Your guide to tech thriller books


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So you read the novels of Dan Brown and Lee Child and don’t really know what to do with yourself anymore. You read them in a daze, maybe more than once, and no other thrill could match that adrenaline rush. In that case, welcome. You are now part of the ‘I love techno thriller books’ club.

What exactly are techno thriller books? It’s a literary genre that combines the best of what thrillers have to offer – deception, secrets, intrigue – and the best of what science fiction has to offer – a world without limits. More than traditional sci-fi elements, this genre doesn’t always involve complex technological innovations, but rather offers a futuristic perspective in one way or another. You get complex characters, a problem to solve, and a mix of brains and tech that come up with the solution. Oh, there’s always some heart-pounding action at the center of it all, too.

Did you know of classics like jurassic park and TThe girl with the dragon tattoo count as techno-thrillers? The genre of techno thrillers has generally been dominated by white male writers with landmark works by Steve Berry, John Sandford, and Dan Brown, to name a few. But, in the last few years, there has been work on breaking techno thriller books by authors who identify with all genres and identities. What has been a remarkable feature of these new works is that the stories are not only those that offer thrill, but also those that weave commentary on themes such as race, class, and gender.

I’m here to share four works to dip your toes into and find out the extent of what this genre has to offer.

Red Widow cover image by Alma Katsu

red widow by Alma Katsu

If you are unfamiliar with Katsu’s work, I suggest you remedy it immediately. Katsu is an author with an incredible range when it comes to storytelling, horror, historical fiction and now espionage no genre can exhaust her.

In this story, we follow the lives of two female CIA agents. One is Lyndsay, who was once the number one CIA agent but is now being sent on administrative leave, and the other is Theresa, whose husband was killed under mysterious circumstances, and she has been trying ever since to escape the shadows. When Lyndsay has the opportunity to hunt down a mole within the CIA and Theresa has information that can help her, an unlikely friendship is formed. But there’s a lot of action, secrets, and twists that you won’t see coming in store for you, too.

cover image of Infomocracy by Malka Older

Infomocracy by Malka Older

This one takes us back to the futuristic and world-building elements of a more traditional techno-thriller, but permeates it with four intense character studies. What you can expect upon entering is a bit of disorientation as you step into a new world, but it quickly escalates into thrilling action.

We are brought to a time in the future when the world has moved to a form of government called “micro-democracy” with 100,000 people each. As expected, each of these micro-communities votes for their leaders, but like democracy, in reality, a shade of gray hangs over the debates. Our story then follows the lives of four characters before, during and immediately after the vote in the next election. Fee-fi-fo-fum, I sense an uprising coming.

cover image of Yesterday: A Novel by Felicia Yap

Yesterday: a novel by Félicia Yap

This fascinating premise leans a bit heavily on science fiction. We have people divided into two groups. One is the Monos, who only have one day of memories, and the second is the Elite Duos, who can remember for up to two days. When a woman is found dead, the detective in charge of the case races against time and her memory itself, before forgetting everything he has discovered about the motives and secrets of those involved. And maybe that’s exactly what the murderer was counting on.

It’s a bit like Christopher Nolan’s Memento with the action of a Jack Reach novel, and that will be enough to keep you glued to your seat.

Sarah Gailey's The Echo Wife cover image

The echo woman by Sarah Gailey

Speaking of being glued to our seats, Gailey is another author dealing with this. They’ve written books on everything from IP witchcraft to lesbian librarians, and there’s not much they can’t do.

Their latest book features Dr Evelyn Caldwell, a renowned geneticist specializing in cloning. But she is going through a difficult period in her personal life. Her husband, Nathan, who is a less experienced scientist than her, left her for a cloned, more submissive version of Evelyn herself. Nathan ends up dying due to a turn of events, and now it’s up to Evelyn and her clone to figure out what to do with what’s left, including Nathan’s body.

Now, this can arguably sound more like domestic thriller, but it will allow me to start on the unfairness of the dichotomous boundaries between private and public, and do we have time for that today? So I count. You have secrets, you have thrills, and you have the technology, VOILA, a techno-thriller.

If you’ve started your adventure with techno thriller books with authors like David Baldacci, then find some fantastic alternatives here. If you just can’t get enough of the genre and want to find personalized recommendations based on what you like; maybe you like to avoid certain topics, have low tolerance for violence, so sign up for our own TBR: tailored book recommendations. Our bibliologists make sure to take into account what works for you, and what does not!

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