Science vs. Fiction: Rating Sci-Fi as a STEM Student

Welcome to another episode of Chana being judgey with little to no authority! When I read books I usually flip-flop between not really caring about the details to being nitpicky as heck. If I see one very slight technical inaccuracy in a book-BOOM, the whole book is ruined for me. This has happened with things as small as how an author writes a character walking through NYC, when the author mentions a cross-street that I know doesn’t intersect and suddenly the whole book is garbage. I know that this is a bit dumb, but for me, things that could be found out with the smallest google search but are written inaccurately anyways rub me the wrong way.

One genre where this phenomenon is particularly interesting is Science Fiction! Because yeah, it’s Science Fiction so every sciencey thing written in the book must be taken with a grain of salt. This usually leads to me enjoying the book a regular amount if all the science mumbo jumbo is fake, and upping my enjoyment immensely if any of the science in the book is based on accurate things! Now I obviously don’t know all science (biology is my ultimate weakness), but for things I do know a bit about (physics, math, and engineering) it’s always fun to judge how likely/accurate the science in sci-fi is! I don’t think I read a huge amount of Science Fiction, but for the books I have read, I’ve decided to rate them on a scale of Science to Fiction. How accurate is this book? Could it really happen? Is any of the smart-sounding stuff in this book remotely plausible?

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We’re starting off strong here with one of my favorite sci-fi’s. The Martian follows NASA astronaut Mark Watney after a catastrophic sand storm leaves him stranded on Mars. Now besides for the fact that Andy Weir is a computer scientist, with STEM experience on his own, he also did a ton of research when writing this book. From anything like orbital mechanics, botany, and what the conditions on Mars are like, this book is full of science. I’ve found that that’s usually a deciding factor for some people’s enjoyment of the book. I really liked it because even with all the cool science bits, The Martian still manages to be one of the funniest books I’ve read!

Overall, this would go alllll the way to the science end of the science vs. fiction scale. ALSO, this is one book where I would highly recommend watching the movie adaptation as well! It’s obviously not exactly like the book (what ever is?) but it was still mostly accurate and wonderfully made.


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!! Another book that I absolutely adored! Into the Drowning Deep answers the question of, what if there were mermaids? With, yes, there are, but they eat people. Now, I know next to nothing about marine biology, but I do know that the ocean is very big and largely unexplored. So I think that the likelihood of there being a mermaid like species (that may or may not eat people) is pretty high. Also, Into the Drowning Deep is literally about a scientific expedition! If I had to compare the book to anything, I’d say that it gives off Atlantis: The Lost Empire vibes (which I also consider a highly scientific piece of media), with just a little bit more blood and gore.

Definitely a science on the science vs. fiction scale. Also, one reason why I would never go on a long boat trip over the deep sea.


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It’s time for the classic, “what if video games were way more immersive” part of our science fiction list. Ready Player One is not the first and definitely won’t be the last to use the whole, in the future video games are so advanced that people can literally live in them trope (looking at you SAO and Warcross). And honestly, there are a bunch of thing in RPO that seem pretty close to accurate to what we have now. VR games and headsets are very much a thing, as are immersive RPGs. Games like the SIMs literally let you simulate reality! One thing that I found funny when originally reading the book was how people were going to school remotely and in a video game. Jokes on me though, because now the majority of schools are online. I’ve even seen some teachers who hosted class in Club Penguin, so I guess school in a video game is pretty accurate as far as science vs. fiction goes.

I’d say this book gets a semi-science rating. Not because it’s inaccurate or anything, but just because COVID has taught me that while most things can be done remotely and over the internet, over time people just really want to be able to do things in person again.


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Red Rising is a sort of dystopian future space odyssey where humans are categorized by a color coded caste system. Darrow, a Red (the lowest caste) joins the rebellion to try and bring justice to his people.

I don’t know about you, but something about dystopian books exploring an alternate version of classism and racism always sits a little weirdly with me. Like I know human beings in general are racist pieces of garbage (yes I lean towards Hobbes philosophy) and the probability that the human race will find new and exciting ways to be racist in the future is very likely. But overall it seems weird to me to write a book that’s clearly an allegory for racism with a different type of white guy as the main character. Do I think genetic modification is a thing? I mean yeah, it does currently exist. Do I think that humans will genetically modify themselves into classes to show superiority? I mean the Nazi’s did that and they didn’t even need genetic modification. So, no probably not.

I always take dystopians with a grain of salt, especially because they’re being written through the lens of our current reality. Which probably won’t exist as a structure in the actual future. I’d rate this book more fiction than science. Not only because of the whole genetic class system but also because of the inexplicable way they colonized the Moon and Mars and made it livable.


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I WISH THIS BOOK WAS SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE AND REAL! If you don’t know, All Systems Red, the first book in the wonderful Murerbot Diaries series, follows Murderbot, a rogue AI Security Unit. It is quite literally the inner monologue and diary of this artificial entity. The books are absolutely hilarious and I wish Murderbot actually existed because I love them with all my heart.

All Systems Red follows a space exploration mission on an unknown planet. There are lots of scientists and doctors and Murderbot also talks a lot about the inner workings of its governing module and programming. There is lots of scientific mumbo jumbo in this book, but unfortunately, the likelihood of the things in this series existing in our day and age is pretty much zero. Therefore, this book gets an I Wish it Weren’t Fiction on the science fiction scale.


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Sleeping Giants in my humble opinion is just a little bit boring. And in this case, the sciencey part of it may actually be to blame! Sleeping Giants follows a team working on assembling and deciphering the purpose of this ancient mechatronic giant that was found in pieces around the globe. There’s a physicist, a linguist, a pilot, and many others on their team. And it’s boring. Because nothing really happens. Well actually there was one very inaccurate thing that happened towards the end of the book regarding prosthetics. I’m not going to go into it because of spoilers, but a decision was made that makes absolutely no sense. I did an in depth project on leg prosthetics last semester, so the choice the doctors in the book ended up making really made no sense realistically.

Me, for most of the book

So definitely fiction on the science fiction scale. If not for the very weird prosthetic thing, it’d be because of the implication of extraterrestrial life leaving weird artifacts for us to discover and then ditching the planet.


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Do you like climate change? Do you look forward to the day that our planet is so inhospitable because of it that we have to flee to another one? Well great, then you can just read this book until the time comes. Personally, I did not enjoy this book at all, not really for unrealistic reasons, but mostly because I hated the romance and most of the characters.

For scientific accuracy, we are already seeing the ramifications of climate change on our planet right now, but I do hope that it will never become as bad as what’s depicted in this book. So it gets a maybe scientific but hopefully not rating.

I feel like I rambled on wayyy too long with some of these books so sorry about that. But I did enjoy sharing my nitpicky based on nothing scientific scale ratings with all of you! I do love science fiction whether it’s scientifically accurate or not, and I’ll continue to read them whether or not they hold any grain of truth.

What are your favorite Sci-Fi books? Are you nitpicky about details in books too? Do you have a favorite STEM subject?

26 thoughts on “Science vs. Fiction: Rating Sci-Fi as a STEM Student

  1. Chana i haven’t blog hopped in so long, but this post was so good and interesting that i just had to comment!! first of all, i just have to say that i have so much respect for people in hardcore STEM fields bc i could never 😭 my brain is literally filled with nothing, and if i tried to take something like engineering i’d probably die.

    sadly i’ve only read into the drowning deep out of all of these books, so i can’t comment on whether i found these books scientifically accurate or not. but i will say that i once read a review that said into the drowning deep had a lot of bullshit science, but they didn’t elaborate lmao. tbh i don’t care whether into the drowning deep was accurate or not, it was so cool to see someone approach the concept of mermaids in a scientific way as opposed to a fantastical way! the dissection scene was so interesting, ahhh

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    1. Ahhh, Caitlin, I’m so happy you liked it!! Psh NO you’re literally so smart and if you decided to do engineering I bet you could!!

      Ooh, yeah I know next to nothing about marine biology stuffs but I liked how scientific the book ✨appeared✨ to be 😂 Ahhh, yess the dissection scene was crazy!! Also, the whole book just made me think of how crazy the ocean is and how we literally know so little about aquatic life, especially the ones that live in the deep! I was watching this documentary once and there are these fish next to Japan that can literally change their gender at will??? Like so crazy!!

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  2. chana!!! I love this post so so much!! I’m a STEM girl through and through, and I’m probably going to double major in math & computer science, so when I say this post got me excited, I mean, it got me EXCITED.

    I relate to being nitpicky about the smallest details on another level haha — esp if its anything tech related or about small towns; I get that science fiction is supposed to be fictional, but I always get judgy about it even though I know Nothing lol.

    out of ur list, I’ve read only one, The Martian, and I truly love it so much?? It’s so sciency lol but it also manages to be so *funny* and it’s really just the best mix! and Into the Drowning Deep sounds so cool! Adding it to my tbr stat bc!! mermaids, but scientific!! sounds like my type of brand haha.

    anyways, I truly adored this post!! ❤

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    1. Yesss!! STEM girls ftw 💕 Omgg, yess a possible future CS major! Coding is actually one thing I hate doing for classes so I’m already in awe of you.

      Hahaha, yeah! Like sometimes I’ll know absolutely nothing about the other facts in a book but if I see *one* thing that I do know a bit about suddenly the whole thing is ruined 😪 The Martian is literally one of my favorite books!! And omg yes you must read Into the Drowning Deep and I very much would like to hear your reactions when you do!!

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  3. I don’t have the inaccuracy problem with sci-fi, because I am scientifically illiterate, but I CAN get like that with historical fiction. I know fiction doesn’t have to be completely historically accurate, but it still drives me batty when characters talk about how their corset is choking them :/ Get a better fitting corset, stop tightlacing, and stop complaining! (And also when girls on covers are dressed in generically pretty prom dress rather than something reflective of the time period. I could go without ever seeing one of those covers again, thanks.)
    But anyway, sorry for my rant. I’ll have to check out some of these sci-fi books! I’ve been wanting to get more into the genre.

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    1. Ahh yes!! Historical inaccuracies also bug me so much!! Especially when they feel like they should be super obvious? Like I’ve read some books that are supposed to take place in the 1500’s but for some reason, the characters are using modern slang?

      Yesss, I hope you like the ones you decide to check out! ❤

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  4. I absolutely loved this post! I’m not usually into sci-fi, but this post made me want to read more of that genre. I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned (I’m so not into sci-fi). I’ve only read a few sci-fis, but my favorites are Skyward and The Sound of Stars.

    I’m kind of a STEM person, I guess? I mean, I love science, but I don’t care about the accuracy of it in books. But Into the Drowning Deep sounds so good! And my TBR gets longer. Yay.

    Hope you’re having a great Spooktober and I can’t wait to read more!

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    1. The Sound of Stars is on my TBR! Did you enjoy it? Into the Drowning Deep is *fantastic* I hope you like it if you decide to read it!

      Ahh, happy spooktober to you too! 💀🖤

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  5. Andy Weir is a CS Boi????? That explains everything. In case you didn’t know, I hated the Martian. I thought it was just ewww space but NO! Apparently my radar is just that good.

    Also, thanks for reminding me about the MERMAID BOOK.

    As for favorite STEM subject: for this semester I think it’s databases (or linguistics, if linguistics counts. Take linguistics if you can! You get to hear people make a lot of funny noises!)

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    1. * gasp * You hated the Martian??? But potatoes!!

      THE MERMAID BOOK! You must read it, it’s so bloody and amazing, much murder and gore, we love to see it. Yayy, idk what databases means but I’m happy you’re enjoying it! Also! I might be taking CS 102 (baby intro to computing) next semester and if I do I will be coming to you for help because my brain cannot take coding :)))))

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      1. YAY!!!!! Chana, anyone can code!!!! And you will do great! And also, happy to help! Do you know which language it’s going to be in?
        I don’t really know what a database either is at this point but from what I’m getting, it’s like a giant excel table where you add, remove, and see data by putting in certain commands.

        Mermaid + Bloody = ❤️

        As much as I love potatoes, they weren’t enough to salvage the book for me. I think the only thing I liked beyond the POTATOES was all the swearing because I’m a 2 year old? My elementary school science teacher told us about how slow and awful an astronaut’s dead would be should they become disconnected from the ship in space and ever since then space is just big no for me

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  6. Love your perspective on these! I’m not very sciency (as you can tell by my very scientific word choice), but it’s always interesting to hear from people who are when it comes to sci-fi. If you ever read the MG book In the Red, I’d love to hear what you think about that one! (It’s a little bit like The Martian for middle graders.)

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    1. In the Red looks so good! I just added it to my TBR 😄 Hahahahaa, I think sciency is a totally valid scientific word!

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  7. Chana, this post was so good!
    I have to admit I’ve been so behind on blog hopping and catching up with everything that’s being posted, but from the moment I saw the title of this one I just knew I had to read it asap.
    It was so interesting to read! I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read a single book on your list, but you just made me add so many of them to my TBR.
    I also love when all the science-y stuff is accurate, or at least seemingly possible, and I loved seeing your perspective on this as well.
    As always, great post!

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  8. Ahh Chana I loved this post!! reading it made me feel so ~scientific~ and slightly less guilty for reading this post instead of doing my physics homework rn lmao. I absolutely love science, and (obviously) love reading, but usually don’t like science fiction lmaoo I need to separate the two I can’t just science all day long or i’ll die. on the occasion that I actually read science fiction tho it’s super interesting to think if it’s actually feasible or possible or scientifically accurate, so I loved seeing your take on this with this post! since I’m dumb I haven’t read any of these books (although I did watch the movie of The Martian a while ago haha).

    I have to say I didn’t know what Red Rising was about and I’m also sometimes wary about alternate universe racism, but also the thought of humans genetically altering themselves into classes for genetic superiority is… hopefully will never happen but it seems feasible (I mean, two female scientists recently won the Nobel chemistry prize for CRISPR cas 9 genome editing which is super badass and awesome, and the gene editing technique is absolutely fascinating but also gets into grey area morality like should we really have this technique… what can people do with this… ) low-key am interested in the premise of that book now… also there’s so much strange shit in the ocean especially when it gets super deep who knows maybe there are mermaids lmao… although probably not Disney princess singing mermaids I haven’t read that book either but I’ll take your word for it haha.

    love love loved this post!! so much more interesting than reading my science textbooks ❤

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  9. This is so interesting to read, as a non-sciencey person myself! I loved The Martian too and felt like I was learning so much while reading it. And yesss I fully agree with what you said about Red Rising — we’ve progressed past the need for white male protagonists being used in metaphors for oppression. 🙄 I loved reading this post, thanks so much for writing it!!

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  10. I love this post! Being a STEM student myself, a book (or show!) is completely ruined for me if some things are false or just exaggerated. This hasn’t happened with a book recently but I watched Love O2O where two people engage in a hacking competition out of NOWHERE. Like. Bro. That’s not something everyone does. So many shows/movies/books depict computer science majors like that but ITS NOT TRUE. My goodness.

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  11. Great post! I wonder what you’ll think of To Sleep In A Sea of Stars because it’s very SCI-FI not Science Fiction Fantasy. It has quite a bit of science and stuff and lots of adventure 🙂

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  12. Sci-Fi is always a hit and miss for me! I try to stay with Sci-Fi Fantasy because s you’ve said the science isn’t always right and it can seriously screw me over when reading, especially when I feel the need to fact check the whole book after just one wrong thing lol
    Awesome post, Chana!
    Emma xx

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  13. “COVID has taught me that while most things can be done remotely and over the internet, over time people just really want to be able to do things in person again.” AINT THAT THE TRUTH!? We don’t know what we have till it’s gone

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  14. This post is wonderful, Chana! I know nothing about STEM – I have so much respect for you, my god, my brain could never take on anything in the STEM field – so this was a fun post to read. I thought The Martian was just okay (maybe because I know nothing about science, lmao) but I have so much respect for all the research the author must have done. I loved Into the Drowning Deep so damn much, so I’m glad to hear you thought that was accurate. It was super interesting to see their scientific exploration of mermaids… and how it all went wrong. Loved the characters, too. I tried my best with Red Rising, but both the blogger I buddy-read it with and myself ended up DNF-ing it, it was such a tired concept, imo, and I agree with everything you said there.

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  15. heartbroken to hear that murderbot is purely fictional in your fancy stem eyes 💔💔 no, but to be serious, i loved this post so much!! (always in awe of your very smart stem brain, my humanities brain could never) this is really a reminder that i need to read more sci-fi lmao — i’ve loved the sci-fi i’ve read so i don’t know why i haven’t read more! i’ve heard such great things about into the drowning deep and it’s been on my tbr for the longest time, maybe 2021 is the year i finally get to it 😭

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  16. I found your approach to these very interesting, because as someone working in biotech, I have a different perspective on a couple!

    While I don’t think Murderbot-type people will exist in my lifetime, I’d categorize that as pretty science-y, because I think people augmenting themselves with technology could realistically lead us that way and because there aren’t enough science details for it be inaccurate about anything.

    On the other hand, while I agree that there is enough unexplored ocean almost anything could be out there, I’d categorize anything with mermaids as pure fantasy. I haven’t read the specific book you were talking about here though and it sounds like the author is taking of kind of science-y approach, so I might need to check that out 🙂

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