Category Archives: Near Future

Review: Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia by Jason Pargin

Author Jason Pargin has made a career out of hilarious and fast-moving books with surprisingly intelligent and thoughtful things to say, despite all the jokes and blood. His latest, Zoey Is Too Drunk for This Dystopia, continues this happy trend.

This is the third book in the Zoey Ashe series. The books are near-future dystopian crime-ish romps about Zoey Ashe, a low-ambition but very clever and mouthy young woman who inherits a massive fortune from a ruthless crime lord, who was apparently her father. Despite the hopes of all around her, money does not change Zoey.

In this book, Zoey and millions of others are shocked by the live broadcast of a horrific crime. Looking closer, it appears to be a hoax, but the maybe-fake tragedy brings out a number of tricksters, power players, and high-tech liars to capitalize on the crime and, of course, blame Zoey for everything.

Recommendation: Read it, but I’d start with the first Zoey Ashe book, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits.

Review: The Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler

The Tusks of Extinction is a short novellette/novelito (smaller than a novella) where mammoths have been resurrected and are roaming the Russian plains. It’s surreal, clever, original, and shot through with Russian darkness and heaviness.

It’s so short that I can’t tell you much about the plot without giving it away, but we see this world through the eyes of poachers, a murdered elephant biologist and activist, and the mammoths themselves.

There’s some switching between events in the past and the future, without telling you what’s going on, so that takes a little while to comes to terms with.

Like some of the best science fiction short stories, this felt more like a thorough exploration of an idea rather than a big adventure quest. I like me my quests, but I also really enjoyed this story.

Recommendation: It has mammoths. Read it.

Review: Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman

In the near-future world of Venomous Lumpsucker, everything has continued to get worse, to the point where a corporation can make a species extinct as long as they pay enough extinction credits. The unintended consequences of this setup are many, all of them absurd and horrifying, which somehow makes this world feel especially plausible.

A biologist is trying to find, and potentially save, the last venomous lumpsuckers in the world. These are small but clever fish, possibly the most intelligent fish species out there. She’s joined by a variety of odd characters, all of them embroiled in the madness the world has become.

The ideas and writing of this book are incredible, and I found myself repeatedly shaking my head at the latest development, which was usually both insane and totally believable. However, the characters were so extreme that I had a hard time identifying with any of them, which made me less interested in the story. Towards the end, I found I was reading it just to finish the book, as opposed to being curious what would happen next.

Recommendation: Read it if you’re in the mood for a literary near-future environmental dystopian adventure.

Review: Titanium Noir by Nick Harkaway

Titanium Noir is an excellent near-future alternate-history murder mystery that follows the murder of a Titan, a medically-enhanced person who became physically massive and borderline immortal. Titans are elites, the case is sensitive, and nothing is quite what it seems.

Many authors try to write noir stories with hard-boiled detectives shuffling down rainy streets, occasionally getting beat up while trying to get justice for a murdered little nobody, and many authors fail. It’s harder than it looks. Fortunately, author Nick Hardaway pulls it off. The book is fun, funny, clever, and paced whiplash-fast.

Recommendation: If murder’s your thing, absolutely read this.

Review: Gravity by Tess Gerritsen

Gravity is mildly retro, having been written in the 1990s and features several space shuttles, but it’s one of the most fast-paced books I’ve ever read. It’s as much a medical thriller as a science fiction adventure.

Estranged from her husband, a brilliant research physician achieves her dream of running experiments on the International Space Station, but one of the experiments turns wildly lethal. Rescue missions run into their own troubles.

I don’t want to give any more away.

Recommendation: Read it! I’m looking forward to reading more of Tess Gerritsen’s books.

Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is a great science fiction thriller/mystery with a fun hook: a girl biking through a forest falls in a hole and lands on the palm of a giant metal hand. The more people learn about this artifact, the weirder it gets. And it gets seriously weird.

The book is told through journal entries and interviews, with the interviewer being a nameless interrogator who wields shocking amounts of political and military power via unknown means.

Recommendation: Read it! I haven’t revealed much about the plot or characters because I don’t want to give away any of the juicy reveals of the book. But definitely give this one a try.

Review: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Super Sad True Love Story is an engaging, literary love story that takes place in a near-future dystopian society where things like books and reading are so unfashionable as to be considered gross. But its characters, for all their flaws (or maybe because of them) feel very real, and are caught in a situation out of their control.

Lenny, the son of Russian immigrants, is a man on the cusp of middle age in a society pathologically obsessed with youth. He falls in love with a younger Korean woman who puts him through the emotional wringer on a daily basis. They’re both doing their best to be together, despite their wildly different worldviews.

And what a world: everyone’s lives are completely driven by social media and embarrassingly public rankings of appearance. It’s a future society so shallow and stupid that you can’t help but feel it’s more realistic that you want it to be.

Recommendation: Read it. If you’re in the mood for a satirical take on the direction society is going and how one mismatched couple tries to navigate it, definitely check this one out.

Review: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The Brief History of the Dead is a fascinating, odd (in the best sense of the word), and deeply inventive book. Some parts are heartbreaking, some hilarious, some disturbing as hell. I loved every part of it.

The City is populated by people who have died but are still remembered by the living. People stay in this Earthlike afterlife until they are completely forgotten. The City usually grows to accommodate its increasing population, but some strange things are happening.

In the living world, a young woman is stuck in an Antarctic research station and cannot get help from the outside world.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s excellent. The part with the young woman takes place in the near future, but that’s as science fiction-y as it gets. No spaceships.

Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Connie Willis is one of the few authors capable of humor, humanity, and what must be an ungodly amount of research, and she brings all these skills together in the masterful Doomsday Book.

In near-future Oxford, where time travel for purposes of historical research is relatively common, an eager young historian travels to medieval times. Unfortunately, things immediately go very wrong for her. Then a devastating pandemic hits the present day, and no one is able to help her, or even know she’s in trouble.

Recommendation: Read it. The characters range from deeply human to hilariously Dickensian, and the descriptions of the horrors of daily life in medieval times are some of the best I’ve ever read. Oh, and it’s a great story that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Review: Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade is a fun, fast-paced near-future adventure by Blake Crouch, whose past two books I really enjoyed. In Upgrade, a man gets a highly experimental and unasked-for upgrade to his genetic code, giving him near-superhero intelligence and strength. Immediately, the government and some shadow organization are intensely interested in him, and he must escape all manner of grasping clutches to protect himself and his family.

This is a highly entertaining read, one that kept me up much later than I intended at night. However, its premise isn’t wildly original, and I didn’t think he took it far enough. Given the abilities of some of the characters, I expected to be more blown away by their exploits.

Recommendation: Read it if you’re in the mood for some light, entertaining fare.