Michelle Gagnon’s Top Five Technothrillers

Michelle Gagnon is the author of the new technothriller, Don’t Turn Around, which has been described as The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo for teens. It’s the story of Noa and Peter—two teen hackers who get in a little over their heads when they try to take down an evil pharmaceutical company. 

Intrigued? You can start reading an excerpt of Don’t Turn Around here. Michelle has also shared with us a list of her top five favorite technothrillers. From The Matrix to Little Brother there are some excellent suggestions here. 

 

Neuromancer by William Gibson
This 1984 novel is one of the pillars of hacker fiction; in fact, author Gibson is credited with coining the term cyberspace. And guess who first wrote about a virtual reality data space called the matrix? Gibson again. This story of a sad sack techie hired to pull off the ultimate hack is a classic. To get a sense of just how popular this cyberpunk book remains, do a Twitter search for it. Go ahead, I’ll wait . . . You see? Unreal. Not bad for a nearly thirty-year-old novel.

 

 

The Matrix
Yup, I know this isn’t a book; but I really can’t compose a list of technothrillers, especially ones involving hackers, without referencing The Matrix. While the latter two parts of the trilogy were a letdown, the original never disappoints. On the remote chance that you haven’t seen it (and if that’s true, shame on you, rent it immediately!), hacker Neo is forced to confront the fact that what he thought was the real world is actually a computer construct (take the red pill!). How wonderfully creepy to discover that not only have computers taken over the world, they’ve turned us into little more than batteries (which tends to give me pause, every time I’m cursing my MacBook for running out of juice). Neo joins a community of hackers who have escaped the Matrix and are now fighting to save what remains of humanity.

 

Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Both the film and the sci-fi novel are classics; obviously, one can’t compose a “best technothrillers” list without including the legendary Philip K. Dick! First published in 1968, over the years we’ve edged increasingly (some would say eerily) closer to the futuristic world envisioned by Dick decades ago. What I find most interesting about the book and film is that at their core, both ask the question, “What makes us human?” If an android can dream, remember, and love, are they entitled to claim humanity? Profound, I know. And one of the many reasons that this story of a bounty hunter pursuing replicants remains so popular today.

 

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Oh, how I love this book. I picked it up as I was finishing the first draft of Don’t Turn Around, and it completely blew me away. Cory Doctorow knows his stuff, and the near-future that the book depicts is rendered beautifully and believably (example: all schools have cameras monitoring students, with software that can ID them by their gait alone). If you’re going to be so bold as to title your book with a nod to the great Orwell, it better live up to the billing, and Little Brother does all that and more. An added bonus for me is that it’s set in my current hometown of San Francisco.

 

Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier by Suelette Dreyfus, researched by Julian Assange
This 1997 book describes the activities of “black hat” hackers during the days when the web was just taking off, starting in the eighties and moving through the early nineties. And it has some serious street cred: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is listed as a contributor. This is a real-life technothriller, with the capacity to make you seriously consider changing all your passwords to fourteen-character alpha-numeric codes that don’t involve your pet’s birthday.

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