When it comes to sci fi, I’m often more concerned with what people are doing with their technological advancements than with what those advancements actually are.
In some cases though, authors come up with some truly neat stuff. Sometimes, yeah, these inventions have wider implications for the story and the world.
And sometimes, they’re just really cool.
Here are a few examples of my favorite tech inventions from sci fi books.
The TymFlex Safety System in Bypass Gemini by Joseph R. Lallo
I can’t begin to describe this system as well as the author does, so here it is in his words:
He leaned aside to see a little red indicator on his slowly-sparking control panel light up. Next to it were the words “TymFlex™ Safety System Engaged.” Below was a timer, broken out to thousandths of seconds, ticking down from sixty. The numbers were creeping by.
The effect was surreal. He could see the ripple of tiny shock waves as clumps of metal clashed with his hull. All around him, bits of debris of various sizes sparkled in the starlight, slowly spinning and sailing along in their orbits. Bits of his ship’s window drifted through the cabin, glancing harmlessly off the emergency field around his chair. As a blunt, irregularly-shaped piece of wreckage, now moving slowly enough for him to recognize it as a door handle, rebounded off the shield and spiraled lazily back into space, he tried to remember what the salesman had said when he was pitching this safety system.
It worked by creating a localized distortion in space-time, or something like that. Lex had never been good with details. Time within the distortion moved one hundred or so times faster than outside.
The salesman had explained that this reduced the kinetic energy of potentially lethal projectiles by making the universe think they had slowed down.
If that isn’t a fun use for relativity, then I don’t know what is.
Tracker Jackers and other “mutts” in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
But mostly the tracker jackers, to be honest. I still grip the book when Katniss saws the nest down from the tree she’s hiding in.
The mockingjays are a symbol of how the capitol’s hubris went shockingly wrong, leaving room for rebellious hope. It’s so skillfully done, and I love that, too.
But it’s the tracker jackers that hold a horrified spot in my memory. *shudder*
The “juice” in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey
Mostly, I like the acknowledgment that even if we can burn ships closer to lightspeed (and Expanse ships don’t even come close to traveling at lightspeed), we need to handle the uncomfortable reality of what that would do to the human body.
Enter “juice,” a drug cocktail that the ship injects into passengers once the ship starts to burn fast enough to cause damage.
Light Lances in Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
They’re for coiling, climbing.. and snagging enemy fighter planes so the pilots can smash them into each other. Obviously.
Makes for seriously excellent space fights. Some of my absolute favorites.
The Oasis in Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; Warcross in Warcross by Marie Lu
It’s not that virtual reality escapes are really anything new in science fiction, but I like the way these two books integrate them into daily life. The Oasis in itself is marginally interesting; it’s the way the creators and users occupy the space that really makes it cool.
Same with Warcross — I love that the heroine, Emika, is a bounty hunter who tracks down people who try to exploit the system. It really shows how new technology like this creates whole ecosystems.
Also, I’m always here for big corporate schemes and slugouts in fiction.
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