So, you read Dan Brown and Lee Child novels and don’t really know what to do with yourself anymore. You read them in a daze, maybe more than once, and then no other thrill could quite match that adrenaline rush. In that case, welcome. You are now part of the ‘I love techno thriller books’ club.
What are techno thriller books, exactly? It’s a literary genre that combines the best of what thrillers have to offer – deceit, secrets, intrigue – and best of what science fiction has to offer – a world without limits. More than traditional elements of science fiction, this genre does not always involve complex technological innovations, but rather offers up a futuristic perspective in one way or another. You get complex characters, a problem that needs solving, and a mix of brains and technology that bring about the solution. Oh, there is also always heart-pounding action at the center of it all.
Did you know some classics like Jurassic Park and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo count as techno-thrillers? The genre of techno thrillers has usually been dominated by white, male authors with breakout works by Steve Berry, John Sandford, and Dan Brown, just to name a few. But, over the past years, there have been breakout works of techno thriller books by authors who identify across all genders and identities. What’s been a stand-out feature of these newer works has been how the stories are not just those that offer thrills, but also those that weave in commentary about themes such as race, class, and gender.
I am here to share four works to dip your toes in and experience the expansiveness of what this genre has to offer.
Red Widow by Alma Katsu
If you are unfamiliar with Katsu’s work, I suggest you remedy that immediately. Katsu is an author with incredible range when it comes to telling stories, horror, historical fiction, and now espionage, no genre can wear her down.
In this story, we follow the lives of two female CIA agent. One is Lyndsay, who was once the CIA’s number one agent, but is now sent on administrative leave, and the other is Theresa, whose husband was killed under mysterious circumstances, and she has been trying to escape from the shadow ever since. When Lyndsay is provided with an opportunity to hunt down a mole from within the CIA, and Theresa has information that can help, an unlikely friendship forms. But there is plenty of action, secrets and twists you won’t see coming in store for you as well.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
This one takes us back to the futuristic and world-building elements of a more traditional techno-thriller, but infuses it with four intense character studies. What you can expect going in is a little bit of disorientation as you enter a new world, but it escalates quickly into heart-pounding action.
We are taken to a time in the future where the world has moved to a form of government called ‘micro-democracy’ with 100,000 people in each. As expected, each of these micro-communities votes for their leaders, but like democracy, in reality, a shade of grey hangs over the proceedings. Our story then follows the lives of four characters before, during, and immediately after the vote in the upcoming elections. Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell an uprising about to come.
Yesterday: A Novel by Felicia Yap
This fascinating premise leans a little heavy on sci-fi. We have people divided into two groups. One is the Monos, who only have a day’s worth of memories, and the second is the elite Duos, who can remember up to two days. When a woman is found dead, the detective on the case is racing against time and his memory itself, before he forgets all he has found out about the motives and secrets of the people involved. And maybe that’s exactly what the murderer counted on.
This is a little bit like Christopher Nolan’s Memento with the action of a Jack Reacher novel, and it will be enough to keep you glued to your seat.
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
Speaking of being glued to our seats, Gailey is another author that takes care of that. They have written books about everything from magical PI wizardry to lesbian librarians kicking butt, and there is not much they cannot do.
Their latest book features Dr. Evelyn Caldwell, an acclaimed geneticist specializing in cloning. But she is having a tough time in her personal life. Her husband, Nathan, who is a less experienced scientist than her, has left her for a cloned, more submissive version of Evelyn herself. Nathan ends up dead through a turn of events, and now it’s up to Evelyn and her clone to figure out what to do with what remains, including Nathan’s body.
Now, this may arguably sound more like domestic suspense, but that will get me started on the injustice of the dichotomous boundaries between the private and the public, and do we have time for that today? So, I am counting it. You have secrets, you have thrills, and you have the technology, VOILA, a techno-thriller.
If you started your techno thriller books journey with authors like David Baldacci, then find some fantastic alternatives here. If you simply cannot get enough of the genre and would like to find recommendations that are personalized to what you like; maybe you like to avoid certain topics, have a low tolerance for violence, then sign up for our very own TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Our bibliologists make sure to take into account what works for you, and what doesn’t!