More William Gibson please
October 22, 2009 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Book like William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. Near-future, near-science fiction, non-fantasy, non-artsy-fartsy, delving into technological culture.

Stipulations: I hate Pynchon and DeLillo. I've already read everything by Neal Stephenson.

By Bruce Sterling, I've read only Heavy Weather and liked it, but didn't rave about it. Is his other work comparable?
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
Rainbow's End is a fairly good match for your crieria.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:42 AM on October 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I've read everything by Gibson, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:54 AM on October 22, 2009

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis is 4.5/5 of the things you're looking for. It is also hilarious and disturbing on many levels, and you'll burn through it in a couple of days.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2009

Bruce Sterling

Peter F. Hamilton's Misspent Youth

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother

John Scalzi's Android's Dream
posted by kbuxton at 10:01 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Charles Stross: Halting State

I would unrecommend Misspent Youth (above), an awful example of poorly politicised SF.
posted by biffa at 10:07 AM on October 22, 2009

seconding Cory Doctorow

this one might not fit, but Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.
posted by jrishel at 10:09 AM on October 22, 2009

Seconding MeFi's Own's cstross' Halting State.
posted by Quietgal at 10:10 AM on October 22, 2009

too many possessives there ... make of that what you will
posted by Quietgal at 10:11 AM on October 22, 2009

Geoff Ryman, Air. SO GOOD.

I'm hit or miss with Bruce Sterling but I think you might like Holy Fire.
posted by runtina at 10:14 AM on October 22, 2009

Peter F Hamilton is my recommendation as well. All of his series are excellent space opera. I enjoyed Pattern Recognition immensely, so I bet you'll like Hamilton - wasn't crazy about Spook Country, though, for some reason.

Perhaps also some others of Stross': Glasshouse, Singularity Sky, Iron Sunrise, Accelerando. Not The Atrocity Archives. :)
posted by kcm at 10:14 AM on October 22, 2009

If you want the more blood-and-guts end of the spectrum, John Courtenay Grimwood and Richard Morgan might be worth checking out.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:18 AM on October 22, 2009

I think Sterling's work has been kind of spotty, although even at worst, it's interesting. His book Islands in the Net was one of the better ones, I thought, and a good match for cpb's request. I also liked Holy Fire.
posted by adamrice at 10:18 AM on October 22, 2009

Well, if you don't like Pynchon and DeLillo, I suppose you aren't likely to like David Foster Wallace, but Infinite Jest fits your criteria to a T - and it's a F.R.B.B.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:22 AM on October 22, 2009

I know what you mean about Gibson (I used to live a couple of blocks from him). He has a certain vibe that is hard to find else where.

nthing the Sterling recommendations, his Zeitgeist from 2000 is good. Though it is set in 1999, it has that next week feeling to it. The first time I tried to read it, I wasn't impressed, but gave it a 2nd chance and loved it. If you like short stories, you might prefer Sterling's short works, he has several collections out.

Jon Courtney Grimwood can be hit and miss as well. I liked his last (?) one, End of the World Blues.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 10:37 AM on October 22, 2009

This is Not A Game, by Walter Jon Williams.
posted by creepygirl at 10:39 AM on October 22, 2009

Charles Stross. You can start with Accelerando.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:45 AM on October 22, 2009

re: Stross, the only stuff he's done that's unambiguously near-future is _Halting State_ and some parts of _Accelerando_.

Brin's _Earth_ dates from 1991 and is kinda hokey, but it does a decent job of describing a future something like 30-40 years from when it was written.

Greg Bear's _Queen of Angels_ is set in the relatively early days of a nanotechnological revolution.

John Brunner's _Stand On Zanzibar_ and _The Sheep Look Up_ and _The Shockwave Rider_. Some of them may be set in our "past" but still read like good near-future.

KS Robinson's _The Gold Coast_ and _Pacific Edge_, two different versions of near-future California. There's a third, _The Wild Shore_ (?) that's an after-the-bombs near-future.

I would unrecommend Misspent Youth (above), an awful example of poorly politicised SF.

Likewise, let me preemptively unrecommend Morgan's _Market Forces_ for the same reason.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:07 AM on October 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding Air by Ryman. Great book. Also seconding Iain M. Banks, particularly his new one, Transition. It's got some unlikely science in it (a very small percentage of humans can transit between different realities with chemical aid), but it's not part of his Culture series which has a lot more.
posted by Alex Voyd at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2009

Margaret Atwood's two recent novels Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood are near-future but also post-apocalyptic, although heavy with technology remembered from the near future. The books are interrelated but I would start with Oryx and Crake.
posted by gladly at 11:21 AM on October 22, 2009

Near-future, near-science fiction, non-fantasy, non-artsy-fartsy, delving into technological culture.

Based on that description for what you're looking for, I would highly recommend "Daemon" by Leinad Zeraus. (actually I think that may be out of print and then was reprinted as Daemon by Daniel Saurez).

And no, Daemon is not demon, rather "daemon" references jobs that run in the background on Unix based systems. Its a very intriguing story that illustrates the potential problems that can/will happen when a hacker takes over cyberspace.

By the way, AbeBooks (advanced book exchange) is an excellent source to find out of print books.
posted by Dave. at 11:43 AM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I feel sort of the same way about Bruce Sterling you do. Gibson is one of a tiny handful of authors I will buy in hardcover close to the release date without further consideration, Sterling I haven't bothered to read the last couple. That said, maybe give Sterling another try with Distraction, which is one of his most award-nominated books and a good genre-match to what you're looking for. If that seems like a worthwhile read you might want to go back through his bibliography and pick out some more of the more lauded examples. Mostly what I've read of his is about on par with Heavy Weather though.

I thought David Brin's Earth was pretty good, though the hokey/cheesy objection is reasonable - you'll know within a dozen pages if it's your bag.

Part of the problem with the near-future genre is that it ages harder than just about anything. If you haven't read him Philip K. Dick holds up pretty well, and some of the less mysticism-oriented near future novels (Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said and A Scanner Darkly are the ones I'd recommend) might fit the bill. Dick's under-appreciated short stories are worth checking out too, some of them match your criteria.

I wish I felt like there was anyone operating near Gibson's level in this genre. I like Stephenson but his interest in true near-future seems limited. I'll be following this thread with interest.
posted by nanojath at 11:45 AM on October 22, 2009

Ken MacLeod's The Execution Channel
posted by HFSH at 12:00 PM on October 22, 2009

I love Jon Courtenay Grimwood. His Arabesk trilogy is fantastic and may fit the bill. Not quite so tech focused but still quite good.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:00 PM on October 22, 2009

You might find it interesting to read about Gibson's influences and writerly cohort of his early days as well. Cyberpunk is a lot better tracked territory than what Gibson is doing now, though, and it seems like the genre has been going more towards the more radical post-singularity sort of territory (which honestly I've been relatively disappointed in than his nearer future, existing technology sort of explorations, and his literary influences tend to be more way-out than the kind of realism you're looking for, (he clearly has a higher tolerance for artsy than you). But you might be surprised checking out stuff like William S. Burroughs quasi-science fiction (stuff like Naked Lunch or Nova Express) or Jorge Luis Borges. Or not, you know.
posted by nanojath at 12:04 PM on October 22, 2009

Also recommending Accelerando--great book that plays out the singularity.

You might also be interested in Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels which start with Altered Carbon.
posted by donovan at 12:07 PM on October 22, 2009

The Caryatids, the last Sterling is "Near-future, near-science fiction, non-fantasy, non-artsy-fartsy, delving into technological culture". Kinda.

You are pretty lucky for not having read any more Sterling: everything in Ascendancies will be new and fresh. I had read most of the stories collected here and yet it is one of the best books I have read recently.

Seconding Doctorow's Little Brother, not only an enjoyable read but a very courageous book: who else dared to write a YA novel on how to subvert the Department of Homeland Security?

Of course you'll enjoy Charles Stross, Vernor Vinge and Robert J. Sawyer. Although it may seem strange, I believe that Rudy Rucker is probably the most accurate of our near-futurists.
posted by bru at 12:26 PM on October 22, 2009

nthing Halting State, it's not his most adventurous work but I think it's his best story in terms of pacing and plot.

I'm in the same boat as you otherwise, I love Gibson's later work and there really isn't much out there thats comparable. He's a genre unto himself.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:49 PM on October 22, 2009

John Shirley, especially the Eclipse trilogy and some of his short stories ("You Hear What Buddy and Ray Did?" from the collection Black Butterflies fits the bill for what you're looking for almost perfectly).

George Alec Effinger's Marid Audran series would also be a very good choice.

A lot of people have recommended Peter Hamilton, but I think his stuff might be too "space opera" for what you're looking for, with the exception of his first trilogy, which starts with Mindstar Rising.

The same goes with Iain M. Banks; a lot of his stuff fits the bill, but a lot of it, like the Culture series, really doesn't. Ken MacLeod's "Fall Revolution" series, on the other hand, might be a good choice.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:23 PM on October 22, 2009

I love Jon Courtenay Grimwood. His Arabesk trilogy is fantastic and may fit the bill.

Came to put in a vote for that. Near future but slightly tweaked world history.

number9dream by David Mitchell as well, now I think of it. That and Ghostwritten are the two books I can think of that felt most like Pattern Recognition, in a way.
posted by opsin at 1:26 PM on October 22, 2009

Maxx Barry's Jennifer Government definitely.

Someone above recommended Charles Stross, starting with Accelerando. I have not read this one all the way yet, but the toher book of his I read (Glasshouse), while enjoyable, may be too far off in sci-fi/fantasy-land for what you are after.

But judge for yourself. Accelerando is available free online under creative commons.
posted by whatzit at 3:22 PM on October 22, 2009

Shya Scanlon is currently running his Forecast 42 Project - he's posting a chapter a week online and the dead-trees version will also be available online shortly.
posted by SpecialK at 3:44 PM on October 22, 2009

Seconding infinitefloatingbrains on Crooked Little Vein; it really does have the ... thing, the whatever it is that Gibson has been nailing in his last couple novels, that "contemporary fiction of a decade from now" thing.
posted by genehack at 7:20 PM on October 22, 2009

Cyberpunk was a strong vision but the present caught up with its future & it's lost much of its power. Peter Watts captures what comes next, creating what I see as the first viable post-cyberpunk genre. Hard science, complexity theory, wonderfully complex storylines, characters & prose. What more could you ask for?
posted by scalefree at 7:48 PM on October 22, 2009

Make sure to read Gibson's Burning Chrome. Easily my favorite book ever.
posted by talldean at 6:15 AM on October 23, 2009

Pat Cadigan's Synners is a fantastic cyberpunk novel and deserves much more attention that it's gotten (she also wrote an excellent short story titled "Pretty Boy Crossover" that always makes me think of Gibson). It seems to be out of print, but there are many used copies circulating.
posted by media_itoku at 10:22 AM on October 23, 2009

Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang and Half the Day Is Night might also might be good choices.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:32 PM on October 23, 2009

Don't forget Neal Stephenson's nom de him-and-his-uncle Stephen Bury - Interface is several years old but I think satisfies your needs.

+1 for Bruce Sterling -- particularly Islands in the Net. Yes, it's 20 years old, but it's remarkably prescient in a lot of ways (and not in others). Worth a library pickup. I also would encourage you to take a look at his short story collections, which typically include a range of futures including some nearer term ones.
posted by artlung at 6:15 PM on October 26, 2009

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