Recommend me some good alt-future books

I liked the Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, A Brave New World. More, please?

I particularly like when the moral’s not too heavily stated but left to the reader to infer.

I’m not quite certain what you mean by “alt-future”. When these books were published, all of their scenerios were set in the future, (albeit The Handmaid’s Tale was very near future). I’m guessing here that you are interested in books that fall under the category of speculative fiction but are not typical science fiction, in their emphasis on social changes and political effects over technological innovation and space-opera-ish elements.

If that, indeed, is the case, I’d recommend Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange and The Wanting Seed, Walter Miller, Jr’s Canticle for Leibowitz, and maybe some of Philip K. Dick’s more accessible work like Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, or The Man In The High Castle (which is more of an alt-history).

That ought to keep you busy for a few days, anyway. :slight_smile:


Jennifer Government

On a younger level The Giver

SM Stirling’s Draka novels are an excellent examination of the idea of: "What would happen if remnants of the old Southern Confederacy fled to South Africa after the Civil War, built an empire there founded on slavery, and wound up a fourth player in WWII with a well-equipped slave army backing them, playing Russia against Germany?

I’ve never been able to find a supernatural horror novel that was nearly as scary as the Draka series. Nothing like the combination of chattel slavery with a modern fascist state for sheer nastiness.

Robert Harris’s “Fatherland” is a great read. It’s 1964; Nazi Germany has conquered Europe but is still in a low-intensity conflict with the remnants of the USSR. The Cold War is simmering between the US and Germany. President Joseph Kennedy is coming to Berlin for a summit meeting with Hitler just as an SS investigator begins looking into the suspicious deaths of several elderly Nazi bigwigs. Very plausible, very chilling, and a lot of fun.

Len Deighton’s “SS-GB” could almost be set in the same universe. It’s 1943, Operation Sea Lion has succeeded, and Britain is under German occupation. Churchill has been executed; the Germans and the Soviets are uneasily at peace. A tiny group of British resistance fighters plans to… well, I won’t tell you what. But you should read the book. It’s very evocative of (another) postwar Britain, and a well-crafted thriller.

In 1960, LOOK magazine published Mackinlay Kantor’s long article (more like a novella) “How the South Won the Civil War,” in which the turning point is Grant’s accidental death during the Vicksburg campaign, and the Union defeat at Gettysburg. A very clever and internally-consistent exercise in alt-history.

Peter Tsouras has edited a series of alt-history military books which I’m sure you can find on Amazon or elsewhere - there are variants on Confederate victory in the American Civil War; the Cold War turning hot; a more crushing Union victory at Gettysburg; and both German or Japanese victories in WW2. All of the stories aren’t of the same quality or level of plausibility, but the books are worth a look overall.

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. A very interesting book that speculates how things may have turned out if the black plague wiped out 99% of the european population.

It’s no shock to me that a Doper can more clearly articulate what I’m looking for than I can. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the translation of my poor stupid mind, and these look like some great reads! I’m writing them all down…

I don’t have many suggestions, but:

Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next books are a humorous take on an alternative history.

And Kage Baker’s “Company” novels involve cybernetic humans who are moved through time by a 24th century supercorporation for the ostensible purpose of getting specimens of extinct plant species. It’s better than it sounds. Way better.

Resurrection Day by Brendan Dubois is another very good alternate hisotry novel. It’s set in the United States about ten years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, which is this world led to a limited nuclear war and the US being placed under martial law. It reminded me of Fatherland; a murder mystery leading to secrets from the past.

Try John Brunner’s
Stand on Zanzibar
The Sheep Look Up
Jagged Orbit
Shockwave Rider

More details here.

Which says of the last book in the list :-

The list of post-apocalyptic fiction is nearly endless, but I’d recommend David Brin’s The Postman. The movie version sucked; the book is actually a pretty good morality tale about the meaning of democracy.

Speaking of Brin, whenever I see the title I want to recommend Earth. But I don’t think it fits the OP.

Robert Heinlein has some interesting ones. Farnham’s Freehold and Sixth Column are both pretty good, if immensely disturbing.

I’ll heartily second this recommend.

Under The Yoke, the second book in the series, describing the Draka pacification of post-alt-WW II Europe, is downright scary, and The Stone Dogs, which covers an alt-Cold War/Final War, excels it’s predecessor.

Slightly along those lines also is his novel Conquistador. Steve Stirling is a scary SOB when he sets his mind to it.

Oh have some fun, Anaamika. If it were our Eve, she’d get a copy of Cryptonomicon and take it to the beach. It’s so heavy (1151 pages), all the big muscle guys vying to carry it for her.

Then as Eve luxuriated beneath an umbrella, one of them wwould read to her while another peels grapes for her dining pleasure and a third caresses her bod with gentle hands soaked in soothing oils.

Just one possible version of an alt future. :slight_smile:

Never heard that one before… Would they be sci-fi???

Anything by Iain Banks, especially his sci-fi series.

The best of ALL time, IMHO: Chrysalids, John Wyndham. Brilliant.

Might as well add the whole list!

I Am Legend- by Richard Matheson, which was the basis for “The Omega Man…” Would have been better without Charelton Heston— way too many complaints about him to even begin mentioning! ok, his “performance” in Fahrenheit 9/11. enuff said. (I can never spell Fahrenheit, rats! I always have to look it up.)
“I think the author who influence me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson. Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me.” --Stephen King.

Asylum, by Patrick Mcgrath. Though I am heading into goth litertature now, I think. lol.


William S. Burroughs- Feb 5th, 1914-1997, Originated it…I am pretty sure.
He also invented the cut-up theory.

In Word Virus, it contains pretty much the origins of those sci-fi theories.
Naked Lunch, Ticket that expoded, the Soft Machine, Port of Saints, Wild Boys

He also wrote his own version of Blade Runner.

All the books by William. S. Burroughs.
Note: His grandfather invented the “modern” adding machine, which was first used a a cash register, I believe, then typewriter, then the calculator, etc, if I am not mistaken.


This is one of my favorite types of fiction. I always like reading details about how the future societies work. I care less about political intrigue and future war than about specific details about how people live. For example, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of my all-time favorites. The political stuff is interesting, but I love love love the detailed descriptions of line marriages, family farms, etc.

If you’re interested in the genre, you must read Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy. Published in 1887 or so, it is a look at a socialist future. The message is pretty heavy handed, unfortunately, but it’s a fun read, and quite short to boot. What I love about this one is how many of Bellamy’s predictions came true–at least partially.

One of my favorites is Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper. It portrays a future where most men are warriors outside the city walls, while the women run civilization. It’s another fun read–definitely a feminist point of view.

I’ve recently read a spate of Heinlein’s “juveniles.” A lot of them discuss the way society is organized on interstellar spaceships that take voyages lasting years. Orphans of the Sky took this concept to the extreme. Oh yeah, and read The Star Beast. It portrays a small-town America which really hasn’t changed much.

Asimov’s Caves of Steel was his attempt to write a book that was both a good mystery and good speculative fiction. He succeeds admirably.

And thanks to everybody else for the suggestions. I’ll be checking them out, too.

I keep hearing about the Stirling Draka novels – can anyone provide a list of the actual titles? and which one I should start with? TIA.

Another book dealing with the results of a Confederate victory is Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee. It’s a sad, moving story with flawed human characters. Of less than novel length, it can be found in The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century and other anthologies.