Good Minds Suggest: Ken Liu's Favorite Books About Fantastic Technology

Posted by Goodreads on October 3, 2016
Ken Liu

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"I spent an enormous amount of time and energy figuring out the aerodynamics and logistics of deploying an army of flying, fire-breathing creatures."

That's not a sentence many people can say. Ken Liu can because it's what he does for a living. The fantasy and science fiction author—who has worked as a programmer, a lawyer, and a translator of Chinese fiction (notably The Three-Body Problem, the recipient of the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel)—navigates the narrow edge between science and magic in his epic fantasy series, The Dandelion Dynasty. In The Grace of Kings, the first book in the series, shapeshifting gods drifted among silk-draped airships. The highly anticipated sequel, The Wall of Storms, comes out this month, introducing a new era of war and chaos to the spectacular kingdom of Dara. Yet even against such a fantastical backdrop, Liu respects the practical workings of his creations. "Well-thought-out technology can give fantasy worlds a beauty and rigor that magic alone cannot," he tells Goodreads. Liu shares some of his favorite fiction and nonfiction books that confront the fascinating role technology can—and should—have in fantasy.


The Nature of Technology by W. Brian Arthur
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"Although we have many experts who can tell you in excruciating detail how each individual piece of technology functions, we don't have many thinkers who have investigated how technology, as a whole, evolves and grows. Arthur tackles fundamental questions about technology and ends up at the exact opposite end of conventional wisdom. This is the book that explains how an engineer is like a poet and how technology is its art, separate from science. If you want to see a new way to think about technology, fantastic or otherwise, this is the book to get."


Updraft by Fran Wilde
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"Human-powered flight has been a dream of our species for millennia. In this book—the start of a fresh, unusual fantasy series—a world built from massive, living bone towers is populated by individuals who soar with giant wings strapped to their backs on wind currents both natural and artificial. Wilde is an engineer by training and has done her research regarding human-powered flight. The result is a world of flight so real that you will want to live in it."


Black Wolves by Kate Elliott
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"When the word 'technology' is mentioned, we often think of machinery and weaponry, but some of the most powerful technologies shaping human history have been linguistic (think of the alphabet), economical (think of double-entry bookkeeping), and political (think of the coup d'état and the election). In this layered, rich epic fantasy, Elliott explores how these social technologies in law, economics, and political systems can be every bit as magical and revolutionary as an army of dragons or a fleet of silk-and-bamboo airships. Many epic fantasies have been criticized for waxing nostalgic for absolute monarchy—not this one."


His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
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"The Napoleonic Wars with dragons—that's the pitch, and it's pretty much true. What makes this series so much fun is the meticulous manner in which Novik works out all the infrastructure, mundane and otherwise, necessary to support a fleet of warring dragons. The tactics are so intricate and thoroughly developed that you can practically write your own Art of War adapted to this world."


Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson
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"Ostensibly a history of cooking techniques and cooking implements, the book turns out to be a meditation on the ways in which culture is deeply entwined with the magic of transforming raw meat and vegetables into nourishment and gastronomical pleasure. After reading it, you'll gain an appreciation for how humble, domestic technologies—like a roasting spit—can change who we are far more profoundly than flashy public technologies like the space shuttle. And you'll learn to see fantasy worlds based on pre-industrial technology through a new lens."





Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Technothrillers



Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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message 1: by Retlaw (new)

Retlaw Ok, shameless self-plug, but I really worked hard to make the tech in my near-future science fiction mystery very approachable. Would love to know if you agree!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0988434318/


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