Allegra Goodman’s novels are pristinely written. They deal with interesting, relevant topics that other literary writers ignore. For instance, Intuition deals with scientific fraud, and The Cookbook Collector is about computer start-ups, among other things. Goodman handles her characters with a kindness that is rare in literary fiction, and actually uplifting to read. It gives one hope that such an intelligent writer sees reason to be optimistic about human beings.
This is another writer whose work acknowledges the social consequences of scientific and technological innovations. Examples include Generosity: An Enhancement, about genetics and the genetic predisposition to happiness, and Galatea 2.2, about teaching a computer to read. Generosity is the only literary novel I know of that addresses germ-line editing, which is almost within our capabilities. Powers does write in a rather dark vein, meditating on threats to humanity such as environmental destruction and nuclear bombs. But I appreciate that Powers dares to be intellectual, original, and relevant.
This is one of the most versatile, creative writers I’ve come across. His novel Feed is an insightful, relevant, terrifying dystopia. It follows teenagers who have internet chips implanted in their brains, which they use to chat, watch TV, and order a constant stream of clothes and other products. A major theme of the book is how eager we are to look away from relevant problems, even as we’re destroying the planet and even ourselves. It deals with materialism, environmental degradation, and addiction to the internet. Anderson is also publishing a non-fiction book on Shostakovich this fall, which is exciting for fans of classical music like myself.
Abbott writes beautiful, suspenseful novels about dark things: murders, kidnappings, plagues. It’s good that the books are short, because you will want to read them in one sitting. Not only this, but her prose is poetic and memorable, some of the best in contemporary fiction. My favorite novels of hers are Dare Me (cheerleaders gone bad) and The End of Everything (kidnapping, among other crimes).
Rebecca Lee’s story collection Bobcat is literary perfection. She writes quiet, observant prose that occasionally lifts into a surprising and beautiful metaphor. Her observations about characters are wonderfully striking. I’m currently reading her novel The City is a Rising Tide.