forms of life.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Children of Time” and “The Expanse” explore themes of humanity’s expansion into the galaxy and the unexpected consequences of that expansion. 

Tchaikovsky’s focus on the development of civilization and the potential for conflict and cooperation between different species mirrors the complex interstellar relations and character-driven narratives in “The Expanse.” 

The novel’s emphasis on evolution and adaptation, alongside its exploration of moral and ethical dilemmas, offers a unique perspective that complements the themes of survival and humanity found in “The Expanse.”

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