The Last Firewall – The Best Near Term Science Fiction

William Hertling is currently my favorite “near term” science fiction writer. I just read a pre-release near-final draft of his newest book, The Last Firewall. It was spectacular. Simply awesome.

You can’t read it yet, but I’ll let you know when it’s available. In the mean time, go read the first two books in the trilogy.

They are also excellent and important for context for The Last Firewall. They are inexpensive. And they are about as close to reality while still being science fiction as you can get.

I define “near term science fiction” as stuff that will happen within the next 20 years. I used to read everything by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson. Gibson’s Neuromancer and and Stephenson’s Snow Crash were – until recently – my two favorite books in this category. Suarez’s Daemon and Freedom (TM) replaced these at the top of my list, until Hertling showed up. Now I’d put Daemon and The Last Firewall tied for first.

Amy and I were talking about this in the car today. Gibson, Sterling, and Stephenson are amazing writers, but their books have become too high concept. There’s not enough love and excitement for the characters. And the science fiction is too abstract – still important, but not as accessible.

In contrast, Hertling and Suarez are just completely nailing it, as is Ramez Naam with his recent book Nexus. My tastes are now deeply rooted with these guys, along with Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross.

If I was writing science fiction, this would be what I was going for. And, if you want to understand the future, this is what you should be reading.

  • Good timing, leaving for China tomorrow and needed a couple new books for my trip. 🙂

  • Yeah – what happened to William Gibson? His early work was so great. The later has become dry.

    • It perplexes me.

    • It’s tough to have a second act when you almost described the Internet years ahead of it.

      • Very true. But it wasn’t just the (remarkable) vision. Neuromancer and even his short stories (Burning Chrome…) were emotionally engaging. But for me at least that emotional component seems to have evaporated.

  • I remember your mention of Avogadro a while back.
    I haven’t had the patience to read long-term fiction, but I will need to try the near-term ones.

  • Jeffrey Hartmann

    I’m very excited for this book to come out. I really like Hertling’s perspective and his imagination that brought us A.I. Apocalypse and Avogadro Crop: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears. While I sincerely hope that things don’t play out like they do in his books, I really think we are on the cusp of making some great discoveries in Artificial Intelligence. I’ve been working on using stacked denoising autoencoders and image recognition and it is just amazing what the computer can learn on its own from data. As computer power becomes more and more accessible, the capabilities of these systems will only scale and become more amazing. For a very small investment (say around 40k) I can build a computer 12 – 15x more capable than the 55 million dollar ASCI Red built in 1997, and it would fit in 4u and only be 4 nodes. Very capable computers that can take on more and more tasks from humans is completely inevitable. I’m able to train very capable networks using just my laptop. I’m very excited about this and I love when SciFi pushes our thinking and the boundaries of our thinking. The dawn of the last century saw SciFi inspire the work on the atom, I think inspiring thinking and learning machines will be one of the things that we will look back at the fiction of our day inspiring.

  • Just started Snow Crash over the weekend and am loving it so far – my first foray into Neal Stephenson. Thanks for the rec – will definitely check this out.

    • Super – it is a critically important and excellent book.

  • StevenHB

    I’ve learned that your sci-fi recommendations are likely to reignite my interest in the genre. I’ll keep all of these in mind moving forward.

  • Greatly enjoyed the Daemon series and looked for more like it so thanks for the recs.

  • Pete_0

    Followed your previous touts, all great.

    Our sci-fi arc’s eerily coincident, thought I did detour for Vinge, Banks (ave shalom) & Simmons (all stand-outs), among others.

    But a (re)-read of I,Robot should be on any “near future” list – it’s more imminent than ever…

    • Yes – I have I, Robot on my Kindle. Time to do it again!