Cover image of "2034," a great military science fiction novel

War makes no sense. Yet if any single thing defines the human experience, it may be the tendency of tribes and organized states alike to rush to arms against those they perceive as enemies. For example, the United States has been engaged in military action almost from the day the country gained its independence nearly 250 years ago. Surely, we don’t need psychologists to explain to us that there is something innate in human nature that leads us to act like this. They can offer insight into the motivations behind the resort to war. But we must turn to novelists for a deeper understanding of the peculiar reasoning that brings us to act in what is so often a self-defeating manner. And some of the best novelists, I’ve found, write science fiction. 

What follows is a list of the great military science fiction novels I’ve read over the past dozen years that have helped me understand the phenomenon. They’re arranged in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well. 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Nine great military science fiction novels . . . plus a series

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis (2021) 320 pages ★★★★★—The Third World War breaks out in 2034, but not how you think

Welcome to the Occupied States of America by Peter Cawdron (April 2016) 307 pages ★★★★☆—These alien invaders aren’t what you might expect

Generation of Vipers by Peter Cawdron (2022) 436 pages ★★★★★—A compelling new alien invasion novel

Downbelow Station by C. J. Cherryh (1981) 528 pages ★★★★★—In this interstellar war, the combatants are all human

1945 by Robert Conroy (2007) 450 pages ★★★★★—What if Japan hadn’t surrendered?

The Forever War (Forever War Trilogy #1) by Joe Haldeman (1974) 292 pages ★★★★★—This classic science fiction war novel won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards

Forever Peace (Forever War Trilogy #2) by Joe Haldeman (1997) 360 pages ★★★★☆—A prescient look at the military of the future

Trading in Danger (Vatta’s War #1) by Elizabeth Moon (2003) 314 pages ★★★★☆—The launch of a promising military science fiction series

Wake of War by Zac Topping (2022) 232 pages ★★★★★—Is a second civil war in America’s future?

No list of military science fiction novels is complete without mentioning Lois McMaster Bujold’s long-running Vorkosigan Saga. I’ve read and reviewed the whole series at The pleasures of reading the complete Vorkosigan Saga. By my count, there are twenty-one novels in this stellar series, and nearly all of them constitute military science fiction. (I include novellas in my count.) 

You’ll find a longer list of these novels at The Best Modern Military Science Fiction Books. I noticed only one book I’ve listed above.

You might also enjoy:

And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.