The best books on people adapting to changing future worlds

Who am I?

I’m proud to be Irish, from a long heritage of storytellers and poets. Science fiction grabbed me from the first Asimov books I found, and I see the genre as an exploration of possibilities. I volunteer at SF Cons, including Dublin’s Worldcon in 2019. My profession is tree surgery, with an early apprenticeship in demolition, all of which has brought me to interesting places. I also love horses and became a national standard showjumper. I’ve qualified in multimedia journalism and ecology. My novels explore the past, present, and future. I write crime, science fiction, romance, and YA stories, including the Irish Lockdown series about young people during the Pandemic.


I wrote...

Dining Out Around The Solar System

By Clare O'Beara,

Book cover of Dining Out Around The Solar System

What is my book about?

A Dublin hacker teams up with a London reporter. The future of journalism… is dangerous.

Irish hacker Donal and Cockney-Jamaican Myron form a crack team at news zine London’s Eye. In their future, Londoners are recruited to mine the asteroids, using Stansted as a spaceport for antigrav shuttles. British Space Mines has leverage over the UK Government and resents investigative reporters. London’s basic jobs are filled by arrivals from other planets in our Solar System, which were all found to be inhabited. The immigrants also run ethnic restaurants, where Donal, a literary writer and secret hacker, and Myron, a confident miner’s son, pick up some classic scoops along with their meals. Crime, property deals, politics, and giant corporations form the background to these adventures.

The books I picked & why

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Green Mars

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Book cover of Green Mars

Why this book?

In this future, humanity needs to terraform Mars to provide a second home to a swelling population. The Mars Trilogy follows a group of scientists and astronauts, who gain extended lifetimes through a scientific breakthrough; this device enables us to follow the same characters through more than one normal active career span. 

My favourite book is Green Mars, because as a tree surgeon, I am fascinated by the methods shown of planting miniature trees and other plants, adapted from Nordic and mountainous shrubs. The people are experimenting with frontier lifestyles using available materials, and experimenting on adapting humans to the planet. Big business and inter-planetary politics keep raising their heads, as in any colonisation effort. And a few holdout scientists are saying that Mars is beautiful, precious, and unique, and we should study the red planet as it is, not terraform it.


Snow Crash

By Neal Stephenson,

Book cover of Snow Crash

Why this book?

I heartily recommend Snow Crash to anyone who wants a laugh, wants to learn, and be uplifted. A young man called Hiro Protagonist who delivers pizzas and strings stories for the CIA, and a younger skate courier lady named YT, team up in the altered and partitioned suburbs of Los Angeles. 

Stephenson initially intended this as a graphic novel, so the scenes are extremely visual. We explore the Metaverse, since Hiro is a coder who helped to develop the online worlds where cool people meet and do business without leaving home. Snow Crash is a spreading computer virus that harms people using the Metaverse. We also explore the crowded suburbs run by private enterprise, and travel, unwillingly perhaps, to the Raft, a floating garbage patch of boats, junk, and human life, as overpopulated Asia spills over into the Pacific and floats with the currents. And there is still room for this to be a story about a girl and a dog. 


Climate Change Captives 2035 and Project SAVE: Students Help Save the Earth

By Carolyn Wilhelm, Pieter Els (illustrator),

Book cover of Climate Change Captives 2035 and Project SAVE: Students Help Save the Earth

Why this book?

In a near future, the creeping changes we already see due to warming climate, produce a sudden dystopia. Young people with rationed food, clean water, and goods, still need to go to school, help their parents and make friends. And then they get asked to help save the world. 

I love the energy of this recent publication. The science has been well researched, such as poison ivy thriving in a warmer climate. Middle-grade readers will identify with the characters, and I was delighted by the inclusion of a family in Ireland, chatting over the interwebs with the American schoolkids. Society is visibly shutting down, with resources provided to those in central locations, so anyone outside a city experiences a fast backslide. A few wealthy people are resource hoarders. The determination of the students to learn, share and develop solutions for everyone, leaves me with hope for a positive outcome.


Dune

By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

Dune is a classic for many reasons. We have a clear view of good and bad people, power plays, several strongly contrasting worlds, culture clash, and a spacefaring society which has banned intelligent computers. 

I read Dune first in my early teens and could identify with Paul Atreides, who had so many skills yet so much to learn. The ecological aspect made a strong impact on me, as I was already a nature lover. Paul travels from Caladan, a temperate planet, to Arrakis, a desert world where water is currency among the original inhabitants. The exploitation of the valuable Spice mined here, has clear parallels with resource exploitation around our own planet. Herbert provided women who were strong characters, yet set them up as having influence and personal standing, rather than power. When the book was written, power around the world still resided with men, but Herbert did not write a story all about men.


Golden Witchbreed

By Mary Gentle,

Book cover of Golden Witchbreed

Why this book?

An Earth Ambassador visits the planet Orthe to try to persuade the human-like inhabitants to join an interplanetary union. Christie’s blonde hair makes the suspicious native people associate her with their former ruling class, the Witchbreed, now overthrown, to the detriment of technological advance. 

While no listing would be complete without Ursula leGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, I am sure that has been a popular choice, so I’m taking a step further to a similar and later novel. I like the Ambassador being female this time; and her discovery that the Orthe people are derived from reptiles can account for many differences – but Gentle still conveys a universal humanity. The planet is splendidly realised with changes of scene around the globe and glimpses of the former glories – but dangers – developed by the Witchbreed. We see adaptation away from colonisation to diplomacy, which is a win in itself.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mars, cyberpunk, and dystopia?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Mars, cyberpunk, and dystopia.

Mars Explore 50 books about Mars
Cyberpunk Explore 25 books about cyberpunk
Dystopia Explore 233 books about dystopia

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Rendezvous with Rama, The Overstory, and The Once and Future King if you like this list.