Where has all the Sci-Fi gone?
First off, a confession. I grew up reading science fiction, and have read lots of it. There are different types of reading. I’ve read a lot of non-fiction for strictly education purposes, because I had to, or because I was interested in the subject. I frequently read literature because I like the writing, or because I feel that in some way the author’s ideas will improve me. But sci-fi is strictly entertainment and escapism: it’s the junk food of my library. Give me a good space opera, and an hour or two in the hammock on a summer day, and life is good (except, right now, Asheville is under assault from the 17-year-cicada-devil-bugs-from-hell, and outside it sounds like car alarms in every direction).
The vision of large scale space colonization has languished, and interest in reading and writing sci-fi seems to have diminished as well. Three things I look for in the sci-fi part of my speculative fiction are good writing, interesting characters, and great imagination. I like pondering an author’s vision of possible futures. To that end, I humbly present the following books as entertaining and relatively fresh members of the genre.
Thirteen by Richard Morgan blends cyberpunk and noir, for a dark, hard-edged vision of social consequences of genetic manipulation and population growth.
Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge takes on ubiquitous computing, and what it might be like to live in a world where nearly all information is available nearly all the time. Wearable computing, here we come.
Counting Heads by David Marusek is a creative, fast-moving exploration of politics in a wired future, complete with artificial intelligences and replete with cyber-warfare. It’s an impressive first book.
Ian McDonald’s book Brasyl is an entertaining, quantum-aware romp, smart with plenty of action. It’s a strong follow-up to his 2006 River Of Gods.
As to what I’m waiting for, I like Charles Stross. Halting State looks like fun. I’m a sucker for Neal Stephenson (that guy has a sense of humor that won’t quit!) and Anathem is coming out in September. Alastair Reynolds has been producing great work lately, and his new book The Prefect came out yesterday. I hope you enjoy your summer reading.