Techno-Thriller vs Sci-Fi: What’s the Difference?

New York Times bestselling author Blake Crouch excitedly told one writer that, “The techno-thriller will become the genre of the 21st Century.” He might not be wrong; techno-thrillers are thriving and selling well around the world, but they’re often mistakenly categorized as different genres. It’s not uncommon for readers, or even literary agents, to classify techno-thriller novels as other genres.

Distinctions Between Science Fiction and Techno-thrillers

Both of these genres have several similar characteristics and it can be easy to mistake one for the other. And in-fact some books can be both genres at once. To distinguish a techno-thriller from a sci-fi novel, look for these attributes:

  • A techno-thriller novel is fast-paced and full of action.
  • There’s a significant amount of danger. Solving the crisis in a techno-thriller is often a life-or-death scenario, or the entire world may be in peril.
  • Techno-thrillers often present a clear, known villain to the reader, whereas science fiction may not have villain or my read more like a mystery novel in which characters are trying to figure out what or who is causing the conflict.
  • In science fiction, technology might be light-years ahead of our time. Techno-thrillers tend to take place in the near future and have technology that is just slightly more advanced than present day.
  • Techno-thrillers keep significant technological advances a secret from the general public. The information might be limited to individuals in the government or secret organizations.

Elements of Techno-thrillers

Techno-thrillers are really a hybrid genre that combines elements from science fiction, spy fiction, thrillers, and war and action novels. The aspect that makes them stand out from other genres is that they include highly detailed descriptions of the technology and scientific processes in the novel. Instead of glossing over technicalities and skipping right to the action, authors of techno-thrillers help readers understand exactly what the characters are doing and why.

Authors of techno-thrillers tend to be passionate about a particular area of study, or even have expertise in a certain field. For example, Dale Brown, the author of over a dozen bestselling military technothrillers, bases his novels on his own experiences in the Air Force. Author Michael Crichton earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and went on to write chilling techno-thrillers, such as Micro and Next, that have elements of medical fiction. Writers of techno-thrillers create passion-fueled and scientifically accurate novels that usually depict fictional (even plausible) near-future fiction.

Techno-thrillers may be set either in present times or in the near future, where certain technologies exist that haven’t been perfected or invented yet. A common plot in techno-thrillers involves the creation of a new weapon, anti-aging drug, medical injection, mind control or invention that threatens the environment or humanity, and the protagonists must stop a villain from obtaining the technology. Techno-thrillers may also feed on readers’ fears of the unknown and describe science that leads to lasting damage or the results of science being misused.

Techno-thriller Author Recommendations

Interested in the techno-thriller genre but don’t know where to begin? Start with the thrilling books from these three highly talented and influential authors!

Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton, the author behind world-famous works including Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, has enthralled readers with his exciting techno thriller novel, State of Fear. This story begins when eco-terrorists start plotting ways to cause dangerous weather-related natural disasters in countries around the globe. Environmental lawyer Peter Evans and his colleagues must try to stop the eco-terrorism before the world is irreversibly changed for the worse.

Andy Weir

If you have a passion for space and engineering but still want a book that can make you laugh out loud, Weir delivers in his well-loved novel, The Martian. A team of astronauts lands on Mars to collect samples and run experiments, but a severe storm cuts their plans short. As they race back to their spacecraft, protagonist Mark Watney gets separated from the others and gets knocked out from the flying debris. His team assumes he tragically died, so when Mark wakes up, he finds himself alone on the planet with no way to contact anyone. With an undying sense of humor, ingenuity, and impressive botany skills, he becomes determined to survive. (If you’ve already read The Martian, we highly recommend Weir’s lesser-known novel, Artemis!)

Ellison Cooper

In Ellison Cooper’s dark techno-thriller Caged, FBI neuroscientist Sayer Altair researches the brains of killers and dangerous criminals, but an especially gory and high-profile murder puts her in the spotlight in Washington, D.C. While dealing with personal struggles and mounting pressure from the authorities, Sayer races to find the killer and save a young girl who she believes will become his second victim. Will she be able to stop the murderer before it’s too late?

Where to Find Free Kindle Technothrillers

To find more free techno thrillers to download, check out Amazon’s list of free technothrillers on Kindle books, or see this free books page which contains links to all genres of free books on Amazon.

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