Science fiction writers love sticking people in tiny metal cans and hurling them into environments where everything is trying to kill them, so it’s no surprise that some great SF books take place deep underwater, where exposure to the pressure kills people much faster than exposure to the vacuum of space. An unexpected pattern: many of the books below focus on the psychology of their characters more than typical science fiction. Crichton says he started writing the novel in 1967 as a companion piece to The Andromeda Strain. As with most Crichton novels, Sphere is gripping and thoughtful until it unravels into a somewhat disappointing ending. Highly acclaimed when released and even now, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is regarded as one of the premiere adventure novels in literature and one of Verne’s greatest works, along with Around the World in Eighty Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth. While most classics can be something of a pain to slog through, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea holds up quite well. Written by a self-described author of “weird fiction,” The Scar is a dark, depressing, wildly inventive anti-epic with a floating pirate city and multiple underwater civilizations. The Terran exploration vessel Streaker has crashed in the uncharted water world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history. Below, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles an armed rebellion and the whole hostile planet to safeguard her secret—the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars.
Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Startide Rising is the second book in the Uplift series (there’s a total of six), but popular opinion has it that the first book, Sundiver, can be safely skipped. Some of science in The Swarm is undoubtedly due to Thomas Orthmann, a German marine biologist and journalist, who claims that dozens of passages in The Swarm have been lifted word for word from his writings. Most reviewers agree that despite its flaws of thin characterization, pages upon pages of scientific explanations, and strong anti-U.S. Other reviewers seem to agree with Kirkus, so if you read this tersely-written alien-encounter procedural, lower your expectations for the ending.


Emotionally damaged people are sent to work next to a giant rift in the ocean floor, harvesting energy for surface dwellers.
This book taught me that you can make a protagonist as crazy as you want, as long as what she’s battling against is even crazier. In the near future, oil has become the ultimate prize, and nuclear-powered subtugs brave enemy waters to tap into hidden oil reserves beneath the East’s continental shelf. So feel free to dive in, but since this was written nine years earlier, don’t expect a wet Dune. Reviews are generally excellent, but some people on Goodreads were put off by the decidedly non-feminist treatment of female characters. After narrowly escaping death in a forest fire, Angie Dinsman finds herself under the control of the World Life Company.
Carol Severance comes by her knowledge of Polynesian culture and mythology honestly: she served with the Peace Corps from 1966-1968 and later assisted in anthropological fieldwork in the remote coral atolls of Truk, Micronesia. Reefsong isn’t well known, but it definitely has a cult following—all of its reviews have five stars. This is probably the least science-fictiony of the lot, so depending on your mood, you might be ready for a tropical planet story. I have been trying to remember the name of the book “Starfish” for almost ten years now! This may be because in underwater science fiction stories, the protagonists are generally more isolated, since there are no new planets to arrive at, and spend a lot of time with each other in their little bubble of air, squabbling with their shipmates and their own personal demons.
He began with American scientists discovering a spaceship underwater that had been there for 300 years but with stenciled markings in English.


Verne himself has been the second most-translated author in the world since 1979, between the English-language writers Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare. The workers are a bio-engineered crew—people who have been altered to withstand the pressure and breathe the seawater to work in this weird, fertile undersea darkness. I read it when it first came out, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember the title when I wanted to re-read it several years later. It takes place underwater and the main character is the first kid born in this underwater settlement. Have sleeper agents infiltrated the elite submarine service, or are the crews simply cracking under the pressure? Like that book, this one posits an intelligent species with needs and aims unimaginably different from our own, and describes the escalating phases of what appears to be an invasion of Earth by never-seen aliens. Around the world, countries are beginning to feel the effects of the ocean’s revenge as the seas and their inhabitants begin a violent revolution against mankind. After mastering the basics of survival, she faces an insurmountable challenge: finding the information that could end starvation on Earth while sabotaging the Company’s evil plans.




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