The best books for realistic near-future science fiction

The Books I Picked & Why

Autonomous

By Annalee Newitz

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.


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Infomocracy: Book One of the Centenal Cycle

By Malka Older

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.


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We Are Satellites

By Sarah Pinsker

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.


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Nexus: Nexus ARC Book 1

By Ramez Naam, Argh! Oxford

Nexus: Nexus ARC Book 1

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.


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The Red, 1: First Light

By Linda Nagata

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.


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