Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Great round up of science fiction

John Robb has written up a great list of science fiction (with one non fiction) titles recommended by his readers. I've not read all of these (although I just ordered three) but the ones I have read I would say are exceptional examples of the art. I know John's particular interest is in futurism, particularly around the idea of a Singularity. Here's the list with John's comments, my additions are in italics:
  • Makers. Cory Doctorow. The second industrial revolution -- at the micro scale.
  • Daemon and FreedomTM. Daniel Suarez. A second American revolution enabled by software. Resilient communities. Classic. (Daemon is, in my opinion, the substantially better book, but both are fantastic and well written)
  • Schismatrix. Bruce Sterling. Technology causes everything/everyone to diverge. This is where Blizzard got its idea for the Zerg.
  • Islands in the Net. Bruce Sterling. City state warfare (Singapore vs. Grenada).
  • One Second After. William Forstchen. EMP blast melts modern technology. Society collapses instantaneously.
  • Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson. Post nation-state thinking. "Burbclave" city states vs. "Fedland" (a bureaucratic nightmare of what's left of the gov't) vs. Criminal corporate franchises.
  • The Diamond Age. Neal Stephenson. Nanotech warfare. Nanotech future dissolves global social systems. People respond by recreating historical cultures to give meaning to their lives.
  • Eclipse Phase. An scifi paper role playing wargame. Transhumanism and spec ops warfare. The manual is copyleft.
  • Across Realtime. Vernor Vinge. This is the book that kicked off the concept of the Singularity (the idea that exponential technological change will soon, within decades, lead to a break in human history as humanity bootstraps into something unknowable).
  • The Singularity is Near. Ray Kurzweil. The definitive non-fiction analysis of the exponential trends leading towards a break in human history.
  • Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card. Classic of military scifi. Boy trained via endless wargame simulations to fight intergalactic war. (Probably the finest book when it comes to dealing with real strategy in a hypothetical future)
  • Tactics of Mistake. Gordon Dickson. Another classic of military scifi. Guerrilla war on distant planet -- ruse/deception used to force enemies to manufacture their own defeat.
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Robert Heinlein. Colonists fight guerrilla war to secede. A classic.
  • The Windup Girl. Biotech dystopia.
  • Halting State. Charles Stross. Detective thriller about an infowar fought via MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games).
Two I would have added to this list are:
  • Without Warning, by John Birmingham. I would class this as a "bad singularity" novel, as it deals with a post singularity world in which the entire continent of North America is virtually depopulated. Leaving the rest of the world to stumble on in its wake.
  • Singularity Sky. Charles Stross. Personally my favourite of Stross's books, although I'll admit to not having read Halting State yet. Deals with a singularity happening to a planet of people who have already survived one (bad) singularity.
There are probably far more than that if I actually sat down to think about it. But I have to go onto Amazon and spend some of my Christmas money!
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