I’m trying to make a list of recent books that use science fiction (or fantasy or whatever) to take a satiric look at the world. Books from the 90s are good; from the 00s even better.
Some examples of what I’m talking about might be Jennifer Government by Max Berry or the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde or Ben Elton’s environmental satires or maybe Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, by Cory Doctorow or Marcos Donnelly’s Prophets for the End of Time, just to give several very different examples.
They don’t have to be books you’d recommend, BTW. Mention them even if you think they stink.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Douglas Adams’ post-Guide novels, *Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency * and The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, aren’t exactly biting satire, but they do poke fun at certain aspects of modern life.
Also, perhaps more in the category of parody (of both science fiction and noir), The Plutonium Blonde and its sequel, The Doomsday Brunette, by John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem. The first was great fun. The second lacked the original’s spark, IMO.
C.M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants. It’s from the '50s, but corporations haven’t changed much: “As I dressed that morning I ran over in my mind the long list of statistics, evasions, and exaggerations that they would expect in my report.”
The Space Merchants started out as "The Merchants of Venus>, which I always thought a cleverer title. Both were co-authored with Frederick Pohl, who later wrote a sequel, The Merchant’s War. The latter features something uncomfortably close to internet pop-ups, but in everyday life (!)
Actually, The Space Merchants started out as Gravy Planet, the title under which it appeared as a serial in Galaxy (June and July of 1952). “The Merchants of Venus” is a much later (Worlds of If, July/Aug '72), unrelated story by Pohl alone – though that story is the first appearance of his “Heechee” universe.
You are, of course, quite right to point out that The Space Merchants was by Pohl and Kornbluth (who did quite a bit of collaboration in the mid-'50s).
As to the OP, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (though fantasy rather than SF proper) moved from broad parody fairly quickly into more general satire, and many of the books of the last decade or so (I’m thinking particularly of the “Night Watch” books like Jingo and Men At Arms) can clearly been seen to comment specifically on the modern world.
Tom Holt does something like the same thing, only with vastly less seriousness of purpose.
James Morrow’s novels are pretty satirical (Only Begotten Daughter is probably the most fun; Towing Jehovah possibly the best), though they tend to focus pretty tightly on religion, to the exclusion of other aspects of modern life.
Greg Egan’s Teranesia has a fair bit of satire of modern post-modernist theory (either hilarious or heavy-handed, depending on your opinion of the original).
William Browning Spencer is pretty satirical – especially in Resume With Monsters (a Dilbert-meets-Lovecraft tale).
Ken MacLeod’s novels (especially his first four, the “Fall Revolution” sequence) aren’t directly satirical, but do involve a lot of politics (some of it present-day) and observe it with a jaundiced eye.
Not to hijack my own thread, but when I said recent as in the 90s and 00s, I really truly meant nothing more than a decade old. Even the 90s is really too old for what I’m looking for. Is nobody writing satire currently?
I know it’s not what you’re looking for, but other people were talking about older science fiction satire, and I figured I’d get in on the ground floor with Icaromenippus, science fiction satire written in 160 a.d.
Le Guin has a very recent book, Changing Planes, that’s sort of a colleciton of short stories or travelogues by people using the misery of airports to effect brief trips to alternate planes of existence. It’s funny and satirical, very similar to Gulliver’s Travels.