Looking for reading recs


In an effort to widen my reading habits, I was looking for examples of novels with well done non-Western futures (“well done” varies depending on your mileage, of course, but mostly what I wanted was books where the main characters didn’t feel like Europeans with slightly different names and better costumes).

I have read (and enjoyed) China Mountain Zhang, River of Gods, Brasyl, most Octavia Butlers (the Xenogenesis trilogy, the Parable duology, and all the Patternists) and am eyeing The Dervish House, Midnight Robber, the David Wingrove Chung Kuo series, and Who Fears Death.

Any others I should know about? Thanks in advance!


  1. From those starting points, the book that comes most readily to mind is Geoff Ryman’s Air, set in a thinly-fictionalised version of Kazakhstan.

  2. I definitely recommend The Dervish House – it’s gorgeous!

    Another good one is “The Gaslight Dogs” by Karin Lowachee, which focuses on the fantasy equivalent of Inuit and partly on native Americans.

    And of course, “Under Heaven” by Guy Gavriel Kay – fantasy China during the Tang dynasty.

  3. Justin: I do need to read Air (and the Child Garden, which is set in a Western country but on which I’ve heard lots of good things).
    Stefan: I’m a big Ian McDonald fan, so this one is definitely on the list of things to read. I heard Karin read from “The Gaslight Dogs” at Worldcon, and it sounded intruiguing, albeit perhaps too low-tech for what I’m looking for at the moment.
    I’m also a big GGK fan, so “Under Heaven” is near the top of the to-read list, but I wouldn’t classify it as SF, alas (part of the reason for this post is that I’m hoping to fill in the holes in my SF culture–I already read plenty of fantasy, not so much steampunk, and little SF).

  4. Apologies – I hadn’t noticed the “futures” part of your original post so I was happily throwing out fantasy recommendations.

    Anyway, thought of one other one – Tobiac Buckell’s SF series, starting with “Crystal Rain” is set in a Caribbean-flavored future universe (and it’s a great novel).

    As for the Chung Kuo books – they’re lots of fun, but very pulpy. I enjoyed them though.

  5. How about Haruki Murakami, ‘Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’? It’s his only novel set in the future, and it’s definitely more Murakami than it is sf – cursory world-building, but fathoms-deep character psychology – but does have an interesting twist on the Johnny Mnemonic brain-as-encryption-device idea.

    Also, like all Murakami, it’s just beautifully written. I recommend Vintage’s English translation.

  6. Stefan: no worries, I can take good fantasy recommendations too–not my priority right now, but they’ll get read eventually 🙂
    Someone else recommended Tobias Buckell’s Crystal Rain on my LJ, and it definitely sounds interesting. Thanks!
    MJ: oh, thanks! My Japanese modern literature is really lacking (while my medieval-era literature is strong enough, amusingly), so Haruki Murakami sounds nice. I didn’t get into him with the last book I tried, but it was about ten years ago, and it would definitely be worth another try.
    I do get so frustrated with Asian language translations, though, because I suspect the original style has nothing whatsoever to do with the translation, no matter how good it is. It’s not a problem of translator, it’s a general issue with the language being so distant from English. I can see it’s already fairly annoying when French is translated to English or vice-versa; I shudder to think of what it’s like when translating from a different family of languages altogether.
    But, since Japanese is not on my list of languages to learn, I’ll make do 😀

  7. I’m reliably informed by a Japanese-speaking friend that Murakami does lose something in translation, but no more than is inevitable when reading translated fiction, and that Vintage’s translations capture his style about as closely as they possibly can under the circumstances.

  8. MJ: that’s good to know! I’ll get the translation then.

  9. I’m always on the lookout for other cultural science fiction and fantasy, and just found out about your series today. I love the premise, especially since I’m a fan of historical detectives, so I’m going to request it at my local library soon. As for suggestions, have you tried Liz Williams’s Detective Inspector Chen series? I only read the first book, Snake Agent. It was well-written, with a very developed world, if a trifle dizzying at times.

  10. Hi Michelle,

    I forgot to mention it, but I have read the Detective Inspector Chen (I’m up to four in the series, I think, with an extra volume waiting for me on my ereader). I agree, it’s great (and it was a major inspiration when I wrote my own series).
    Hope you enjoy my book, and thanks for dropping by!

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