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Topic: Science fiction set in the present

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Subject: Science fiction set in the present
Date Posted: 3/30/2009 8:12 AM ET
Member Since: 5/5/2008
Posts: 515
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I love science fiction that's set in the present or the very near future, and that is more about people than technology - sort of like the science-fiction equivalent of the urban fantasy genre. But books like this seem to be few and far between (or I'm just looking in the wrong places). Does anybody have any recommendations?

Some books I've found that fit what I'm looking for:



Replay by Ken Grimwood

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Vectors by Michael P. Kube-Mcdowell
Jumper by Steven Gould
The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer
The Host by Stephenie Meyer (loved the premise, didn't like the book itself)


Last Edited on: 3/30/09 8:27 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/30/2009 8:39 AM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
Posts: 458
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It is hard to think of sci-fi books that fit this description.   Jack Finney writes mainly time travel Time & again spends most of the book in the 1800's but does spend some time in the modern day.  He also has some short story books along the same theme -one is called about time and he wrote Invasion of the body snatchers which might apply.  Then there's a book called rewind which I think is in modern day but I can't remember the author. There's a creepy YA book called house of stairs by william sleator -very quick read.  The Healers war by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough might be considered fantasy rather than sci-fi but it takes place during the vietnam war.  A definate fantasy is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  So I'm coming up with mainly fantasy's but Jack Finney is pretty good it you haven't read his books.


Date Posted: 3/30/2009 3:45 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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William Gibson's two newest books.  Pattern Recognition and Spook Country.

Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon series, starting with Alien Taste

Nina Kiriki Hoffman, slightly more fantasy than SF.  But really great.

Last Edited on: 3/30/09 3:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/30/2009 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy.  Okay, post apocalypse.  But the apocalypse is current.

Robert Charles Wilson

The Bridge by Janine Ellen Young.

Date Posted: 3/30/2009 8:48 PM ET
Member Since: 1/2/2008
Posts: 174
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I just finished Murphy's The City, Not Long After. It was very very good. And very very different.

You may want to also look at Changling Plague by Syne Mitchell.  Or Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi for a really fun read.

Date Posted: 3/30/2009 10:32 PM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2007
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Maybe "The Bones of Time" by Kathleen Ann Gounan, or "Trouble and her Friends" by Melissa Scott. Both are fairly near future. "The Android's Dream" by John Scalzi is set present time and very entertaining.
Date Posted: 3/30/2009 10:54 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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Second to Android's Dream.  Yea to blue sheep!

Subject: present day
Date Posted: 3/30/2009 11:45 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Science Fiction starts out in the present time and then turns speculative is pretty common.  But science fiction that doesn't disturb the present time is kind of tricky.  The speculative element has to be subtle or very local.  But here are a few examples...

William Gibson - Pattern Recognition, Spook Country

Greg Bear - Vitals, Quantico

Robert Charles Wilson - A Hidden Place

Connie Willis - Passage

Elizabeth Moon - The Speed of Dark (oh, wait, I see you already found this one!)

Joe Haldemann - Camouflage

-Tom Hl.

Last Edited on: 3/30/09 11:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 3/31/2009 12:12 AM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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Robert Sawyer is very good with character driven stories.  I'd recommend the 3 book series (Neanderthal Parallax), Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids.  Also I HIGHLY recommend his new book coming out, Wake - most excellent.  I went out on a limb and predicted this book would be nominated for one of the big awards.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 3/31/2009 5:38 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I wouldn't think they're that rare.  Here are a few off the top of my head:

Greg Bear - Besides those mentioned, Psychlone, Blood Music, The Forge of God, and Dead Lines are set in the present.

Michael Crichton - Most of his books are set in the present and are extrapolations on existing technology.

Robert Heinlein - I like older books, but his are definitely dated.  Many of of his short stories were set in the present and were politically based, dealing with, among other issues,  the rise of nuclear weapons before the A-bomb was even conceived.  A couple of his novels, Rocet Ship Galileo and The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag are also set in the present. 

Paul H. (PaulH) - ,
Date Posted: 4/4/2009 5:31 PM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2008
Posts: 146
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If by "set in the present" you're willing to simply accept books set in the same time when the author wrote them, most of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells were "set in the present".

Of course, they're all over 100 years outdated now... :)

Date Posted: 5/1/2009 1:50 AM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2009
Posts: 77
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Try Isaac Asimov's Robot mysteries starting with Caves of Steel.  Although they are only mysteries, these books along with his foundation series always make me think about people and the direction our society is going.  I think almost all of Asimov's fiction books are about the people than the technology.  The technology is the background, the people are the story.

Date Posted: 5/1/2009 5:42 PM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2009
Posts: 14
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I recommend Ian McDonald's River of Gods and Brasyl (and his short story collection Cyberabad Days), set in India and Brazil respectively, about 20-30 years in the future.  Not only is the story and SF good, I thought they were excellent rational extrapolations of both nations as they are presently into the future.

Peter F. Hamilton's Greg Mandel trilogy (Mindstar Rising / A Quantum Murder / The Nano Flower) are set in a recent, post-nuclear future.  Maybe not as "present" as others listed here...  Good if you like action-packed storytelling with strong characters.

I second what everyone has said about Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.  Asimov's robot short stories (esp. those with the characters Susan Calvin, and Powell and Donovan) are very contemporary -- collections Robot Visions, Robot Dreams and Gold are good.

Last Edited on: 5/1/09 5:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/13/2009 5:30 PM ET
Member Since: 4/13/2009
Posts: 285
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Jacqueline Carey's new novel Santa Olivia is very much character-driven, set in the near-future in a town trapped in a DMZ between the United States and Mexico following a devasting flu pandemic.  Ignore the description of it as a "werewolf novel" - the main character is genetically enhanced, but does not resemble in any way a traditional werewolf.

Highly recommended.

Date Posted: 5/24/2009 1:27 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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I'll second the Asimov Elijah Bailey/R. Daneel Olivaw suggestion (the series starts with Caves of Steel) though I would warn that they are mystery novels as well as science fiction.

I'll also second Connie Willis; most of her novels are near-future, in addition to Passage; the one she won all the awards for was Doomsday Book (though this includes time travel to the Middle Ages), but my favorite (because I giggled the whole way through) was Bellwether.

I'm eagerly awaiting Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia, though it may not feel very sci-fi, since it's about werewolves (yes there's a sci-fi explanation for them, but still) and all of her other novels are fantasy. <<Now, having read Santa Olivia, I would agree; it's not in any way a werewolf novel. It is, however, uniformly excellent, character-driven, and it feels very current with the border issues and the plague in Mexico, but she insists that it wasn't intended to be topical.>>

And for a unique recommendation, try picking up Sheri S. Tepper. Her novels straddle that fine line between sci-fi and fantasy; the one I recommend in particular is Family Tree, which has one plotline set pretty much in the present and another set elsewhere (I can't say more without spoiling it). Her writing is always lyrical and her characters fairly well drawn. She is considered an "eco-feminist" author though, so if either of those messages bother you, I'd avoid her. I don't find them overwhelming, but she's preaching to the choir for me, so I'm not the best judge.

Last Edited on: 6/22/09 2:28 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/21/2009 8:02 PM ET
Member Since: 2/20/2009
Posts: 30
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My favorite current day SF novel is The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick.  It's about a family from another continuity with a very different culture who are exiled to current day Nevada.  It's a wonderful novel about culture shock, family secrets and growing up.