RECOMMENDATIONS

Fiction Search

by Chris Duesing

You’ve been looking for a good book to read, but you just can’t find anything that interests you?

I know the feeling. That’s why I put together this place on my website where I can share my favorite fiction recommendations with other people who are in search of something new and interesting.

When you read a review on Goodreads or Amazon, you don’t know anything about the reviewers taste, what other books they like, etc.. I won’t claim to be the end all be all expert, not even close, but I think once you see the kinds of things I get excited about, it won’t take you long to figure out if that is the kind of thing that excites you too. If so, sign up for my newsletter and I will let you know when I come across something cool that you don’t want to miss out on. It doesn’t cost anything, I’m just happy to have someone that is interested to tell.

To start take a look at the lists I have compiled here on the site. They are the classics and some of my favorite fiction books. The newsletter will be where I focus more on sharing stuff that is newer and often a bit more out there; books, short stories, interactive fiction, independent short films, text games, graphic novels and more.

Like everything else, storytelling has gone online, and having expanded beyond the bound page, new possibilities arise. I am always digging around trying to find people doing epic things in storytelling with all of this new technology at their finger tips. So if you’re looking for something different or want to explore a genre outside your comfort zone then come check it out!

I have curated my recommendations by genre. Each list contains some of the best examples I have found. They are stories about AI, robots, space, genetic engineering, time-travel, and climate change. Check them out for a taste of what is to come. Speaking of things that are on their way, I also put together a list of books you will want to read before their television adaptations come out.

But before you dive in to those, how about a story of my own “fiction search” for the singularity? The maddening hunt that sparked the idea for the newsletter in the first place.

Searching for the Singularity

“Sure, Chris”, you may be saying, “The Singularity is fine, but you just linked a list of books about AI, and another on robots!”. Touché, but none of those books are actually about that exact, pivotal moment when a machine gains consciousness. Personally, as a programmer, I would love to be taken on a deep dive journey exploring the moment of conception of our first man made intelligence. What does an author imagine the magic ingredient will be? (One could argue Douglas Hofstadter gave it a real go, but we’re talking FICTION here people, I need a story!) With such a specific goal in mind, one would assume that such a search would be a simple ask of the many online tools, book sellers and forums. One would assume wrong…

Ever cunning and resourceful, I typed “science fiction books about the singularity” into Amazon’s search bar. Two of the first three results were sponsored advertisements — one uplifting book about the end of the world and another about alien invasions — the third best match was a non-fiction book about advancing technology in business with not a singularity nor sci-fi trope in sight. The fourth result seemed initially promising, an aptly named book called Singularity about the singularity, but it wasn’t sci-fi. The fifth result named Polar Vortex, was about a polar vortex.

Amazon yielded no real gems and no titles that actually matched my search. It begs the question: why do I need to know the title of a book before I go on Amazon? One would think that the world’s biggest bookshop would have an excellent way to categorize all the weird and unusual books on its digital shelves.

Nevertheless, I continued my singular quest on Goodreads.

The very same “science fiction books about the singularity” search turned up zero results. Searching for “singularity” alone did net a couple of suggestions, though: one non-fiction book, two books with singularity in its title, and one book about Mormon polygamy, which is many things but not related to the singularity — nor being single even.

After clicking the Listopia tab, 30 potentially promising lists appeared but I could tell from the covers that these were not targeted results as I saw 1984, The Hunger Games, Ready Player One, and so on.

Unperturbed and willing to take my time seeking hidden sci-fi gems, I clicked on a list titled “Best Technological Singularity Books Fiction or Non-Fiction.” For each book on the page, the title, the author’s name, and a star rating were displayed, but no synopses or descriptions of any kind.

With 65 entries, this list was going to take a while. I clicked the first one, ok, that’s nonfiction. Back. Clicked the second one, it’s called Daemon about a runaway computer process that does bad things or something. It’s presumably about an AI gone awry, but it’s not about the singularity. Intrigued enough, I thought, “screw it”, let’s read some reviews!

Nathan said: “Awful. ‘Daemon’ suffers from all the usual pitfalls of the first novel: unoriginal premise, wooden dialogue, melodramatic action, clumsy exposition, sloppy resolution, inconsequential sub-plotting. When the author tries to be witty, he comes off as conceited; when he tries to impress with his tech-savvy, he sounds as if he’s quoting from ‘Popular Science’ magazine. This was the worst book I’ve read in a while, and I’m not sure whether I want Daniel Suarez to stop writing altogether…” A damning review to be sure. It must be a terrible book. I decided to read another review, just in case Nathan was biased.

aPriL said: “This book is as stunning as Dune. I give it ten stars…”

I was confused.

In hindsight, perhaps I should have started my search on Google? Why would Amazon, a bookseller, or Goodreads, a book recommendation site, be remotely as good as Google (which potentially has already blown past the singularity and just isn’t telling us)?!

Googling “science fiction books about the singularity” netted me 11 books, all about the singularity, displayed right across the top of the search results page! It was a big win despite the fact that some were clearly non-fiction, and there were no reviews or ratings, but still.

Right below that were adverts for four more books on the singularity. If an author is willing to pay for that particular keyword and be displayed on Google’s first page, it’s likely their book is actually about the singularity, I suppose, but you’ll forgive me for not trusting Google’s objectivity.

Then the real results reveal themselves: a Quora post, followed by two Goodreads lists (that admittedly look better than the one I found earlier), and a Reddit thread.

It occurs to me that searching for fiction online can be akin to milling around in a Barnes and Noble, slowly thumbing through the shelves and pulling out random books, glancing at the cover, maybe reading the back. Proving the internet does not hold a monopoly on unusual or weird books, the last time I did that I ended up with a book about vampires with flower genitals. It wasn’t as good as it sounds.

But that is ultimately why you are here, because a recommendation from a friend is better than a random search engine any day of the week. So let me be the friend who spends his days doing the dirty work of perusing the shelves and taking chances on all the potentially terrible books, just to share the gems with you.

Chris Duesing
Author
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.