“Science fantasy” (also known in longer form as “science fiction fantasy”) is a subgenre (as well as a mashup) of both science fiction and fantasy. A science fantasy story could either be packaged as a science fiction story that has fantasy elements, or a fantasy story that has science fiction elements. This is a list of my favorite books (or book series) that make use of both science fiction and fantasy tropes in their storytelling.
10.) Apprentice Adept Series by Piers Anthony
The setting of this series is on the “twin”, “mirror” worlds of Phaze and Photon. They occupy the same space in two different dimensions, and are, basically, alternate worlds of each other. They are distinct, however, in their “nature” – Phaze is a world of magic, while Proton is a world of science and technology. Moreover, their inhabitants have alternate versions of themselves existing on the other world. It’s a very intriguing, unique premise, and I applaud Piers Anthony for thinking of it.
9.) Shannara series by Terry Brooks
I’ve always known the Shannara series’ reputation but it was only recently that I got to read The Sword of Shannara. I’ve always thought that Terry Brooks’ Shannara books are purely high fantasy. But then I learned that Shannara’s fantasy world is set in our “future” instead of our “past” (which is the usual of most fantasy settings). After a nuclear holocaust caused by a “Great War”, humans mutated into traditional fantasy races like Men, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Trolls; and Elves revealed themselves after being in hiding for a long time. Technology has been wiped out (though computers and robots are featured later on the series) but magic is rediscovered.
8.) The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
Also known as the Heir to the Empire Trilogy (after the title of the first book), the Thrawn Trilogy is considered by many (me included) as one of the greatest tales from Star Wars’ Expanded Universe (EU). Since it’s a Star Wars story, it automatically falls into the science fantasy category because of the presence such mystical things as “The Force” in this fictional universe.
The Thrawn Trilogy, starting with “Heir to the Empire”, follows the events of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It continues the story of Luke, Lea, and Han as they aid the struggling New Republic in becoming a stable government as well as deal with the remnants of the Empire.
Though the Thrawn trilogy, along with other EU properties, is now officially declared non-canon (in the aftermath of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm), it is nonetheless a very delightful story, as it accurately captures the spirit of the original Star Wars trilogy and really felt like a rightful continuation. In addition to that, the trilogy also introduced Grand Admiral Thrawn – hence, the name of the trilogy – who is arguably the greatest Star Wars villain after Darth Vader.
7.) His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Despite its atheistic themes, His Dark Materials is a fascinating work of fantasy which involves witches, talking polar bears, and “dæmons” (the “souls” of humans embodied in animal form). But the story also feature science fiction tropes like steam punk machines, multiple universes, and conscious particles called “Dust” (supposedly likened to Dark Matter, but in the story, it served as the basic, common composition of all energy and matter in the multiverse).
The story focuses on Lyra Belacqua and her friends and allies, as they travel across different parallel worlds to learn more about “Dust” and save the multiverse from doom. Along the way, Lyra is being pursued by agents of the tyrannical Church, which desires to kill her. Meanwhile, her father, Lord Asriel, has amassed a massive coalition of various armies from across the multiverse to challenge the Kingdom of the Authority.
6.) Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune tells the story of Paul Atreidas, who grew up to become the enigmatic Muda’Dib, avenge the treacherous plot that was done on his family, and reclaim control of the planet that is rightfully his. It is one of the most important science fiction works ever, but it was only recently that I got the chance to read it, so I wasn’t able to consider it for my top 10 science fiction books list. That’s why I’m now giving it a slot here.
Dune is considered by most as science fiction (while Dragonriders of Pern, which is part of my top 10 science fiction books, is actually considered by many as a solid example of a science fantasy. So, if you want, we can just pretend that these two switch lists) but, nonetheless, I can find some fantasy elements in it, particularly Paul’s superhuman power of being able to see past (by accessing his ancestors’ memories), present, and future at will.
5.) Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer
I encountered both Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter at the same time, when I was in my Grade 6. But though Harry Potter turned out to become more popular, it was Artemis Fowl who won in my heart. I loved the premise of a boy criminal mastermind who initially was an adversary to the Fairy People – outsmarting and defeating them for the first time – but developed into an ally and friend later on. In the AF universe, the Fairy People utilize not only magic, but high-tech gadgetries as well – making this series a product of science fantasy.
4.) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (illustrator)
Described as a mix of Star Wars, Romeo and Juliet, and Game Thrones, this ongoing comic book series from Image Comics is my most favorite comic book of 2014. It’s definitely one of the greatest science fantasy stories I’ve ever encountered.
Saga tells the delightful story of Alana and Marko, lovers who respectively came from the planet Landfall (technologically-advance race) and its moon, Wreath (magic-wielding race) – two opposing sides in an interplanetary war that has been going on for a long time.
3.) The Stand by Stephen King
It starts with the makings of a classic apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic tale. An extremely deadly bio-weapon called “Captain Tripps” was accidentally released to the world which wiped out around 99% of the world’s population. Then, in the second part of the story, fantasy came into play as the few human survivors were supernaturally drawn towards two destinations. The first group, which was made up of the good guys, were led by a common dream to seek the 108-year old woman, “Mother Abagail”, and with her leadership, they established a community in Colorado which they named “Free Zone.” On the other hand, the bad guys assembled in Las Vegas, under the evil magician Randal Flagg (a recurring villain in several Stephen King books). Inevitably, the two groups would clash, and it’s up to a small group of Free Zoners to stop Flagg and his army.
2.) The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis
The Space Trilogy is C.S. Lewis’ attempt on science fiction. However, it’s much apparent that he’s more of a fantasy person as he opted to put a lot of fantasy themes in it, especially in the last book, That Hideous Strength. It mostly involved the character Dr. Ransom’s travels to other planets (Mars or Malacandra in the first book, Venus or Perelandra in the second book) of the solar system which are actually inhabited worlds. As far as profound and brilliant Christian themes and analogies are concerned, The Space Trilogy is as rich as Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series and The Screwtape Letters.
1.) The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
The tale of the quest of Ronald Deschain and his ka-tet towards the Dark Tower is, in my opinion, Stephen King in his zenith. The Dark Tower series is one of the greatest pieces of literature I’ve ever read. King pulled off making a grand epic by combining themes from various genres – like science fiction, fantasy, horror, Western, Arthurian romance, and others – as well as incorporating elements from his other writings (like The Stand, ‘Salem’s Lot, and Insomnia) and even himself into it. It’s so gripping and dynamic that it’s as if the nature of what makes it compelling is as metaphysical and magical as the tale itself.