What is, so far, the best science fiction ever written about advanced nanotechnology? I'll list a few favorites and then ask you to suggest others.
- The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson (1995) -- This is tops, in my view. It's hard-edged SF, with a fascinating scenario, great characters, and a thrilling finale.
- Axiomatic, by Greg Egan (1995) -- A peerless collection of short stories by one of our finest writers, not all the tales about nanotech but enough of them that it must make this list.
- Slant, by Greg Bear (1997) -- A fast-moving novel with plenty of nano interest and no shortage of big ideas.
- The Stone Canal, by Ken MacLeod (1996) -- The first of two books set in a nano-enabled 24th century; the sequel, not as good IMO, is The Cassini Division.
- Queen City Jazz, by Kathleen Ann Goonan (1994) -- This is a quirky mix of fantastic nanotech, genetic engineering, and a bit of magic, but Goonan is such a talented writer that she draws you in to her invented world. Two sequels, Mississippi Blues and Crescent City Rhapsody, do not work quite as well.
- Nanotech, edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois (1998) -- Another collection of short stories, including one each by Greg Egan, Greg Bear, and Kathleen Ann Goonan. Some of them are dated, but overall this is an excellent compendium.
Notice anything about this list? Everything on it is from the mid to late 1990s. Does that say something about me, or about the decline of nanotech fiction since then?
Here are two other nano-based novels that I don't recommend:
- Nano, by John Robert Marlow (2004) -- Of the two listed here, this one is better. It's got a scary premise that has relevance to CRN's work, but unfortunately the writing is mediocre and the science is unconvincing.
- Prey, by Michael Crichton (2003) -- By far the best known and most widely read nanotech novel, this one's a real disappointment. Crichton is capable of top-notch fiction (Congo, Sphere, Timeline, Jurassic Park), but he seems to have lost his touch recently. Prey is pretty much a mess, filled with cardboard characters and ridiculously fantastic "science." Don't bother.
That's my subjective opinion. What are your favorites?
(NOTE: For a list of recommended non-fiction books on nanotech, click here.)