Help me find some good, near future science fiction!
January 14, 2011 2:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recommendations of some "near-future" science fiction novels, for to read into mah brain.

I'm trying to find some good reads in the "near future" scifi arena... there seem to be plenty of novels and series set thousands of years in the future (or past, as it were) that detail vast civilizations and empires and what not. I'm looking for stuff that deals with mankind's first shaky steps at colonizing other planets, leaving our solar system, first contact with alien races, etc etc.

Some stuff similar to what I'm looking for might include: Arthur C Clarke's 2001 & 2010, Rendevous with Rama, Alien, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, etc.

Much obliged!

posted by BobFrapples to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
David Brin Earth is pretty awesome. An novel set in a earth of 10 billion.

Vernor Vinge Rainbow's End

Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. Very trippy, takes place in China.
posted by sourwookie at 2:53 PM on January 14, 2011

Oh, and Nancy Kress' Beggar's Series is really good too.
posted by sourwookie at 2:54 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Accelerando, by Mefi's Own Charles Stross, begins in the near future, though it steadily progresses into an unimaginable technological singularity over the course of the book. You can read it in full on his site.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:55 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

William Gibson's "Bridge Trilogy" (Virtual Light, Idoru, and All Tomorrow's Parties)
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:58 PM on January 14, 2011

The Red Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson does everything you're asking for, except for the aliens. It follows the first joint U.S.-Russian Mars colonizers on a one-way trip to set up bases, and then continues on to follow the terraforming of Mars, environmental destruction on Earth, and other plausible near-future scenarios. The author pays a lot of attention to scientific detail, something that I really enjoyed about it. It's very-near future stuff, starting in about 2020 and going for 200-odd years.

Also, there's this thing called Star Trek ;)
posted by the thing about it at 2:59 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed Nature's End by James W. Kunetka and Whitley Strieber, a dystopian novel set in 2025.
posted by Rob Rockets at 3:03 PM on January 14, 2011

Highly recommend The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell.

Jesuits sending a mission to Alpha Centauri after Aracebo receives signal that contains music from Space!
posted by entropone at 3:12 PM on January 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

Julian May's Saga of Pliocene Exile (five books) and related prequels Intervention (two books) and Galactic Milieu Trilogy. Best read in the aforementioned order although the latter two series are probably more what you are looking for.
posted by elendil71 at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's some classics:

Most of Heinlein's work, favourites being: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Time For The Stars, Farmer In The Sky.

And, sometimes hard to find but totally worth it, Fredrick Pohl's Man Plus and sequel Mars Plus.

(Of course, these are "near future" for roughly the 1950s. You may find references to the year 2000 to be amusing.)
posted by anaelith at 3:18 PM on January 14, 2011

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow is fun, full of interesting ideas, and a quick read.
posted by letstrythis at 3:18 PM on January 14, 2011

River of Gods by Ian McDonald is pretty enormous and in my opinion definitely has its high points and low points. But it's near-future science fiction, set in India in 2047, and if nothing else it's a different and interesting take on the genre.
posted by sigmagalator at 3:20 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories. Dense, wry, sometimes shocking. Some of the stories can be found individually, or you can just pick up Schismatrix Plus, which contains all the Shaper/Mech short stories and the Schismatrix novella.
posted by ldenneau at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll second the recommendations for KSR's Mars trilogy, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Earth and The Diamond Age. Here are some of my favorite near-future first-contact-ish stories that haven't been mentioned yet:

Blindsight by Peter Watts

Contact by Carl Sagan

Eon by Greg Bear

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
posted by teraflop at 3:32 PM on January 14, 2011

I read The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway last week and cannot recommend it highly enough. The plot is tough to summarize without spoiling it, but The Gone Away World has everything: never-thought-of-that tech, brilliant characters, plot twists, betrayal, true love... I might just read it again before I have to return it to the library.
posted by workerant at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
posted by the thing about it at 3:41 PM on January 14, 2011

Super Sad True Love Story, which is sort of sci-fi, and is also one of the most cynical and depressing things every committed to paper. Do not read if you are prone to despair.
posted by tempythethird at 3:42 PM on January 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ender's Game is a sci-fi classic (won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, not too many books manage that).

3rding Earth and Red/Green/Blue Mars and the Diamond Age.

Startide Rising, also by Brin, is quite good too. It deals with a not too advanced Earth dealing with a universal culture that is billions of years old (also won both the Hugo and Nebula awards).

Another Arthur C. Clarke classic is The Fountains of Paradise - if you've heard of space elevator's it's because of this book.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:43 PM on January 14, 2011

Second Oryx and Crake
posted by letstrythis at 3:51 PM on January 14, 2011

The Red Rose Rages, Bleeding by L. Timmel DuChamp, is a very-near-future novella about a woman doctor in a for-profit women's prison which emphasizes "rehabilitation" and "mental health". She is a true believer and gets herself put in charge of the "rehabilitation" of a dissident woman actress. It's quite the book. You'll probably need to special order it unless you have access to a very well stocked science fiction bookstore like Uncle Hugo's in Minneapolis since it's from a small (though up-and-coming and award-winning) science fiction press, Aqueduct.
posted by Frowner at 4:04 PM on January 14, 2011

Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson takes place in 2030 or thereabouts.
Old Man's War by John Scalzi. I'd recommend reading Starship Troopers by Heinein and Halderman's Forever War at the same time. Three similar but very different takes on future warfare.

Master of Space and Time and Spacetime Donuts by Rudy Rucker.

It's not Science Fiction but I highly recommend Boomsday by Christopher Buckley. Incredibly funny novel about a Gen Xer's plan to solve the Social Security Crisis.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2011

Seconding the Martian Trilogy, Earth by David Brin, and everything by Vernor Vinge and Nancy Kress.
posted by vkxmai at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2011

Daniel Keys Moran's books are set about 60 years in the future. Find them all for free here.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:16 PM on January 14, 2011

Seconding Rainbow's End and the Schismatrix Plus. I can't recommend them enough. Both changed my perception on life. A fairly grand statement to make, but for very valid reasons.

Rainbow's End shifted my perception on society, social interaction, and the greater "hive mind" (hmm, how fitting).

Schismatrix made me view my own humanity in a different light. It made me question the very meaning of what it meant to have a have a consciousness, and what it ultimately means to be "human."
posted by Elminster24 at 9:35 PM on January 14, 2011

Infinite Jest, kinda
posted by aka burlap at 11:03 PM on January 14, 2011

I think you might like Larry Niven's early Known Space books, like World of Ptavvs and A Gift From Earth, plus the short stories, especially The Warriors.
posted by Rash at 11:31 PM on January 14, 2011

Nthing Oryx and Crake, and I also love its companion, The Year of the Flood. But OP seems to be looking for plots that deal with off-planet interactions, whereas these books are about life on a dystopian, near-future Earth.
Perhaps a closer match: The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson.
posted by Paris Elk at 2:21 AM on January 15, 2011

The Lilith's Brood series by Octavia Butler. Or really anything by Octavia Butler.
posted by dirtmonster at 7:36 AM on January 15, 2011

If you like River of Gods, check out The Dervish House also by Ian McDonald. This one is set in Istanbul. He seems to be developing a thing for writing near future scifi in non-western nations (he also wrote Brasyl that is in part set in a near future Rio de Janero), but I enjoy his writing enough and he seems to handle the fact that he's an outsider writing about these cultures well enough that it's cool.
posted by Hactar at 9:14 AM on January 15, 2011

I'm currently reading The Wind Up Girl. And enjoying it so far. It's set a little ways into the future, in a dark time where the ice caps have melted, fossil fuels have run out, and genetic engineering companies have set plagues upon the world's food supplies. It's a pretty grim place, but really interesting.
posted by mikeweeney at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2011

i think that ray bradbury's martian chronicles are the epitome of this sort of thing.
posted by timory at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

On re-reading your post, I realize that The Windup Girl does not really meet your criteria of space travel. However, there is a new species, in a way, in the form of "the windup girl"
posted by mikeweeney at 7:42 PM on January 15, 2011

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