5 Exciting Space Fiction Books Like The Expanse

Space Science Fiction Story

Books like The Expanse are space operas and mystery science fiction. The Expanse by James S.A. Corey is a collaboration between Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. However, Ty Franck was also an assistant to George R.R. Martin. So both gentlemen have worked very closely with George. I love how the solar system looks at the beginning of The Expanse.

We have the belters, which are the laborers. Mars and Earth, and corporations are using them. But they have their accents, belter language, and they’re very skinny from the gravity. The science here feels so grounded in what we know in physics today. The way that gets relayed through some characters, backstories, and stuff is cool in book one, Leviathan Wakes.

It would only be a space epic if there were some resemblance of a crew and the crew dynamic at its basis as to be a group of people with a common goal, or at least in a common setting that wants to do. What takes a crew to the next level, like we’ve seen in Star Trek and other things, is that the crew has to be more nuanced. We have to have great characterization and not only role players per se. It’s very well grounded in science and physics, which I appreciate, but it’s also grounded. If you are waiting for a similar experience to The Expanse series, stay with me.

5 Books Like The Expanse (Space Opera Sci-Fi)

The Expanse represents many emotions and decisions you can relay back to our world, society, and technological boom. There’s a captain of a spaceship. Holden has some people involved in a big mystery that goes from a very small missing persons case to the massive impacts of Earth and Mars.

The galaxy beyond it becomes a big thing, as stories usually do. The dialogue here is hilarious. Usually, laughing out loud doesn’t happen with books for me. I have 5 more books similar to The Expanse, and I want to discuss them without spoilers. Let’s go!

NameKey FocusReview (Goodreads)
The MartianA team struggles to survive on Mars.4.4
Revelation SpaceOn a planet, a captain and his team try to fight the plague.3.9
HyperionThe six people on a team struggle for peace on the planet.4.2
All Systems RedAn artificial robot works against the government for a mission.4.1
Children of TimeHumans are on various planets through an evolutionary process, and a strong virus spreads rapidly.4.2
Books Like The Expanse List

1. The Martian

The Martian is the story of Mark Watney, who is part of an expedition to Mars. It’s the Aries three mission. When there are a couple of weeks into the mission, they’re on Mars in the hab, which is a tent that they live in. There is a storm they have to evacuate. During the storm, Mark gets hit by something. The crew thinks he’s dead, and they have no choice but to leave. Mark is alive but cannot contact Earth and let NASA know he’s still alive and kicking.

The book is in the form of diary entries. So they’re numbered as sole a rotation on Mars. It skips a lot of days. Otherwise, they get a bit boring. But it’s him documenting how he will try and stay alive. If you’ve seen the trailer for the film, a lot of things in the trailer are fair game. NASA finds out he’s alive, and they try to bring him home. So the last thing they want to happen is that they have to tell everyone on Earth and the crew on the spaceship that’s coming home that one is alive but that they can’t get them back.

The main character is fantastic. The only way to keep yourself sane, being by yourself on Mars for quite a few days or months, is to see the humor in it. The other astronauts are so funny and have such spiky personalities. It’s fast-paced and ridiculous in many ways, and it catches you off guard with the humor.

Mark Watney is a botanist who doesn’t have enough food to wait for the next Mars mission to arrive. So he decides to try and grow potatoes on Mars. There’s a very sad scene with the potatoes, possibly the saddest scene in the book. You’ll see it when you read it. This book also has a lot of chemistry bits because it’s him trying to figure out many technical details. Then they have enough chemistry in it, so it doesn’t sound completely unbelievable.

I love the bits where they go back down to earth, and it is the people from NASA reacting to all of this that shows that people are people, no matter how high their job is. When it came to the film, I was happy to have a film set in space that was dramatic and action-packed but mostly fun. That’s because when you have interstellar and gravity, they are so dramatic that you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time. It is filled with disco music, which plays a big part in the book because Mark’s stuck with all the films, books, and music the other astronauts left behind. I recommend the whole series because there are many similarities with The Expanse.

The Martian

Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Audible Studios
Tropes: Adventure, Thriller, Humor, Zombie-apocalypse, Action
Number Of Pages: 384
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback

2. Revelation Space

Revelation Space is a hard science fiction novel, and it’s the first installment in what was originally a trilogy that has now become a series. This thing takes place in the Revelation Space universe, and I like the setting because everything is within 15 light-years of Earth. So it has a comfortable feeling. Much of the book takes place on this massive, epic, gigantic spaceship, The Nostalgia for Infinity.

Dan Sylveste is an archaeologist trying to solve a mystery in the book, and he wants to know what happened with the Amarantin race. You see, the Amarantin had their planet named Resurgam, and it appears they were becoming technologically advanced. Then suddenly, they disappear without a trace. No one knows what happened to this advanced civilization. Ilia Volyova runs the spaceship Nostalgia for Infinity and needs Dan’s help.

The captain, a mechanical personality, has his consciousness uploaded onto the ship, and he’s become infected with the melting plague, and it’s taking over. They need help trying to save the captain. We also have an assassin, and Khouri has been hired to kill Dan Sylveste.

So three narrative strands come together in the book. We have Dan digging on, researching them, trying to figure out what happened to the Amarantin race. We have Ilia Volyova and the crew crossing space in their spaceship, seeking Dan’s help with their captain’s problem. We have Ana Khouri, who has managed to get aboard the Nostalgia for Infinity, and she’s also crossing space with the crew seeking out Dan.

Like The Expanse, this book addresses a very intriguing question. It’s the primary theme. Why don’t we see evidence of extraterrestrial activity when we look out into the universe? Reynolds brilliantly addresses the theme, and this idea is one of the best science fiction ideas I have encountered so far. It opens up excitingly, and when it comes to the pacing, it opens up great. There was a bit in the middle where Reynolds spent time nuancing the characters and world-building when I wanted to get on with a resolution. The pacing could have been much faster for me in the middle, but I want to ensure you read it.

One significant element is that many complex mechanical and neurological ideas exist. I love what Reynolds is doing with the minds of his characters, and there’s an element of plausibility. Reynolds is an astronomer. So, he knows that science, the laws of physics, the laws of cosmology, and the laws of mathematics are not violated.

For example, light travel with the spaceship is the fastest. The fact that Reynolds stays true to science in this piece works well, and I appreciate it. There’s quite a bit of brutality in the novel. It can be pretty horrific at times. The characters want what they want, and they’re going to try to get it. I am committed to reading the rest of this series’s installments and highly recommend it to you.

Revelation Space

Author: Alastair Reynolds
Narrator: John Lee
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Tropes: Horror, Fantasy, Strong-women
Number Of Pages: 592
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback

3. Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)

Hyperion is an epic adult sci-fi. So it’s a more complex and slower read, but worth reading if you enjoy space fiction. This follows the world after we have left Earth, and there is an alliance called the Hegemony of Man created that has peace between all the different planets and people who can travel and have peace. Hyperion is one of those planets that is not included in the millennium.

There is a place called the Time Tombs where the Shrike exists. The Shrike is a creature that defies all the time. People take pilgrims there to see the Shrike and the Time Tombs. They are the force that nobody has been able to explain. The Shrike is killing people, or he does loads of things. He has immortality, and suspicious things are going on. People are taking the pilgrims there to see what happened and research it. There’s also a church that preaches the Shrike, which is interesting.

The Galaxy is about to go into war, and in the middle of this, you follow the six people taking a pilgrimage to the type top to see a Shrike. These six people all have their backstories. Throughout the book, you follow the back story of all these people. There are six chapters, which should be shorter. It should have been divided into shorter chapters, but I understand why the author chose to do six chapters, one for each person, and all these six people don’t know each other.

There’s a scholar, a console, a father, a poet, a warrior, and a detective. So, it’s interesting to see their involvement with Hyperion in the past and what brought them to the point of taking the pilgrimage. The one that touched me the most or I enjoyed the most was one of the fathers, the scholar, with his daughter, an infant. He’s telling the story of his daughter, Rachel, a grown woman, and why he’s returning to Hyperion.

I saw the depth of the book and the way that Simmons writes. He plunges you straight into the story. He’s using a lot of abbreviations and vocabulary that is never explained, and you have to grasp what he is saying by the context of it. There are a lot of books out there, sci-fi books, that touch on a few of the topics that are touched on in this book. But this one has so many concepts and ideas for new mechanisms for future jobs, for the way that the author views the world or the different character views the world of things that are going to happen. I recommend reading it if you love The Expanse series.


Author: Dan Simmons
Narrator: Marc Vietor, Allyson Johnson, Kevin Pariseau, Jay Snyder, Victor Bevine
Publisher: Audible Studios
Tropes: Time Travel, Aliens, Gods-and-beasts
Number Of Pages: 500
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Leather Bound | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback

4. All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries)

All Systems Red is the first book of The Murderbot Diaries series. It follows a sec unit, a type of robot that accompanies humans when they go on these explorations, trying to keep them alive. You get to see many similar situations and vibes in The Expanse. Murderbot has hacked its government module, gone rogue, and is a bit of a free thinker (AI). It still tries to complete its missions in a very ambivalent way. The biggest strength of this novella series is Murderbot’s personality, which is dry, witty, irritable, and pessimistic.

The humor is often self-deprecating and, in general ambivalent. It doesn’t care about anything, at least on the surface, but the deeper you go, the more Murderbot becomes attached to its humans. What the book does so well, other than the humor and the incredible personality attached to the robot, is that it does such a great job of hinting at a darker past. Hinting at something that Murderbot is holding back from us while simultaneously making us wholly attached to it and want to follow this robot through whatever it goes through.

Murderbot is incredibly relatable as a  character and incredibly fun to follow alongside. The plot in each of these novellas isn’t essential. It’s interesting, but it’s about Murderbot and following it. So if you’re a character-focused reader, it’s a great little series to putting the Murderbot Diaries in between big epic books. Martha Wells writes these artificial creatures so well with so much personality. Check this out if you’re looking for a fast-paced, fun, hilarious short read.

All Systems Red

Author: Martha Wells
Narrator: Kevin R. Free
Publisher: Recorded Books
Tropes: Action, Suspense, Thriller
Number Of Pages: 144
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

5. Children of Time

In Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time, Humanity is spreading out into the stars, not with colonies, but with evolutionary science. We have seeded many planets with apes and a particular virus that will accelerate their evolution. Watching from satellites orbiting the planet above in no time at all. We will have created planets filled with our proto-humans. The apes never make it, and the virus doesn’t infect them. The virus infects spiders.

Children of Time is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and it’s easily the best sci-fi book that won Arthur C. Clarke Award. For starters, it has some of the coolest world-building I have ever seen. It takes place over thousands of years. So you’re watching the ascendancy of this sentient spider civilization. They use ant colonies as computers in the book. That sounds crazy, but the way that they do it is so excellent. Tchaikovsky digs into what it would be like if spiders were the dominant species. How would they live? How would they think?

The spiders have the equivalence of the prisoner’s dilemma. Still, they think in terms of the intricate interconnectivity of a well, not only of sight but of constant vibration and scent. The idea of two prisoners incapable of communication would not be an acceptable status quo for them but a problem to overcome. The prisoner’s dilemma is a Gordian knot to be cut through rather than be bound by.

Thematically, the story juxtaposes the ascendancy of spider civilization with the degeneration and breakdown of human civilization. Two parallel stories are brought crashing here, and it asks, What does it mean to be civilized? What does it mean to be human when not only do we forget part of our humanity? We forget the knowledge that humanity has collectively brought together over our evolution. What do we become, and what does that make the spiders?

One of the problems with writing stories that take place over thousands of years is how you have consistent character perspectives. But the author manages to do that well, not only with the humans but with the spiders who go through generations.

There are recurring characters who inherit things from their parents, which is also an excellent world-building mechanic. Fundamentally, Both The Expanse and Children of Time are about empathy. It’s about understanding things vastly different from us, which spiders are perfect for. As you read it, you come to visualize these characters, which take on the form of a thing you might hate.

In the end, Tchaikovsky does this fantastic thing where he puts the reader on the same character arc as the human characters in the book. I love that it’s so meta-challenging to empathize with these things we would generally hate.

Even with a story filled with complicated thematic ideas, Tchaikovsky still manages to write a story filled with vibrant characters that we care about. A story that you get into on a personal level, not only an ideological one. It avoids so many of the pitfalls of modern science fiction and the pitfalls of old science fiction while keeping the strengths of both. Don’t miss it!

Children of Time

Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Narrator: Kevin R. Free
Publisher: Recorded Books
Tropes: Post Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Female-lead
Number Of Pages: 600
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

Here are more books to read if you like The Expanse:

Dune by Frank Herbert: A classic science fiction novel set in a distant future. Here humanity has spread out among the stars.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: John Perry joins the military and shows the cost of war and the nature of humanity.

The Culture series by Iain M. Banks: An advanced universe explores society’s ethical implications and the conflicts that arise when it interacts with less advanced civilizations.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: In the future, humanity is at war with an alien race.

Foundation series by Isaac Asimov: A classic science fiction series that represents the limits of science and the dangers of unchecked power.

Those are my favorite space opera recommendations, like The Expanse. If you have any suggestions or have already read any of these books, then feel free to share them with me in the comment box. I always love to increase my TBR list from recommendations. Happy science fiction book reading!

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Pauline Jackson

I like to talk about popular books. My book review inspires you to read and save time. Also, I summarize the book and give you the best lessons or ideas that can change your life. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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