25 Books Similar to The Martian

The Martian movie poster on a mobile phone.

Andy Weir’s The Martian captivated readers even before it acquired an agent. The story takes a horrifying concept––being stranded on Mars––and injects humor into this thriller-in-space. Who would have expected disco to feature so heavily on the Red Planet?

The Martian is a tale of survival, ingenuity, and battling loneliness. While your typical science fiction elements of a space saga are there, there is also botany. Readers will never snub the humble potatoes again.

We’ve gathered 25 books that capture flavors from The Martian. Some are more literary, like Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This is How You Lose the Time War. Others take surviving alone back to Earth, such as Fiona Snyckers’ SPIRE. Then we have hilarious “what the?” space operas such as Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Nikhil Singh’s Taty Went West.

Table of Contents

Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary: A Novel

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  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Space
  • Awards: None found
  • Published: 2021
  • Books: 1

Ryland Grace awakes to discover he is the only survivor on a desperate mission to save Earth. Things are not in Ryland’s favor, however, since he can’t remember his own name, never mind his assignment. Now Earth faces near extinction as Ryland struggles to piece together the past. But hope is extended by an unexpected source.

Weir’s humor that was so beloved in The Martian is back in this new story that juxtaposes peril in space with doomed Earth. Fans are already loving the mathematics and science that lend this fictional tale credibility. Of course, there is tension and twists to get the pages turning, too.

Do You Dream of Terra-Two

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

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  • Author: Temi Oh
  • Genre: Space Opera, YA
  • Awards: Nominated for a NOMMO (2020)
  • Published: 2019
  • Books: 1

Six teens are sent with three veteran astronauts to travel for over twenty years to colonize a newly discovered Earth-like planet. Stuck in a confining space, each astronaut must now survive both the challenges of space travel and their own mental health. This is a coming-of-age tale in space.

This literary debut is a great read for those that enjoy the inner battles of surviving such journeys rather than the science. Nor will this have the humor so beloved in The Martian. Instead, this is the grit of being in space and the isolation it causes even when you are not utterly alone.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War

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  • Author: Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel, Space, Romance
  • Awards: Nebula (2020), Hugo (2020), Locus (2020), Aurora (2020)
  • Published: 2019
  • Books: 1

This is a soaring saga of war and love between two women, Red and Blue, who begin as great enemies. Yet, as the high-level agent-spies continue to bounce between ages and place, letters begin to pass between.  There is a deep sense of yearning and isolation as the two spies reach out to one another during an unwinnable war.

This is an indescribable science fiction novel of incredible poetic beauty. A wonderful choice for those that desire a book that is gorgeous and imaginative.

SPIRE

SPIRE

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  • Author: Fiona Snyckers
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
  • Awards: None found
  • Published: 2017
  • Books: First book of the Burchell Sisters Trilogy

Dr. Caroline Burchell is part of a team that is supposed to study mutated and cryogenically frozen viruses at the Antarctica research station SPIRE. But there’s a breach; people begin dying. Soon, Dr. Burchell is the only one left, and governments suspect her of terrorism. Nor is rescue possible due to a polar storm. Will Dr. Burchell be able to survive the hostile climate and clear her name?

This thriller throws punch after punch at Dr. Burchell, who has to figure out how to keep an entire research station going without support and solve a mystery. Like The Martian, Dr. Burchell is required to think outside the box while fighting off isolation and loneliness. There are fewer potatoes in this tale, however.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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  • Author: Yann Martel
  • Genre: Magical Realism, Adventure
  • Awards: Man Booker Prize (2002)
  • Published: 2001
  • Books: 1

Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel is adrift at sea after a shipwreck. He is utterly alone aside from Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. Now he must find a way to survive on his tiny boat while forging for both himself and the tiger. If he fails, Richard parker will turn Pi into his final meal.

Another story of survival set on Earth. Despite the tiger, this is one of the most isolating tales, as there is no communication with the rest of the world. It is debatable if the story will make you believe in God, as some claim. But it will make you admire Pi’s tenacity and creativity in his bid for survival.

Wayfarers Series

Long Way To A Small Angry Planet

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  • Author: Becky Chambers
  • Genre: Space Opera
  • Awards: Numerous nominations, Hugo (2019)
  • First Book Published: 2014
  • Books: 4 – begins with The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Rosemary Harper doesn’t have high expectations when she embarks on the Wayfarer. The ship is old, but it provides a bed and an opportunity to explore the galaxy. But Rosemary gets more than she bargains for with the ship’s eclectic crew. She’s going to need them, however, when an unexpected assignment puts their lives at risk.

This highly-rated character-driven tale is full of tension but without the typical violence found in space operas. The quirky cast of characters captured readers’ hearts. In a way, this is a story of found family, in all its wide wonder, while being pushed out of your comfort zone.

Taty Went West

Taty Went West

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  • Author: Nikhil Singh
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
  • Awards: Longlisted for The Kwani? Manuscript Project (2013), Shorlisted NOMMO (2017)
  • Published: 2015
  • Books: 1

Taty, a troubled teen, runs away from home and is promptly kidnapped. But that’s only the start of Taty’s technicolor acid-trip of a roller-coaster ride. From robot nuns to evil doctors to sex-crazed locusts, this unusual novel goes from dystopia to space opera, with a few other genres in between. The author’s gorgeous illustrations add another layer to Taty’s adventures in this genre-busting read.

This is a survivor’s tale in a universe that defies explanation.

Dead Astronauts

Dead Astronauts: A Novel

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  • Author: Jeff VanderMeer
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
  • Awards: Numerous nominations
  • Published: 2019
  • Books: 2nd book of the Borne Series

Three astronauts for the company are dead yet living. A blue fox slips by on a mission that weaves through time and space. An ancient fish hides secrets. The fate of Earth, and the fate of Earth, and the fate of Earth, and the fate…all hang in peril.

This dense, compact novel is surreal, touching, and horrifyingly beautiful. It reads like a complex and layered dream with an arch of lonely desperation.

Survivor

Survivor

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  • Author: Octavia E. Butler
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalypse
  • Awards: None found for this novel
  • Published: 1978
  • Books: 3.5 of the Patternmaster Series


Alanna is part of a group of missionaries that fled plague-ravaged Earth hoping to find a peaceful home. Instead, they are enslaved by the Garkohn, who is at war with the Tehkohn. But the rest of Alanna’s community does not appear to understand the full ramifications of this deadly bondage.

This is a Stockholm Syndrome story of survival in space. Many readers love this book, but interestingly enough, Butler did not, referring to it as her Star Trek novel. Those that say it is a weak story admit they are judging Butler to Butler standards and that, judged on its own, it is a gripping read.

Artemis

Artemis: A Novel

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  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Crime
  • Awards: Goodread (2017), Dragon (2018)
  • Published: 2017
  • Books: 1

Jazz Bashara lives in Artemis, the only city on the moon. It’s not easy if you are not rich. So Jazz has a side hustle of smuggling. But a new opportunity arises that could completely change her life. Unfortunately, it has landed her smack in the middle of political struggle, putting her life on the line.

Jazz is a frat boy’s type of imagined woman off to make jokes and crime. There is also a lot of welding. But nobody expected an espionage/heist story set on the moon to be normal.

The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness (Penguin Galaxy)

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  • Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Awards: Nominated for Locus (1998)
  • Published: 1969
  • Books: 4th in the Hainish Cycle Series

Genly Ai is sent out alone to be an emissary to Winter, an alien world. In this civilization, the inhabitants can alter their gender to suit their preferences. This is a very cerebral science fiction tale having conversations on issues still highly relevant to today.

Although Le Guin later criticized herself for not having a more imaginative governing system, worldbuilding is brilliant. The culture and society in this novel are extremely well thought out. This literary novel is an entertaining and philosophical science fiction read.

Thousand World Series

Dragon Pearl

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  • Author: Yoon Ha Lee
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Mythology, Middle Grade
  • Awards: Locus (2020), Mythopoeic (2020)
  • First Book Published:
  • Books: 2 – Dragon Pearl, Tiger Honor


Thirteen-year-old Min is tired of rules and endless chores. Not allowed to use her fox magic, she longs to join her brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see worlds beyond the planet of Jinju. Then word comes that Jun has abandoned his battle cruiser to search for the Dragon Pearl. But Min knows that something is wrong, as her brother would never abandon his duty. Thus, Min begins her quest to clear her brother’s name.

This series is aimed at a slightly younger crowd than most of the books on this list. But Min is a fabulous character to root for as she goes about her adventures encountering ghosts, gamblers, and pirates. Thus, Min has fans across a wide age range. 

Island of the Blue Dolphin

Island of the Blue Dolphins

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  • Author: Scott O’Dell
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
  • Awards: Newbery medal (1961)
  • Published: 1960
  • Books: 1st of two.

An island in the Pacific was home to an Indian tribe until events forced them to flee. But Karana was accidentally left behind. She has to learn how to provide for herself, both for food and shelter, while fighting off the wild dogs. As seasons pass without the sighting of a single ship, Karana rises as a true survivor.

This gorgeous tale is now a firm classic. It is a quiet story, with little dialogue, full of vivid description and strength. Based on a true story, Karana is a character that will stay with you for years after you’ve finished the final page.

An Unkindness of Ghosts

An Unkindness of Ghosts

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  • Author: Rivers Solomon
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopia
  • Awards: Numerous nominations
  • Published: 2017
  • Books: 1

Aster wishes the taunts were true: if she were a monster, then she’d be powerful. Instead, she lives in the slums that make up the low-deck of the HSS Matilda spacecraft as they travel towards the Promised Land. But those who are benefiting from this journey don’t include people like Aster. But after new secrets come to light, the ship may be facing civil war.

Aster is a neuro-atypical and a survivor in this sorrowful examination of slavery and societal structures. Sexuality and gender identity are also explored in this beautiful and devastatingly vivid read. 

Mars Trilogy

[MARS TRILOGY] RED MARS, GREEN MARS [and] BLUE MARS.

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  • Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
  • Awards: Numerous nominations, Hugo (1994,1997), Nebual (1994), Locus (1994, 1997)
  • First Book Published: 1992
  • Books: 3 – Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars

In 2026, a hundred people are about to colonize Mars at last. The story follows a cast of characters as they set out on their new life. But there is no united vision for the planet. This is an epic saga as humans grapple with how we start a society and achieve our dreams all over again.

Admittedly, with the series set in 2026, it’s a little dated. But the human struggle, both in the personal, political, and the landscape. Not all the characters are likable, which adds to the story’s realism. This is a series for hardcore science fiction readers who also enjoy an exploration of the human condition.

The Company Wars Series

Downbelow Station (Company Wars Book 1)

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  • Author: C.J. Cherryth
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
  • Awards: Numerous, including a Hugo (1982)
  • First Book Published:
  • Books: 7 – Downbelow Station


The lives of the inhabitants of Pell station are put at risk when Earth enacts poorly thought out policies. As a fleet of 50 military carriers is sent out by Earth as enforcers, Pell station is caught between the will of Earth and the will of the Union.

This is a sweeping political saga where people in space are alienated in a power struggle. Ordinary people feel their agency being stripped away by those that have no concept of their daily lives. Yet, despite the struggles the families on Pell station face, there is a thread of optimism that runs through the narrative.

The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel (The Robot Series Book 1)

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  • Author: Isaac Asimov
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Crime
  • Awards: Nominated for two Locus awards and a Retro Hugo (2004)
  • Published: 1954
  • Books: 3rd in the Robot Series

Elijah Baley, a New York police detective, is ordered to track down the killer of a prominent Spacer. His partner is R. Daneel Olivaw––”R” for robot. Baley isn’t Olivaw’s biggest fan, especially since he looks exactly like the murder victim. Nonetheless, the two are sent to the Outer Worlds to solve the case.

The classic science fiction story combines futuristic ethical questions and philosophy with a murder mystery. While the technology is rather sci-fi-retro, fans enjoy the tension between Earthmen and Spacers along with the empathy this story evokes.

Remembrance of Earth’s Past Series

The Three-Body Problem (The Three-Body Problem Series, 1)

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  • Author: Cixin Liu
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Awards: Hugo (2015)
  • First Book Published: 2006
  • Books: 3 – The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Death’s End

China’s Cultural Revolution is in full swing while aliens capture a military signal. As the aliens formulate their plans to take over Earth, humans debate if the aliens should be welcomed or fought. The narrative focuses on two scientists: Ye Wenjie, an engineer in the 1970s, and Wang Miao, a modern-day nanotechnologist.

This is a plot-driven tale that is heavy on science. The worldbuilding is extensive and blends history and mythology with science fiction elements. At the crux is the question of contact with aliens is something humans should be perusing.

Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe (Signet Classics)

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  • Author: Daniel Defoe
  • Genre: Adventure, Survival
  • Awards: None found
  • First Book Published: 1719
  • Books: 1st of three in the Robinson Crusoe Series

This classic tale is about the 28 years Robinson (Kreutznaer) Crusoe spends as a castaway. The story is told in the form of an autobiography set on a remote tropical island. Through religion and items salvaged from the shipwreck, Crusoe survives and even has a tussle with cannibals.

This story is one of survival and strife. It also has religious overtones, as the character renamed “Friday” is converted to Christianity by Crusoe. Crusoe is not entirely alone on this island. Nor is Crusoe a loveable character, having even joined the vile slave trade. But the tale has inspired many survival narratives in Western culture since its publication.

Binti Trilogy

Binti: The Complete Trilogy

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  • Author: Nnedi Okorafor
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
  • Awards: Numerous nominations, won Hugo (2016), Nebula (2016), NOMMO (2017),
  • First Book Published: 2015
  • Books: Binti, Home, The Night Masquerade

Binti is the first of the Himba people to be offered a place at the galaxy’s elite Oomza University. This is not an easy path, but Binti is willing to take it. But the university is situated in a world at war with the Medusa. Can she survive the journey in these war-torn skies to reach the university?

This harrowing series tackles how choosing a different path impacts a person’s place in their family and culture. Nor is it easy to venture into institutions where others have deep roots. Fans adored Binti’s bravery and ambitions. The worldbuilding is imaginative and compelling, too.   

Z for Zachariah

Z for Zachariah

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  • Author: Robert C. O’Brien
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, YA
  • Awards: None found
  • Published: 1974
  • Books: 1

Sixteen-year-old Ann Burden is utterly alone. Nuclear war has left Earth scarred and battered. Smoke from the distance suggests that another human life exists. But is that a good thing? Sometimes it is better to be alone.

This suspenseful dystopian is a survival tale. Ethical dilemmas are raised along with an examination of human nature. Despite being YA, this is a dark and gritty read that any dystopian fan can appreciate.

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

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  • Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
  • Awards: Retro Hugo (2019)
  • Published: 1943
  • Books: 1

This beloved French classic revolves around a pilot stranded in the desert who sees a little boy visiting from an asteroid. The child asks the pilot to draw him a sheep. Thus, begins a deceptively simple tale that raises philosophical questions.

The Crystal Singer Series

Crystal Singer: A Novel (Crystal Singer Trilogy Book 1)

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  • Author: Anne McCaffrey
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Awards: Numerous nominations, won SFBC (1986)
  • First Book Published: 1982
  • Books: 3 – Crystal Singer, Killashandra, Crystal Line

Killashandra’s dreams of becoming a concert singer have been dashed. But a chance meeting with a stranger offers her a new hope to become a Crystal Singer. The career is fraught with danger, and even the most successful at the trade pay a heavy cost for their craft. But Killashandra’s ambitions will not be deterred.

This trilogy follows Killashandra’s perils career. The worldbuilding is fleshed out, and Killashandra is a complex character. Some of the tech may seem a bit dated, but the main themes and heroine remain relevant to modern readers.

Spin Series

Spin

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  • Author: Robert Charles Wilson
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel, Dystopia
  • Awards: Hugo (2006), Kurd Lasswitz Prize (2007), Imaginaire (2008), Seiun (2009),
  • First Book Published: 2005
  • Books: 3 – Spin, Axis, Vortex

Tyler Dupree was ten when he witnessed the stars go out from his backyard. The event, later named the Big Blackout, will shape Tyler and his friends’ lives.

This is a thoughtful read. It’s a compelling story that examines human behavior when faced with potential extinction. Would you throw yourself into science or religion, or just try to preserver with your everyday life?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Illustrated Edition

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  • Author: Douglas Adams
  • Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy
  • Awards: BSFA (1978, 1979, 1980), Ditmar (1980)
  • First Book Published: 1979
  • Books: 5 – begins with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This famous series got its start in 1978 on BBC Radio. Arthur Dent is rescued from Earth by his friend Ford Prefect seconds before the planet is demolished for the galactic freeway project. Thus, begins Arthur and Ford’s journey through the galaxy, where they meet memorable characters and find answers (42) to tough questions.

This is series has legions of devoted fans. Is it like The Martian? Well, no, but then it isn’t like anything. But it is funny and has excellent quotable lines that have infested Western Society. But nestled in between the absurdist plot is a commentary on human nature.  And with that, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

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