10 Well-Read (Aloud) Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Adrian Liang on January 29, 2018

When our family goes on road trips, we load up on salty chips, sugary drinks, and popular audiobooks, usually of the sci-fi or fantasy variety. I clearly recall listening to Ready Player One last year as we drove through a forest choked by a heavy mist during our first camping trip of the season. On the way home, we listened to the multi-voiced performance of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, which captured high-spirited Lyra exactly.

But what else are people listening to? I checked out Audible's bestselling list of science fiction and fantasy books, and it wasn't a surprise to see Ready Player One at the tippy-top. I was surprised, quite pleasantly, by a few others on the list. And a number of the audiobooks are even less expensive than the print or Kindle editions, which is a bonus.

Read on for why these ten Audible audiobooks have won customers' ears' approval.

Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline, Read by Wil Wheaton - If you haven't yet consumed Ready Player One, you won't 100% understand why Wil Wheaton narrating the novel is an Easter egg itself, but you will when you've finished this 1980s pop-culture homage. As one customer says, "Wheaton is one of my favorites and was the perfect pick for this book. He Crushered it." Says another: "There are many great narrators, but no one does this genre better than Wheaton."

Artemis: A Novel by Andy Weir, Read by Rosario Dawson - Dawson has demonstrated her geek cred with her recurring role of Claire Temple in Marvel's Netflix-original TV shows, and also by voicing Barbara Gordon ("Can I call you 'Batboy'?") in the LEGO Batman Movie. Here she narrates Andy Weir's second novel from the point of view of Jazz Bashara, part-time criminal and full-time resident of the Moon. "Dawson captured Jazz's brash, rude personality rather well," says one customer, and her performance received high marks overall. But this book is not The Martian, as many listeners point out over and over in their reviews. Better to approach it with lower expectations.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Read by Rob Inglis - British stage actor Inglis captivated many listeners with his unabridged reading. Says one listener, "He does just enough variation in delivery to make the characters distinctive without resorting to silly vocal tics. It's masterfully done and a great example of how a good narrator can enhance a book just as easily as a poor one can ruin it." The songs were not received as positively: "Please. Stop. Singing." Well, we can't all be Billy Boyd.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, Read by Lenny Henry - Lenny Henry is a man of wide talents--a comedian, a Shakespearean actor, and the voice of the shrunken head in the Knight Bus in the Harry Potter films--and he uses those talent to the fullest in Gaiman's weird, dark, imaginative and fun novel. This sister book to Gaiman's American Gods wins very positive responses to Henry's narration. Says a recent comment, "I loved the reader, who did a great job of the English accents, the Caribbean accents, the men and the women."

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, Read by George Guidall - Le Guin's 1969 multi-award-winning novel about a human who visits a world in which gender is fluid has both its fans and its detractors. Prepare for a slow, immersive read, and don't expect to be wowed by the narrator. "As for George Guidall's performance, it's decent. He does a good job with the very alien vocabulary, but he puts very little passion into his performance and there is no attempt whatsoever to differentiate the characters. Still, that was never a deal breaker for me since the novel itself is so good." Sadly, Le Guin passed away earlier this month at age 88.

Iron Gold: Book 4 of the Red Rising Saga (Red Rising Series) by Pierce Brown, Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds, Aedin Moloney, Julian Elfer, and John Curless - Reynolds returns to Brown's solar system-spanning SF saga as Darrow, whom he portrayed to wide acclaim in earlier books in the series. But as Brown expands the number of point-of-view characters in Iron Gold, the narrators have expanded as well...with not-great reviews. "I didn't think there was really a need for the four different narrators. I absolutely love Tim Gerrard Reynolds...I wouldn't say [the other three] were bad, but they were all fairly average," says one customer. And the jump ten years ahead in Darrow's world threw some other listeners. But our books editors named Iron Gold a best science fiction book of the month in January 2018 based on how much more complexity Brown has added to his war-fraught solar system, and we can't wait to dive into Dark Age, in September.

Year One: Chronicles of the One, Book 1 by Nora Roberts, Read by Julia Whelan - Whelan is among the top thriller narrators today ( Gone Girl, The Wife Between Us, Good Behavior, and a number of other Nora Roberts books), and she brings her game to Roberts' first post-apocalyptic suspense novel. (Roberts also writes bestselling thrillers under the name J. D. Robb.) "Julia Whelan does a flawless job of reading the large variety of voices," says one listener about this first book in a trilogy about the aftereffects of a sickness that takes out half the world's population. 

Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer - Fantasy narrators extraordinaire Kramer and Reading team up again for the third book in Sanderson's five-book story arc. You'll get a 50-hour badge from Audible, but be sure to start with book one in the series, The Way of Kings.

Age of Myth: Book One of The Legends of the First Empire by Michael J. Sullivan, Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds - Reynolds wows listeners with his reading of the first book in Sullivan's new series, which our editors chose as a best science fiction and fantasy book of the month. "I can't think of a better author/narrator team than Reynolds and Sullivan," says one listener. Sullivan crafts rich worlds and complex political shenanigans and garnishes them with a sprig of humor and a dose of modern thinking.

The Fold: A Novel by Peter Clines, Read by Ray Porter - Cline's modern-day science fiction tale reminds me a bit of Michael Crichton's science thrillers but with better writing and a self-awareness Crichton lacked (or didn't put in his books). A group of scientists have figured out how to transport items through a fold in space, but a few weird things prompt the parent company to bring in an outside specialist to figure out what's really going on. Porter's narration gets high marks. "If I see his name as narrator and it's a genre I like it's nearly an automatic buy. I can't think of anybody I've listened to with his narration that was a disappointment. It's kinda like Micheal Kramer and epic fantasy," says one listener.

Which are your favorite audiobooks—and audiobook narrators? Let us know on Facebook.

You might also like:

Sign up for the Amazon Book Review: Best books of the month * author interviews * the reading life * and more

Lists + Reviews

Best Books Literature + Fiction Nonfiction Kids + Young Adult Mystery, Thriller + Suspense Science Fiction + Fantasy Comics + Graphic Novels Romance Eating + Drinking


Interviews Guest Essays Celebrity Picks

News + Features

News Features Awards


Omnivoracious, The Amazon Book Review

Feeds Facebook Twitter YouTube