Out-of-Copyright Sci Fi Classics Free on Kindle
Feel free to argue with the way I've broken up the authors below, but first hear me out:-) In the "Old Classics / Historical" column, I included the classic authors who most would agree have written a least one science fiction novel, but only when the free books on Amazon were transcribed from a published book version. With the exceptions of Burroughs, London and Rider, these are mainly from the Victorian age. The "Pulp Magazines" column includes many classic Sci Fi authors, but the free versions of their novels on Amazon are mainly from pulp magazines with expired copyrights. Many of them later published the same works as longer or re-edited novels. The "Historical Development" column includes early Sci Fi, mainly before the Great Depression, most of which is long out-of-print. I did quite a bit of sleuthing to put this list together, and I think you'll find it contains some real gems (along with some real duds).
I've moved the first book of my EarthCent Ambassador series to the Kindle Unlimited program. If you don't have KU or Prime, drop me an e-mail at and I'll send it to you as an Amazon gift.
An American Navy Lieutenant named Gulliver Jones is transported from New York city to Mars by a magic carpet. Mars turns out to be peopled, covered with canals and kingdoms, and women "clad in little more than her lovlieness and the gauziest filaments of a Hither girl's underwear." It was published in 1905, before Edgar Rice Burroughs much more famous John Carter series, but it's not clear that Burroughs did much borrowing from this lighthearted tale.
An early "In the year 2000" novel from a wealthy businessman/inventor with a optimistic eye for the future. Astor believed in the ability of both technology and business to improve lives for common people and create new frontiers for exploration. It's also a romance:-)
A man from 1887 awakens in 2000 and finds himself in a Socialist paradise - with credit cards!
Sequel to Looking Backward.
This novel builds to an event that can only be described as science fiction, even though it has its roots in the spiritualist world. Think something like "being John Malkovitch."
Benson was a priest in the Church of England who converted to Catholicism, and it shoes in his writing.
It's hard to say whether this is true science fiction or apocalyptic fiction only, but since it deals with the future and many other people call it early science fiction, I included it.
The Dawn of All is a sequel with a sort of Catholic utopia to replace the dystopian Lord of the World..
I thought The Lani People was very innovative, and I'm surprised I didn't see it on paper as a kid. Bone is at his strongest writing about interactions between aliens and humans, and pointing out that it may not be easy for us to recognize the humanity of aliens. All his stories were well written, I'm not sure why he didn't write more, but I'm guessing he had a good day job.
Published in 1871, this is the only science fiction works by one of the more prolific authors of the Victorian age. Bulwers's style was at times overwrought, he is often remembered for the opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night." It was an early work in the "Hollow Earth" genre, though the people live in extensive caverns rather than a truly hollow earth. Other works by the author dabble in the occult, but this novel, published in 1871 after the Bulwers' death, is legitimate science fiction.
John Carter on Mars series, first five books. This is the grandfather of the serial "human transported to another planet with lots of sword fighting" genre. The plots are largely driven by men racing around unknown parts of mars and meeting (and fighting) various life forms to rescue their lady loves. I just reread all of these books for the first time since I was a teenager, and they still move right along. It's also interesting to realize how many later authors copied large chunks of Burroughs.
The Pellucidar series, of which only the first two books are available free, is Burroughs hollow earth series. It's not that different from his earth surface adventure stories, in fact, later in the series, Tarzan finds his way into these strange lands.
These three books are the complete Caspak trilogy, where Caspak is a hidden land that still supports dinosaurs, Neanderthals, and other life that doesn't exist in the greater world. The discoverers arrive on a World War One U-boat, manned partially by the original crew and partially by sailors from ships the U-boat sank. They take turns fighting for their lives and fighting for control of the U-boat so they can return home and yes, there's a romance.
This future fiction has nothing to do with the trilogy above, the Lost Continent here is Europe in the year 2137, which has reverted to barbarism after the World War.
One of the strangest science fiction romances you could ever hope to read. It includes entirely artificial life forms, and a scientist who is so whacked that he aspires to marry his daughter to his own creation.
A sequel to the novel Erewhon, which is not available free from Amazon. The books are written as if the place really exists on the same earth and time that the author is writing. The sequel begins "I forget when, but not very long after I had published "Erewhon" in 1872, it occurred to me to ask myself what course events in Erewhon would probably take after Mr. Higgs, as I suppose I may now call him, had made his escape in the balloon with Arowhena. Given a people in the conditions supposed to exist in Erewhon, and given the apparently miraculous ascent of a remarkable stranger into the heavens with an earthly bridewhat would be the effect on the people generally?"
The Erewhon books may be the first in science fiction to discuss a government ban on machines. Both books are intended as satire of Victorian England.
A very short book that contrasts Canada in 1883 (the year of publication) to the Canada of one hundred years later. There is no plot, it's written in the style of a report with a few digs at the non-Canadian world.
"From Toronto to Winnipeg in thirty minutes! From Winnipeg to the Pacific in forty minutes! Such is our usual pace in 1983. By hiring a special car the whole distance from Toronto to Victoria can be accomplished in fifty minutes. A higher speed still is quite possible, but is not permitted because of the risk of collision with other cars. Collisions have never yet occurred on account of the rigid adherence to very strict regulations. Cars that take short trips of 50 to 100 miles between stations, seldom travel more than 500 feet from the earth, but for long distances about 1,500 feet is usual."
I enjoyed the premise behind the green mouse where a young gentleman in need of an income turns to doing magic with the aide of technology. It's the technology that's legitimate science fiction, but I don't want to ruin it by explaining. The idea of building a business around the invention was pretty novel, and given that many Internet sites a hundred years later are dedicated to achieving the same result in a different way, it might even have been prescient.
King in Yellow is a collection of intertwined stories that could be called supernatural or fantasy.
I included The Crater because I'm a big Cooper fan and because some literary scholars see it as a proto-science fiction novel. It's a story of a man wrecked on an island, eventually left alone, trying to survive and live a meaningful life. The science fiction elements have more to do with the response of the land (and the creation of new land) then with technology.
The poison belt in question by the creator of Sherlock Holmes is not a murder weapon, but a belt of ether in space which the earth is about to pass through. This book reunites the characters from The Lost World (which isn't available for free on Kindle) in a Victorian look at the survival of the best prepared.
The Captain of the Polestar is a collection of short stories, only one of which is classic science fiction about a man who cannot die, but a couple of the stories include fantastic spiritual elements, which were quite fashionable in nineteenth century society.
Many early science fiction books are presented as a manuscript of somebody from a different place or time that has fallen into the hands of the nominal author. That's how Revolutions of Time starts out, with the hero being a air force pilot who get's pulled into a mythical past by Onan, the Lord of Time. I don't know if Dunn hit on Onan for the name of the time lord by accident or as an inside joke, but anybody who is familiar with the Bible should know about Onan and his particular crime. The history of the book goes back to Earth before man appears on the scene.
The stories and novellas of the following six volumes by Dunsany are of the sword and fantasy genre. I include them mainly because they were incredibly influential on later authors who mixed adventure and science fiction. According to Wikipedia, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, J.R.R.Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock and Ursula K. Le Guin, all acknowledged the influence of Dunsany, and several corresponded with him during their lives.
Trilogy about survivors of a wrecked earth. But who wrecked the earth and when in time is the story taking place?
The air trust in this case is not about airplanes, it's about air, and the desire of wealthy industrialists to corner the market and thereby enslave the earth. Social commentary doesn't come any clearer.
An international crew goes to war on an airship in what must have been intended as a pun on the French Foreign Legion.
What would a space faring race of men do if not explore new worlds and mine for gold? Mix in some mind control and politics, and you have some adventure/social commentary going on. The Devolutionist and the Emancipatrix is actually two books in one, but Amazon only has the Emancipatrix listed separately, so I went with the combined copy.
The Lord of Death and the Queen of Life is about explorers on Mercury stumbling on the archives of an ancient civilizations, and what those archives contain.
Another science fiction writer from the 1950's, it's unclear how these books ended up in the public domain collection.
A short story or novella, originally from "Astounding Fiction" magazine.
"The great merchantship Naipor settled her tens of thousands of tons of mass into her landing cradle on Viornis as gently as an egg being settled into an egg crate, and almost as silently. Then, as the antigravs were cut off, there was a vast, metallic sighing as the gigantic structure of the cradle itself took over the load of holding the ship in her hydraulic bath."
A war story in an agrarian world. I didn't get if it was supposed to be an alternate earth, a colony, or just another world.
A long novel that starts out with an ex-Confederate Civil War officer fleeing the failed Mexican take-over and ending up on a desert island where an out of control spaceship come in for a smash landing. He recovers a manuscript from the ship, and the story begins...
A rich guy builds a spaceship to take his young wife on a honeymoon. On their travels, they find a Nazi-like civilization living on Mars. Some honeymoon.
The subtitle is "A Phantasy of the Fourth Dimension" - the mummy part is a giveaway that it's about horrors from the past coming into the present time.
An Inca Mummy is discovered, with unexpected results.
A future war (it was published in 1907) with flying ships, et al.
Perhaps the original story about a lone inventor discovering a way to communicate with another world. I don't recall any other SciFi author taking the approach to interplanetary travel that Grisewood adopts. There's a lot of potential for things to go wrong, but you'll have to read it to find out.
I hesitated over including any Haggard, his books are primarily adventure stories, although all the lost lands get into speculative fiction. But like Burroughs, it's clear that many modern science fiction writers read his books (or saw the movies) and adopted his adventure plots to other worlds. I included a few just to give the flavor, the most famous of the bunch is "Solomon's Mines."
Another adventure of the "Hollow Earth" genre that was so popular in the 19th century. In this case, the inside of the earth is populated by people who are more advanced than those living on the crust, and they've created a society that some might call a utopia. Here's what the king has to say to the captives from the surface:
... returned the king, playing with the jewels on his robe, "that is because you have been reared as you havein your unsystematic world. Here we make life a serious study. It is our object to assist nature in all things. The efforts of your people amount to nothing because they are not carried far enough. Your scientists are dreaming idiots. They are continually groping after the ideal and doing nothing with the positive. It was for us to carry out everything to perfection. Show me where we can make a single improvement and you shall become a prince."
Toy Shop (with Brey)
Future fiction, set in 2151, when a great part of the world is warring with another German empire. This book, published just a year after World War One, predicts a sort of unending World War Two with a new German empire, though not as soon as the real World War Two took place. Some of it's descriptions of a German society on war footing driven underground, high regimented with selective breeding, echo the later goals of the Nazi party, and the way the hero of the novel penetrates this closed society is extremely novel.
Another future fiction, this one published in 1910. A brief excerpt:
"Only the rich who owned aeroplanes could afford to live in the country. The poor had been forced to the cities where they could be sheltered en masse, and fed, as it were, by machinery. New York had a population of twenty-three millions. Manhattan Island had been extended by filling in the shallows of the bay, until the Battery reached almost to Staten Island. The aeroplane stations that topped her skyscrapers stood, many of them, a quarter of a mile from the ground.
As the materially greatest nation in the world, the United States had an enormous national patriotism based on vanity. The larger patriotism for humanity was only known in the prattle of her preachers and idealists. America was the land of libertyand liberty had come to mean the right to disregard the rights of others. "
A sort of pre-Ghost Busters story mixing science fiction and supernatural.
Survivors of a sunken ship plagued by sea monsters.
A manuscript discovered in an ancient house describes a battle with monster from another dimension. This book was the model for many later writers of interdimensional conflicts.
Millions of years in the future under a fading son, the survivors of humanity cling to life with cities that follow the sun (the earth's rotation has slowed), and other imaginative elements. But the core is a basic romance, and some people find the language, intentionally altered from English of the period, too difficult.
A man awakens in Rip Van Winkle fashion in a different sort of future Utopia novel, one without any technology at all!
Another novel based on an ancient manuscript. This one is found in the Canary Islands, along with some Egyptian Mummies. The whole mummy tie-in was very common in turn of the century SciFi.
The title pretty much describes the book. First, London is decimated (along with England) and civilization falls apart. Some years later, a new and unlikely society has rises on the ruins.
Old school, big picture Science Fiction shorts with surprise endings. Jones reminds me of some of the early Star Trek writers in that he likes to find broad human themes (even among aliens) that bring us all together.
Too philosophical for me, this book was written to make certain arguments in the guise of being a science fiction novel.
Real or imagined transference of mind (or soul) to a prehistoric period.
Future fiction with Socialism, par for the course with London.
First sentence: "All my life I have had an awareness of other times and places. I have been aware of other persons in me." This from a man imprisoned in a dungeon.
Post apocalyptic story set in the U.S. after civilizations has been wiped out by a plague.
Another post apocalyptic story.
Ancient ScFi from 100 A.D. Included just because if I left it out, somebody would complain.
Hunter Patrol (with Piper)
Lone Star Planet (with Piper)
Nul-ABC (with Piper)
Meek, an engineer and former Army officer, was an early writer of pulp SciFi stories who is better known for the two dozen or so children's novels he later wrote, all featuring animals. These five novellas or short stories touch all the different bases of early pulp fiction, and you can see reminders of both his engineering and military background in the descriptions. Added thanks to suggestion from Matthew G.
This novel is a play on Arabian Nights, but it's very funny and I'm sure it served as a model for some of the more humorous fantasy writers whose heroes suffer from feet of clay.
The Moon Pool is one of the most imaginative early SF novels I've read. It's not a hollow earth novel, though it includes a hollow earth, and it's not an alien novel, though it includes plenty of non-humans. The author does a phenomenal job describing things that simply don't exist, sort of like a word picture of somebody beaming down in Star Trek. Well worth the slow beginning.
The sort of early science fiction an engineer might enjoy. It's not about far-out technology or worlds, it's about a man solving technological challenges ahead of his time, but well behind ours.
In a future world, ruled by Persians (modern day Iran), explorers discover the ruins of America.
These are fantasy novels which are included because the author invented the worlds in which they take place. They are primarily of interest as precursors to later fantasy writers, like Tolkein and Lewis.
Reminds me a little of Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" except they travel in space instead. Not laugh a minute, but humor is definitely there.
This future fiction was written to warn the English of the author's worries about Germany (which turned out to be correct) as opposed to simple entertainment.
This future fiction was written to warn the English of the author's worries about Germany (which turned out to be correct) as opposed to simple entertainment.
More of a novella than a novel, The Diamond Lens mixes science fiction with a little horror and occult. It also reminded me of some of those stories collected by Asimov in "The Golden Age of Science Fiction" in the focus on the worlds that might exist if we could only see them.
He Walked Around the Horses (with Cartier)
Hunter Patrol (with McGuire)
Lone Star Planet (with McGuire)
Nul-ABC (with Dongen)
Omnilingual (with Freas)
Uller Uprising (with Carr and Clark)
You may have seen the movie of this book fifteen or twenty years ago. Anything to do with flying was science fiction at the time it was written.
A professional astronomer by trade, Serviss apparently wrote science fiction both to popularize science and to make a little extra money. It's genuine science fiction, though it's strange to read about spaceships fighting off Mars and signaling each other like Civil War cavalry because they didn't have radios. Edison on Mars introduces the first phaser, really a disintegrator ray.
I read all three of these short stories at the laundromat this morning and I laughed so much that the other patrons must have thought I was nuts. Sharkey has a wicked sense of humor, primarily focused on the unintended consequences of human actions, but he also has an eye for the humor of professional relationships, especially of men cooped up in a space capsule for months.
Published in 1826, The Last Man is a very early example of "Last Man On Earth" science fiction. It's also an early example of a science fiction novel premised on the discovery of a memoir manuscript from the future with no scientific explanation of how it got there. I'm sorry I took the time to read it, my advice is to skip the first two books (a very lame romance) and start two thirds of the way through.
Supernatural detective stories. Shiel was a nutcase, but he could write.
It takes a some patience to read through The Purple Cloud and the ravings of its misanthropic antihero, but the ending is worth it. Who knew that the North Pole was forbidden ground?
I just found out about this novel and downloaded it, I'll have something to say in the next update:-)
I think everybody knows this one.
What I remember about this series from reading it thirty odd years ago is that the evolution of the key characters and their ability to make things happen with their minds was believable, at least to a young teenager.
Stockton is best known for his "Lady or the Tiger" story that we all read in Jr. High School, but he was well ahead of his time in both science fiction and fantasy. I read his complete collected works a couple years ago with great pleasure, though I had to cut the pages in some cases because nobody had ever taken them out of the library (in over a hundred years)! I love the ending to The Great War Syndicate, and the whaling captain in The Great Stone of Sardis. The Bee Man of Orn has been adopted as a children's picture book, with one version illustrated by Maurice Sendak, of "Where the Wilds Things Are" fame.
This novel certainly qualifies as science fiction but it's more of a satire disguised as a science fiction travelogue than a novel in the normal sense. I suspect the author is a fan of Eastern philosophy, I didn't manage to read the whole thing.
Twain's science fiction was really about social commentary, irony and sarcasm were his primary weapons, but he wrapped it up in enough humor to make the pill go down smoothly.
Considered by many the father of science fiction, Verne was incredibly successful and influential as a writer. He took a fairly dark view of mankind and capitalism in general, his early life as a stockbroker may have had something to do with the latter.
A very short story, his other works are no longer available free. Table of Contents |
A primary concern of Wells fiction and nonfiction writing was the future, and he believed in the inevitable rise of a world government. Many of his prophesies were eerily accurate and Wells once wrote that his epitaph should be ""I told you so. You damned fools." I included all of his works available free on Amazon, not just the SciFi.
The Wells collection is very much in flux. Many of these books are "in review" by Amazon, which means they may be removed. And currently, the only free version of "the Time Machine" isn't from Amazon, but from Simon&Schuster, who may raise the price back to $1.99. So be warned.
True pulp style, very non-politically correct stories. The first one offers white man's triumph over aliens, the second, in a very depopulated world, is white man's triumph over what remains of the everybody else.
Copyright 2015 by E. M. Foner