We're finishing up reading about shadow warfare in The Way of the Knife, but I'm taking things back to the fiction side for September. This month, I'm focusing on lean, fairly new work exploring worlds where the apocalypse has happened, but life goes on. They're mostly (though not all) meant for a young adult audience, which is a genre I particularly like because it consistently produces interesting, focused science fiction.
Feed by M.T. Anderson (2002)
Air is made in farms, lesions have become a fashion statement, and your shopping habits can determine whether you get medical care. Cut through Feed's strange, futuristic teenage slang, and you've got a doomed, darkly funny love story between two teenagers who navigate growing up in a world where everything you see, learn, and do is mediated through an implanted computer and a relentless barrage of corporate advertising.
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
Paolo Bacigalupi specializes in environmental disasters in the best possible way; if you read SF, you might remember his novel The Windup Girl. Ship Breaker's protagonist lives by breaking down pieces of a better world, stripping metal from ships that no longer work in a flooded world without oil. Instead of combustion, the world runs on springs and genetic engineering, led by a few Monsanto-like companies that travel the globe on clipper ships.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (2010)
In a Sudan-like future state, longtime ethnic conflicts are changed and exacerbated by the appearance of a kind of magic, and an exceptionally powerful young woman sets out to find and destroy her father. This is a difficult read, and the lone exception to my YA picks: it's about — among other things — rape, genocide, and female genital mutilation. But the characters and events are subtly written, the magical world is fascinating, and this io9 review makes a pretty strong case for why you should read it.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)
Nancy Farmer is best known for The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, and The House of the Scorpion explores some of the same ideas. Its protagonist is a clone in a future Mexico, meant to provide organs for the aging cartel leader he's copied from. But despite his likely death, his life is preferable to that of undocumented immigrants, who are put to work as remotely controlled dumb bodies. Like Ship Breaker, it's a study in existing national and class conflicts, told through the lens of someone who's just learning to make sense of the world.