Futuristic Technologically Advanced Fiction Book Recommendation
December 11, 2020 7:44 PM   Subscribe

My 17-year old son, who doesn't/hasn't read for pleasure, expressed some interest in giving it a try. He said he's most interested in futuristic technologically advanced society type fiction. I'm going to the book store tomorrow and was thinking I'd like to try to get something for him. Any suggestions? I think it needs to really grab his attention from the beginning and it'd be best if it were an easy read. Whatcha got?
posted by Sassyfras to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should provide some lists of popular books, such as this thread, then accompany him to the bookstore and disappear for a while, while he picks out a few himself.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:56 PM on December 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Psion - Joan D. Vinge
Aurora Rising - Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Bone Dance - Emma Bull
The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson
posted by brook horse at 7:57 PM on December 11, 2020

The Martian. It's near-future, just technologically advanced enough to get us to Mars. But it grabs you right from the start, is an easy read, and is highly technical while still being extremely fun and readable.

I've been slowly reading The Expanse series this year and am about halfway through, those books might fit the bill for him as well.

Ask him what's more important to him: Realistic science? Character interaction and plot? Or a focus on the technology? If he wants realistic but with a lot of plot and character, try Leviathan Wakes. If he wants very realistic and a lot of tech focus, The Martian. If he wants more social/speculative society based around futuristic concepts stuff, he could try on some Vonnegut or Bradbury short stories.

nb. If anyone comes into this thread and recommends Ready Player One they are giving you bad advice.
posted by phunniemee at 7:59 PM on December 11, 2020 [14 favorites]

Yeah I think my answers might vary if I knew if he was a slow reader or not, because some of the most grabby books can also be kind of long (Wool is one that I think about). Expanse is also quite good and quite long. The Murderbot novellas are shorter and many people find them very enjoyable. And if it turns out he loves them, there's a longer novel to read at the end. Older scifi like Tau Zero by Poul Anderson really gets into the hard science in a way that is interesting, but the interpersonal dynamics are somewhat archaic and hard to recommend (but not every reader is like me). Altered Carbon is a kind of interesting set of thrillers in a future where people can implant themselves into new bodies and takes on a sort of dystopian flavor to it as a result, but also there's a series on Netflix which might be a good tie-in. Many of these are adult novels. If dystopias are okay, Divergent is the beginning of a series that is a good YA series. Same with Hunger Games, though again both are kind of dystopic but also very readable.

I liked Ready Player One, but it's polarizing and probably not right for a teen (and the sequel is The Worst) but agree that some of Bradbury's short stories are pretty great and might be interesting without the same kind of commitment, something like Martian Chronicles.
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 PM on December 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Sorry this isn't a specific title recommendation, but wanted to throw in a plug for comics or graphic novels. This is my go to for the reluctant reader kid in my life (younger than yours, he's getting Artemis Fowl the graphic novel, plus book #1 of the fiction series in case he's taken enough to dive into an actual no-images book). Many graphic novels have advanced language and dialogue-- by which I mean, they aren't remedial reading. They're great for helping those of us who need a reading warm up before jumping into the metaphorical 5mile run of a full novel. Lots of futurism and tech themes available in that format. And while I don't have a title to drop in (sorry!) I bet the book store clerk could help...
posted by tamarack at 9:04 PM on December 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

One of Asimov’s Robots novels? Oldies but goodies.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:29 PM on December 11, 2020

too early for Dune?

For a 17-year-old "who doesn't/hasn't read for pleasure"? Definitely too early. That book's too big; it would be intimidating. Maybe The Stars My Destination, especially since it has yucks on the first page (and flip through the back, teasing him with the actual pictures towards the end). But it'll be viewed as ancient -- he'll probably be indifferent, even hostile to anything that's even a few years old.
posted by Rash at 9:41 PM on December 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

So many great short stories and the themes aren't outdated at all.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is a secondhand recommendation, but Lock In by John Scalzi.
posted by capricorn at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

A little follow-up/clarification: it’s a gift, so I’m just going to do my best at picking out what I think he’s like. Taking him with is a no-go.

When I mentioned futuristic and technology, I am hoping for some pretty modern/recent takes on futuristic. He is very video game and tech centric. He is into “simulation theory” if that helps at all. Easy shorter reads are what I’m hoping for. Dystopian societies aren’t necessary although I’m not sure I’m at all aware of technology and futuristic stories not being dystopian.

When I was writing this question I actually was considering The Martian but probably because that was about the only book I could think of that sort of fit the criteria. However, I did read The Martian when it came out and as I remember it I don’t think it would grab his attention (although I could be wrong and I’m considering adding the book into whatever other books I decide on).

Thanks for the suggestions so far. I hope this follow up helps clarify and narrow the field somewhat.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:54 PM on December 11, 2020

If he has ever had any interest in Star Trek or related properties (including Galaxy Quest) I would recommend Redshirts by Mefi’s Own John Scalzi. Also the Inheritance Trilogy by NK Jemisin is amazing.
posted by padraigin at 10:00 PM on December 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

Maybe Ancillary Justice?
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 10:17 PM on December 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Do you have a feel for whether he wants a book that is mostly focused on the advanced tech and nifty stuff, or more of an area where the setting is background for an exciting adventure?
posted by mark k at 10:36 PM on December 11, 2020

mark k - I believe more of a focus on the advanced tech.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:51 PM on December 11, 2020

Little Brother is still fairly current and is not a tricky read.
posted by clew at 11:11 PM on December 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

If he’s into Bostrom-esque simulation theory, Greg Egan’s Permutation City is great, and Egan is the real deal, but it’s getting old.
posted by clew at 11:14 PM on December 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Vernor Vinge has a great collection of novellas that includes some gems like Fast times at Fairmont High, which is related to another book, Rainbow's End. Near future, high tech, augmented reality, relatable...the tech feels like things you might see in your lifetime, and has some teen protagonists.

I've used Vinge to lure some non-readers into reading scifi before, The Peace War, A Fire in the Deep--great books connected in little mini-series, and short stories can lead to interest in picking up the full novels.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:33 AM on December 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think the Culture novels bij Ian Banks are maybe close to his interest but could be a tad too dense for first time readers. I found early Neal Stephenson books riveting at an earlier age (tbh I still do ;-). Snowcrash in particular might be a really fun read for him.
posted by Kosmob0t at 1:49 AM on December 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

The Tripods
The original YA dystopian novel.
Easy to read (I learned English reading it when I was 15).
posted by bluedora at 3:34 AM on December 12, 2020

A softer Stephen King choice? I started with The Eyes of the Dragon. It was a really doorway to a lifetime of reading until earlier this year a cognitive disease has slowed my ability and enjoyment drastically.

Another great book for early voyagers, Robert Jordan's Eye of the World in the World of Time series. It's long enough to be substantial, easy enough to be a proud accomplishment, and has about a dozen books after if they like it. :) Full series too, by the way. Completed.

Best wishes!
posted by I_count_crows at 3:49 AM on December 12, 2020

Consider Phlebas is a good intro to The Culture. They have computational Minds running ring habitats and traveling about hyperspace faster than light.

Eye of the World opens the Wheel of Time series, but it takes itself too seriously and might appeal if your gift recipient likes games by Hideo Kojima (which include Metal Gear Solid and Death Stranding).

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series takes a turn to mimicking our current world -- it's a flat world held together by magic on the back of a turtle swimming through space and they develop computers, an internet, postal/rail/money services -- at Guards Guards but Men At Arms is a good entrypoint.
posted by k3ninho at 4:23 AM on December 12, 2020

into simulation theory?

William Gibson's Peripheral

Gibson is both classic (Neuromancer being one of the first cyberpunk novels) and modern (he just keeps honing his edge - I'd say this is his best work) - the book stands alone and there's a sequel that's also good
posted by kokaku at 4:23 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding Murderbot. The novellas are short and not intimidating, and I'd say the series is one of my favorites of the year. The audiobooks are excellent as well.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:47 AM on December 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

+1 to murderbot recommendations. Although adv tech is not the primary focus, the main protagonist IS advanced tech -- a human + computer + machine combo, with their brain able to connect to security systems to hack/disable them -- and a lot of murderbot's plot is how they cleverly use their newly unshackled sense of will + their superior security programming to achieve their goals.

I'm not sure what video games your son is into, but murderbot does pick up on vibes you might get from Mass Effect or Deus Ex. Although story-wise, is more futuristic like Mass Effect where you have wormholes/space travel.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:33 AM on December 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Author - Douglas E. Richards
posted by Grok Lobster at 6:40 AM on December 12, 2020

Accelerando by MeFi’s own Charlie Stross. It starts with futuristic technology and just launches into the the stratosphere (and beyond) from there. It may not be considered an “easy read” but if he’s captivated by technology and its implications, he’ll love this.
posted by ejs at 6:55 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Advanced tech and worlds linked by "simulation" type experience with a grabby plot - William Gibson's The Peripheral. Main caveat - its pretty long.
posted by crocomancer at 6:57 AM on December 12, 2020

Some classics:
  • Ian M Banks, Use of Weapons ... or anything else by him
  • Terry Pratchett, The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata
  • William Gibson, Neuromancer
Sort stories are always good, too ...
  • William Gibson, Burning Chrome
  • Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others

posted by labberdasher at 7:38 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Scalzi and Murderbot are both good picks. Personally, I'd go for Old Man's War.

There have been some really high-profile writers for media tie-ins lately--for instance, N.K. Jemisin wrote a Mass Effect book--so if you know he's a fan of a particular game or movie series, it might be worth investigating the associated novels.
posted by yarntheory at 8:00 AM on December 12, 2020

Seconding Snow Crash as something that grabs you from the first page.
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is a bit of fluff, but a fun read.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ender's Game is catchy, exciting, kinda video-game-ish. (kind of the premise: "what if kids playing real time war strategy games (e.g. starcraft) were actually controlling armies in the world?")
posted by 3FLryan at 9:03 AM on December 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

True - also internet-ish. And my niece read it, when she was 17. But note that the author isn't very popular around here, because of his politics.
posted by Rash at 9:37 AM on December 12, 2020

Fans of fiction everywhere don't like Orson S. Card because he re-wrote Hamlet to make it suck.

Someone who's interested in simulation theory may like Karl Schroeder's Virga series. I don't want to spoil it too much but the series takes place in an engineered environment with fusion micro-suns.

For far-future but realistic(ish) tech - no FTL, using quantum entanglement for things - Alistair Reynolds' Chasm City might be good.

I haven't read this specific series but based on the reviews of mefi fave Brian David Gilbert if he likes Halo maybe the Karen Traviss books? She's legitimately a good writer and I was honestly wondering if I should read these. His review convinced me I probably should.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2020

Maybe he would be interested in The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 11:07 AM on December 12, 2020

Railhead by Philip Reeve is the first book in an excellent YA sci-fi trilogy that's a relatively easy read but still has enough about it to be interesting to older readers too. The premise is that sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy using portals built by a mysterious elder race. I loved it.
posted by Chairboy at 11:42 AM on December 12, 2020

Another one came to mind: Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit. It skews more math-y than tech-y but the math is part of the tech, so might be up his alley?

I haven't read it myself, but have heard good things about A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, which might also fit the bill.
posted by brook horse at 3:47 PM on December 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Accidental Time Machine
posted by Glomar response at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2020

Snow Crash and/or Fall by Neil Stephenson - both might take some effort but are well worth it.

Bobiverse - Dennis Taylor...more like candy, fun and easy
posted by NoDef at 6:03 PM on December 12, 2020

Seconding Karen Traviss tie-in recommendations. In the Star Wars tie-ins and her original novels, lots happens, characters develop, solid world building, but the writing isn’t trying to be noticeable.
posted by clew at 6:08 PM on December 12, 2020

A Memory Called Empire was great! And very readable.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:51 PM on December 12, 2020

Murderbot diaries
posted by tilde at 8:20 PM on December 12, 2020

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. I will be saving the list for future reference for my son.

I went with Little Brother. The first few paragraphs are exactly what I was looking for to get him drawn in - and it seems rather relatable to his personality.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:52 AM on December 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

For someone who's been a non-reader up to now, I'd second Murderbot. It's short, easily accessible from the get-go, and exciting. I'd also second Accelerando by Stross. It's convoluted but the tech is fascinating and more or less traceable to current tech trends. And a third second for Scalzi's Old Man's War. Very accessible military sci-fi that doesn't really skew into militarism.

My final rec would be for Stross' Saturn's Children. The protagonist is a robot courtesan living in a more or less feudal robot society activated after the extinction of the humans she was designed to serve who becomes embroiled in a plot to control that society. Teenage me would definitely have grooved on it. Adult me liked it too.
posted by kaymac at 8:00 AM on December 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

He might also like the Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras series by Scott Westerfeld, which extrapolate nanotechnology and social control into a future that isn't entirely dystopian.
posted by nicwolff at 11:37 AM on December 16, 2020

« Older Should I flatten a warped vinyl record?   |   Bracing for a repair job. Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments