The best books for realistic near-future science fiction

Who am I?

Back in college, I switched from being an astrophysics major to computational neuroscience. The reasons are complicated, but suffice it to say that I found the human brain to be as big of a mystery as black holes. I’ve worked as an engineer for two decades on applications ranging from medical devices, to digital music recognition, to high speed chip design. Writing science fiction is the second act of my life, and I love drawing on my science background to inform my stories. I especially love taking cutting-edge technology and thinking about how it could impact future society, from the global to the individual.


I wrote...

Machinehood

By S.B. Divya,

Book cover of Machinehood

What is my book about?

It’s 2095, and humanity is entirely dependent on pills that not only help them stay alive but allow them to compete with artificial intelligence in a ubiquitous gig economy. Welga Ramirez, executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed by the Machinehood, a new and mysterious terrorist group. Their operatives seem to be part human, part machine, something the world has never seen. They issue an ultimatum: stop all pill production in one week. 

Welga, determined to take down the Machinehood, is pulled back into intelligence work by the government that betrayed her. But who are the Machinehood, and what do they really want? A thrilling and thought-provoking novel that asks: if we won’t see machines as human, will we instead see humans as machines?

The books I picked & why

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Autonomous

By Annalee Newitz,

Book cover of Autonomous

Why this book?

Annalee Newitz is the founding editor of io9 and a science writer who knows their stuff. In Autonomous, they’ve created a believable world that’s neither dystopian nor utopian. This is the book I might’ve written had I set Machinehood another 50 years in the future. Autonomous came out two years before my book, and when I started reading it, I got worried that my novel (in progress at the time) was obsolete. Luckily, we take some different twists and turns, and this book focuses more on biotech and less on A.I., while my novel does the inverse. It’s a fun, fast-paced thriller that asks questions about sentience, free will, humanity, and identity – everything I love in a story.

Autonomous

By Annalee Newitz,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Autonomous as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Autonomous is to biotech and AI what Neuromancer was to the internet' NEAL STEPHENSON

'Something genuinely and thrillingly new' WILLIAM GIBSON

'Holy hell. Autonomous is remarkable' LAUREN BEUKES

WINNER OF THE 2018 LAMBDA AWARD FOR SFF
SHORTLISTED FOR THE NEBULA AWARD 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE LOCUS AWARD FOR BEST DEBUT 2018

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap medicines for those who can't otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their…


Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

By Malka Older,

Book cover of Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

Why this book?

Infomocracy has one of the most original science fiction concepts that I’ve read in in a very long time. It’s set in a grounded near future with a radically different, but still democratic, global governance system. The story and characters are engaging, but what really stood out for me is how well Older has thought through this new form of geopolitics. It’s a fascinating read, and if you’re like me, you’ll be thinking about whether this is a good and workable solution long after you’ve finished the book.

Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

By Malka Older,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Infomocracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global microdemocracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line. With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information…


We Are Satellites

By Sarah Pinsker,

Book cover of We Are Satellites

Why this book?

I love pretty much anything that Sarah Pinsker writes. We Are Satellites is no exception. Her prose goes down like butter – simple but smooth and rich in flavor. Her characters are engaging and very real. They’re ordinary folks dealing with small problems that sometimes grow into having wider repercussions. This novel presents a near future with a believable core technology (a brain implant), and follows a family as it deals with the ramifications of acquiring this new device. It’s a slice of life story that has some fun turns and a heartwarming conclusion. If there was a subgenre called “cozy sci-fi,” this book would qualify.

We Are Satellites

By Sarah Pinsker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Satellites as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From award-winning author Sarah Pinsker comes a novel about one family and the technology that divides them.

Get one - or get left behind.

Val and Julie just want what's best for their kids, David and Sophie. So when David comes home from school begging for a new brain implant to help with his studies, they're torn. Julie grew up poor and knows what it's like to be the only kid in school without the new technology, but Val is terrified by the risks and the implications.

Soon, everyone at Julie's work has the implant and she's struggling to keep…


Nexus: Install

By Ramez Naam,

Book cover of Nexus: Install

Why this book?

Nexus explores the idea of collective consciousness via technology in a way that has similarities to my own writing and ideas. For one, people use drugs to modify their brains, which I find is the most likely way to get people to accept biotech. Surgery is fraught with perils, but pills are easy to swallow. The plot features plenty of action, geeks, and technology, all of which I love, and the story incorporates elements of eastern philosophy that crop up in my own work, as well.

Nexus: Install

By Ramez Naam,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nexus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he's thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage - for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.


The Red, 1: First Light

By Linda Nagata,

Book cover of The Red, 1: First Light

Why this book?

First Light is another interesting exploration of artificial intelligence and brain/body modification. The story focuses on a soldier and has a good amount of techno-thriller type action. It keeps the pace nice and quick, and I found the main character and his squad to be full of fun, sympathetic characters. Nagata has written some excellent far-future worlds (e.g. The Bohr Maker), but in this novel, she sticks to the upcoming decades, and along the way, she raises some great questions about morality and humanity.

The Red, 1: First Light

By Linda Nagata,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Red, 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015

Reality TV and advanced technology make for high drama in this political thriller that combines the military action of Zero Dark Thirty with the classic science fiction of The Forever War.

Lieutenant James Shelley, who has an uncanny knack for premeditating danger, leads a squad of advanced US Army military tasked with enforcing the peace around a conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. The squad members are linked wirelessly 24/7 to themselves and a central intelligence that guides them via drone relay—and unbeknownst to Shelley and his team, they are being recorded for a reality…


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