by Howard Shirley, Teen Department
It’s Teen Tech Week, and to celebrate we consulted a panel of teen readers about their favorite techy stories, featuring fantastic technology they wish was real, and creepy technology they’d rather never see. And then we rounded out the whole thing by selecting a few books we love featuring tech both real and imaginary—as well as tech you may someday create yourself!
Ender’s Game begins after humanity has barely survived a genocidal war against technically advanced alien invaders, and Earth fears that race’s eventual return. The last invasion was defeated almost solely by the action of one heroic military officer, and the leaders of Earth are desperate to create soldiers who can mimic that hero’s instinctive skill. Potential candidates are selected as children and trained in an orbiting military academy, featuring a recreational battle game, sort of a cross between laser tag and Red Rover, played in zero-gravity inside a huge sphere. The eventual victors of this tournament, led by the novel’s young hero, Ender, also train in a complex computer simulator, learning to command the space fleet that must confront and destroy the enemy—with unexpected results. Our panel of teens loved the idea of the battle game in its weightless environment, as well as the computer simulator.
For creepy tech, our teens brought up the Divergent series and the technology used in the novels to identify and control the members of a dystopian future society. At sixteen, everyone is divided by law into five distinct factions, ostensibly chosen by the individual. The choice, however, is influenced by a complex personality test run in a virtual reality environment, which uses the individual’s personal fears to direct that choice. Secretly, one of the factions develops a serum that allows them to use the VR tech to control the minds of others and launch a bloody coup. “Divergent” refers to those who can’t be easily regimented by the VR test and who can recognize the VR world as not being actual reality, thus becoming immune to the effects of the mind-control. Everyone agreed that this sort of technology was one they’d never want to see come into reality.
This popular manga (Japanese comic book series), features another dystopian setting, where humanity has been reduced to a tiny population living in an immense walled city to protect itself from roving, gigantic “Titans” whose only apparent desire is to eat humans. The warriors assigned to defend humanity are equipped with “vertical mobility devices,” which are arrow-tipped grappling hooks fired by gas canisters. The cables allow the warriors to swing through city, forests, and even from the Titans themselves, “just like Spiderman” as our teen panel put it. The soldiers also use flexible swords which are the only weapons capable of killing the monstrous Titans. The blades, however, are destroyed when they strike a Titan, and the hilts must be reloaded from a supply cartridge worn like a scabbard at the warrior’s waist. Our teen panel loved the idea of being able to swing through the air with the grappling-hook harnesses, and who doesn’t love a techy sword?
Our teen panel then rounded out the discussion with recommendations for books and videos featuring Doctor Who—because TIME TRAVEL! (Which is hard to beat as tech goes.)
Our Honorary Best Book for Teen Tech Week:
Part part non-fiction, part fiction, this highly amusing and intelligent graphic novel tells the adventures of (the real) Lady Ada Lovelace and (the also real) Charles Babbage in an “alternate pocket universe;” the alternate part being that the two actually build the invention they collaborated on in real life—the fabulous Analytical Engine, a steam-powered Victorian-era computer! If you’ve ever wondered what the Steampunk phenomena is all about, these two historical persons are at the heart of it. (As one of the book’s characters quips about the pair, “Oh look, we’re present for the invention of the geek.”) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage mixes silly adventures and fabulous Victorian engineering with real history about the development of computing, programming languages, and a dash of women’s rights, all nearly a century before anyone made the first computer chip. If you love steampunk, history, computers or just laughing out loud about any of them, there’s no better book to grab for Teen Tech Week.
Other Teen Tech books in our collection include:
- Loop by Karen Akins
- Hourglass series by Myra McEntire
- The Time Machine by HG Wells (the father of them all)
- Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
- Gallagher Academy series by Ally Carter
- The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp Series by Rick Yancey
- Feed by MT Anderson
- The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers
- Blue Screen by Dan Wells
- Avalon Duology by Mindee Abnett
- Dove Arising by Karen Bao
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
- Existence by David Brin
- Illuminae Series by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
- Dragonback Series by Timothy Zahn
- Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson—teens bio-engineered with angel’s wings, pursued by teens bio-engineered as wolves.
Tech That Never Was (But Should Have Been) Tech
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
- Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
- Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld—featuring steam-powered walking tanks and bio-engineered flying whales!!!
- Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld—featuring a hoverboard that floats over metal rails, or water with a strong iron content. Real efforts to create hoverboards have in fact produced two workable versions- one that operates only above a metal surface, and another that operates (using superconductors) over a magnetic surface. Aside from the lack of any ability to float over water, this tech really does exist.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—the tech is as silly (and impossible) as the novel, but who wouldn’t love to own the spacecraft Heart of Gold?
Actual You Can Do This Tech
Technology just isn’t something in books or something made by other people. If you love tech, why not make it your career? Check out these non-fiction books to kickstart your quest!
- Careers for Tech Girls in Engineering by Marcia Amidon Lusted YA 620.0023 LUS
- Preparing for Tomorrow’s Careers Series:
- Powering Up a Career in Robotics by Peter K. Robin YA 629.892 RYA
- Powering Up a Career in Software Development and Programming by Daniel E. Harmon YA 005.12023 HAR
- Powering Up a Career in Nanotechnology by Kristi Lew YA620.5023 LEW