Masamune Shirow’s Ghost In The Shell is a three-volume manga series (volumes 1, 1.5 and 2) that is based on a Japanese security service team who try and solve cyber-crime related issues.
The stories deal with a future where technology is embedded into human beings and augment them. It is also based around a world where the internet of things is an everyday occurrence. Shirow’s future is believable. Unlike Star Trek, he recognised that the future is built in layers on the past. So you see this in the architecture in the background of picture cells.
You also see that layers in terms of everything from clothing and personal effects to vehicles of the protagonists.
The author obvioiusly goes deeply into the story as a thought experiment with copious side notes explaining either technological developments or why he has made certain decisions. The stuff that he incorporated was cutting edge scientific research at the time. Whilst I love the anime adaptions, this insight into Shirow’s thinking makes the books invaluable.
The books seem to have been remarkably prescient about hacking and the risks of technology. In previous literature, hackers were generally on the side of good or libertarians. In Ghost In The Shell you have cyber warfare and cyber crime similar to our own reality today. A crumbling healthcare system, organised crime, private military entities and shadowy state actors.
Unfortunately, the designers of smart televisions and refrigerators didn’t pay much attention to these books, otherwise they would not have left these products so open to being hacked. Come for the sci-fi stay the course of the books for the underlying ideas. More book reviews here.