@1healigan chose two books -
Reamde by Neal Stephenson:
This was geek, action & mythic journey all in one book. Characters I loved included a 6' 2" Chinese gamer and hacker named Marlon, a tiny Chinese big foot woman, a British-Chinese MI6 agent by default, a beautiful African adoptee magma flow scientist, a hairy Hungarian mob techie, drug smuggler turned game entrepreneur, American assassin, a chivalrous Russian hitman, an autistic Seattle programmer and gun enthusiast, Russian mobster gone crazy (?), and a charming jihadist truly worthy of a Bond movie (Abdallah Jones? really?)....a rollicking ride through a world I know nothing about. Very satisfying.
The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi:
I loved this book. Was it cynical, dystopian, fatalistic? Of course. But Bacigalupi's new Garden of Eden was gorgeous, and troubling and absolutely absorbing. An extra bonus? A new Eve.