Good 'Techno-Thrillers'?
February 16, 2014 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I recently bought Zero Day by Mark Russinovish because it was cheap, and also I was vaguely interested in seeing how the whole 'techno-thriller' genre has evolved since I made the mistake of trying to read the Net Force books. It's not very good. Help me find an alternative!

Some background information: I work in IT security, so I have a fairly low tolerance for techno-babble. (That Agents of Shield show drove me nuts because of this.) I guess like a lot of people, I get a kick out of reading fictionalised accounts of my job/hobbies, but it seems to be incredibly difficult to find authors who talk about the whole security/hacking 'scene' without either oversimplifying it, turning it into a ridiculous caricature or just getting it completely wrong. Is there anyone out there doing it well?

Bonus points for decent writing and bonus-bonus points for anything that's available as an audiobook.
posted by anaximander to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Reamde.
posted by something something at 7:31 AM on February 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I really enjoyed Daemon by Daniel Suarez. He also wrote a sequel titled Freedom (TM).
posted by talkingmuffin at 8:20 AM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by fuse theorem at 8:24 AM on February 16, 2014

I liked the two book combo Daemon and Freedomâ„¢. It's a gamification series, along the lines of Ready Player One (if you enjoy YA books, you'd probably like that one) basically a cop type fighting with an AI to figure out how some programmers got killed. It's a little schlocky but overall if you're more looking for "thriller, but techno" it's good. If you're looking for "great book, but techno-y" this is not it. Have you read Dan Brown at all? A lot of people dislike him but I found Deception Point to be good as a techno-thriller, but again very genre-heavy and some people can't stand Dan Brown. Do not read Digital Fortress, it's awful. Pattern Recognition by Gibson is a lot better at being a genuinely good book, a little less thriller-y but that whole series is great.
posted by jessamyn at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2014

Cryptonomicon of course.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2014

I remember liking Cryptonomicon.

Quoting from Wikipedia, "Cryptonomicon is closer to the genres of historical fiction and contemporary techno-thriller than to the science fiction... It features fictionalized characterizations of such historical figures as Alan Turing, Albert Einstein..., as well as some highly technical and detailed descriptions of modern cryptography and information security"
posted by ringu0 at 8:40 AM on February 16, 2014

I liked Cryptonomicon. Past tense there, unfortunately. I reread it last year, and it just doesn't hold up unless you skip past, say, the three-page dissertation on the proper eating of a bowl of Captain Crunch, or the chapter-long description of the dividing up of a dead person's furniture.

If you're willing to roam a little further afield into science fiction, there's Charles Platt's Protektor. The titular character is a sort of combination programmer/government agent who gets called in when software faults start cropping up and then worsening on a remote colony world. They look like accidents at first, but then people start being murdered...
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:13 AM on February 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Snow crash
posted by pyro979 at 12:19 PM on February 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would second Reamde, if you are okay with the "competence porn" genre and a fair amount of firearms masturbation as well. It's not Stephenson's best work by far, but it's (probably?) the only one set in the present.

Nexus is also good but has some biotech handwavery that you may or may not cringe at. I thought it was fine, but it's also not my area.

This is a bit of an oddball pick, but The Incrementalists is kinda-sorta a techno-thriller, in that it deals with people who use technology, but not in an exaggerated or unrealistic way. There's some less realistic stuff that also goes on, which might push it out to the bounds of the SF genre (don't want to give away spoilers) but I found it enjoyable. Background (with quasi-spoilers, but it's by the book's authors, so it's on them) here.

And how about Charles Stross' Halting State and Rule 34? They're near-future SF but more plausible than most in that genre. But they also have a pretty compelling whodunit plotline as well, which I think is essential for a "thriller" book.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:56 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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