the Caryatids by Bruce Sterling
This is a novel of extremes. It is set in the near future around 2060. This is a forethought on climate change, pollution, and technology running out of control. The world as presented here is harsh, full of refugees, constant change, and failed states.
The novel intersects between three groups, two of them are transnational; the Acquis is a green collective that has advanced green technology and neural interfaces. The Acquis reminds me of an odd admixture of social enterprise and green capitalism. People like Amory Lovins, Paul Hawken, or groups like the Bioneers.
The second group is based out of California, the Dispensation, it is a conglomerate of Hollywood and high tech rolled into Reality 2.0. It might be what would happen if the people who read the magazines Fast Company, Inc., and Wired took over running things.
The final setting is China which has become a kind of super state that has gone from disaster to disaster. China is the ultimately endpoint of the mega state. It has set off hydrogen bombs in the Himalayas to reroute water from glaciers into China and built a simulated mars dome. It is a bureaucracy with total surveillance and total recycling of resources.
Thrown into this setting are the Caryatids, four clone sisters who are separated by disaster. The clones in this novel represent human archetypes; Radmila the superstar, Sonja the barefoot doctor, Vera the radical environmentalist, and Biserka the criminal and terrorist. Supporting them are their brother Djordje, the industrialist, and John Montgomery Montalban, a kind of supersalesman, an actor rolled into a businessman.
The book rages from shock to shock. It is clearly hard science fiction, drawing from the edges of what might be possible in the near future. The technology being described is very interesting. The writing is fabulous. There are many different viewpoints presented in the book, each sister gets to present their own viewpoint. There is not just one main character. This makes the novel unique.
Bruce Sterling has written many books, the two which I like best are The Difference Engine written with William Gibson and The Hacker Crackdown. This novel is drawing from a new style of near future science fiction, I can see the influence of Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross.
If you want to read something different, read this. This book was officially released February 24, 2009.