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Science fiction has a reputation for predicting the future. Think of Jules Verne’s depictions of spaceships, Fahrenheit 451headphone-like music technology, or one of those other remarkably prescient sci-fi novels. The term robot was even coined by Czech author Karel Čapek in his 1920 play, “RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots)”. Science fiction and science are, after all, fundamentally linked. But are all of these examples really a bit of sci-fi divination, or are they about talented authors following the latest scientific breakthroughs and their own logic and creativity to connect the dots on what happens next ? And, perhaps an even better question, is there even really a difference? It’s one of the things I love about near-future science fiction books. The stories feel so timely and relevant. From predicting advances in technology to problems of the future, near-future science fiction books explore what our reality will likely be in the years to come.
Many contemporary science fiction books explore topics such as climate change, cloning, space travel and virtual reality – things that are already familiar to us and have the potential to have a profound impact on the course of the future. These 12 near-future science fiction books explore these topics and more. The stories are thought-provoking and sometimes horrifying (if that’s not your thing, you might want to check out solarpunk or hopepunk), considering the good and the bad. History shows that it is not too late to make a change; but it also shows us that fiction sometimes gets it right. So let’s dive into these 12 near-future sci-fi books to see what might be in store for us in our own not-too-distant future.
The Echo Woman by Sarah Galey
One of my favorite near-future themes is cloning, and in this sci-fi novel, a scientist must confront a clone of herself – and all the implications of her experiments therein – after her ex -husband stole her research. Blending elements of sci-fi and thriller, Gailey creates a not-quite-implausible thought experiment probing not just the humanity of clones, but the humanity of the people who create them. It’s a gem of science fiction.
say good night to the machine by Katie Williams
In a near future obsessed with positive psychology, Pearl’s job is to make personalized recommendations on how people can find greater satisfaction in their lives. Her son Rhett, on the other hand, seems to find perverse joy in being unhappy. And it’s not her job – as a mother or as a happiness technician – to change that. say good night to the machine asks the question: in a society where quick fixes and technology can address humanity’s obsession with positivity, what does it mean to find happiness? And is it even possible to measure emotion in the first place?
The water knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
In a world reshaped by the climate crisis, cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are clashing over dwindling remnants of water in the Colorado River. They are the water knives of Las Vegas – assassins, terrorists and spies – who make sure their city has the resources it needs to survive. When rumors of a new water source emerge, a water knife, a reporter and others set out to find answers. And they will do whatever it takes to get them.
Goldilocks by Laura Lam
As climate catastrophe draws ever closer, influential scientist Valerie Black has led an all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone – a mission that has the potential to provide a new home for human life. The only problem? The mission has been stolen from them and the team of astronauts, engineers, doctors and scientists assembled by Valerie are no longer allowed to leave the planet. It’s not about to stop them, though, not when they’re so close. But losing the mission isn’t the only secret Valerie has been keeping, and when the crew is alone in space with only each other to rely on, her ulterior motives could spell disaster for everyone.
Want to by Cindy Pon
Pollution and viruses fill the air, but only the poor suffer. The wealthy use their money to buy special suits that protect them, while everyone else suffers endless disease and premature death. After his mother becomes another such death, Zhou manages to infiltrate the elite, hoping to bring down the corrupt Jin Corporation that produces the filtration suits from within. The deeper he delves, the more he begins to wonder if that’s all they’re producing. After all, pollution and viruses have to come from somewhere.
Never let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is about an English boarding school where children receive the best possible education but learn nothing about the outside world. Once Kathy and her friends are old enough to leave school, they learn the truth about their upbringing and purpose. I can’t say more without revealing major spoilers, but this book is a masterpiece.
Crusted Snow Moon by Waubgeshig Rice
When the lights go out in a northern Anishinaabe community, cutting them off from the outside world, panic grows. The supply chain is thinning and oil supplies may not see them through the stormy winter. It’s not until the aliens start showing up that people really start to worry. The people of the south, the same people who pushed the Anishinaabe north to begin with, inform them that all of Canada – and perhaps even the world – has gone dark. This book is a story of isolation and climate change, but also of humanity’s reliance on technology.
Being taught, so lucky by Becky Chambers
What if, instead of modifying the planets to suit our needs, we modify ourselves? This is the premise at the heart of Chambers’ sci-fi novel about a crew exploring four extrasolar planets light years from Earth. Like all of Chambers’ science fiction, it explores and offers intriguing scientific possibilities for the future.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
A powerful search engine has led humanity from a state of war of nations to a global micro-democracy, but keeping the peace is still a constant struggle. It is the greatest political experiment in human history, with dangerous information agents trying to turn the wheels and members of political parties vying for power.
nour by Nnedi Okorafor
AO requires many bodily augmentations to live. This is why it prefers to be called AO, abbreviation of Artificial Organism. She never thought of herself as natural, but that’s not a bad thing. At least not to her. But after a violent incident in the market, she is forced to flee with a Fulani shepherd called DNA. In a world where everything is streamed, everyone is watching to see what this “murderer” and “terrorist” will do next.
Firewall by Nicole Kornher Stace
The business wars have taken everything from Mallory, but that’s true for most people. Now she’s finding solace and working on the steam of a popular VR war game. But when she makes a terrifying discovery about the famous supersoldiers belonging to Stellaxis, the corporation that runs America, she puts everything on the line to stand up to the most powerful corporation in the world.
The city within by Samit Basu (June 7, 2022)
In Delhi, a near-future surveillance capitalist, a woman working as a reality checker for her famous ex’s multi-reality live streams finds herself embroiled in a series of conspiracies alongside a wealthy recluse. The end of the world is here, and it’s a multiple choice.
Once you’ve found a genre you like, it’s always fun to explore books with a similar theme. Lists like this can be a great place to start, especially if you’re ready for research. But if not, or if you don’t have the time or patience, there are other options. In fact, finding the perfect read or book on a certain topic is exactly what our personalized book recommendation service, TBR, is for. Short for Tailored Book Recommendations, TBR is a book subscription service where our highly experienced team of bibliologists (i.e., really, really well read, you wouldn’t even believe it) recommend books just for you.
Unlike other book subscriptions, this is not a single book box. Our librarians know that everyone likes different books and wants to read different things, and we can help you find just the right book to stay in your comfort zone or expand your literary horizons. Whether you want a similar read for Casey McQuiston One last stop or slow, thoughtful sci-fi a la Becky Chambers, we’ve got the recs for you. Just check out Book Riot’s TBR service and sign up to find your next favorite read!