Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
Published in July, 2013
Nexus by Ramez Naam
Published in December, 2012
The fabulous Barbara Fister, you, and I like to read books about the future.
Some thought provoking, or at least engaging, dystopian fiction can bring some restorative balance to general “future will be pretty awesome” themes of the nonfiction books that I tend to read.
Two fun, fast, and smart books that I’d like to recommend for your brain are Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance and Ramez Naam’s Nexus. The fact that these books are cheap - $4.99 and $1.99 respectively for the Kindle versions - may persuade you (combined with my recommendation) to download. Let us know.
Brilliance can be read as a book length argument that aspies and other newly recognized on the spectrum ways of thinking may offer alternative (and sometimes superior) ways interfacing with the world.
In Sakey’s world, the autism epidemic has been replaced with a wave of unexplained “abnorm” births. For reasons that nobody understands, starting in 1986 about 1% of the population is born with unusual skills and abilities. The government, fearful of being displaced by this new brilliant minority, has setup special schools and empowered a new federal police agency (wonderfully named Equitable Services) to keep tabs (and where necessary eliminate) abnorm threats. Nick Cooper, the protagonist, is an abnorm himself, starts the novel working for Equitable Services and ends the story fighting his former employer. Lots of gun fights, road trips, and illicit romance push the story rapidly forward. The social commentary is never far, but it is subtle and feels organic to the elements that make up this terrific thriller.
Nexus is probably being widely read in Colorado about now. Rather than cannabis, the drug of choice is Nexus - the world’s first nanotech controlled substance. If you thought some good weed let form a deep mental connection with your fellow tokers you wouldn’t believe what some good old fashioned genetic and nano engineering can accomplish.
As with governments everywhere, save outside the Centennial State, the powers that be are intent on stifling all development of Nexus. The story revolves around the efforts of Kade, a young PhD candidate, efforts to navigate the challenges of an international scientific conference (I’m serious, he even presents a poster) while avoiding hired killers and clones from an ascendant China and a retrenching US.
I hope that Mary Louise Parker stars in the film version.
What are your favorite disturbing books about the future?
What are you reading?
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading