Fiction for Engineers Take 2

After last week’s post turned into a Bujold-fangirling session, I thought I’d get on with a few more recommendations for engineers.

Codex Alera by Jim Butcher


The first book in this series was written as a bet – the author promised to write a book based on the worst two story concepts an internet troll could come up with, which turned out to be ‘Pokémon’ and ‘the Lost Roman Legion’. (This tells me that internet trolls were much less creatively awful at the turn of the millenium.)

It’s a lot of fun and the protagonist basically reinvents military engineering from scratch, only with magic powers thrown into the mix.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett


Every single one of Terry Pratchett’s books is amazing (ok, so the earlier ones aren’t nearly so sophisticated or character-driven as the later ones) and I love the Discworld series to distraction and, if you ask me, the witches are actually a good model for what engineers should try to be (even if sometimes we’re more like the wizards)…

[Deep breath]

Yes. Anyway. Raising Steam is explicitly about engineers, our responsibilities to the public, and how:

here is the new thing and here it is. And yesterday you never thought about it and after today you don’t know what you would do without it. That was what the technology was doing. It was your slave but, in a sense, it might be the other way round.

The Late Scholar by Dorothy L Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh


This is actually the last book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L Sayers (continued by Ms Walsh after her death). I love these books. They are funny, clever, and true-to-life (in that totally unrealistic manner of the best fiction). The protagonist(s) display curiosity, courage, creativity and conscientiousness – traits I’d hope that all engineers aspire to.

But the books are also about a detective and a novelist, so I had to come up with an excuse to include them. Luckily the last novel has the following quote:

‘Thank God for a subject like mine where there are right and wrong answers investigated by objective research.’
‘Your subject is?’ asked Harriet.
‘Engineering,’ said Gervase. ‘If you build a bridge and it falls over you can’t attribute personal malice to the universe.’

What other books should I read that feature engineers or an engineering attitude?


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