The book is set in a world where there are tribes that connect across national borders. National borders don't actually mean much. "Tribes" have superseded them. Each tribe has their own set of laws and rules, governing bodies, benefits, maybe even currencies.

Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?

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    Hi haozan, welcome to the site! You may want to take the tour. Do you remember when/ how long ago you read this book?
    – Raj
    Jun 25, 2020 at 18:32
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    What level of technology did the tribes have? Steam engines? Telephones? Modern computers? Futuristic technology that we don't even have yet in the year 2020?
    – Lorendiac
    Jun 25, 2020 at 18:33
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    Why does the title say "novel, book, comic series"? Which one was this work?
    – jwodder
    Jun 25, 2020 at 18:52
  • I believe they had very advanced technology. I don't quite remember though. I read about it over a decade ago and it's creeped back into my thoughts every now and then.
    – haozan
    Jun 25, 2020 at 20:45
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    hi @haozan - welcome to the site and thanks for the great question, about a very famous book!
    – Fattie
    Jun 26, 2020 at 14:24

5 Answers 5


Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age matches the description.

Then the constable turned to Bud and said, very fast: "Are you a member of any signatory tribe, phyle, registered diaspora, franchise-organized quasi-national entity, sovereign polity, or any other form of dynamic security collective claiming status under the CEP?"

Each tribe is self-governing, with the Common Economic Protocol governing interactions between different tribes. Currencies are also commonly implemented as ucus (Universal Currency Units). But laws and rules, governance, and benefits will vary widely from one tribe to another.

Diamond Age Cover Art

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    This sounds very much like what I remember. Thank you!
    – haozan
    Jun 25, 2020 at 20:46
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    It's probably also worth noting that The Diamond Age's phyles are derived from the Burbclaves (suburban enclaves) in Stephenson's earlier book Snow Crash. TDA fits the question better, but SC could also be it.
    – Graham
    Jun 26, 2020 at 7:14
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    Some similar notes were struck in Vernor Vinge's The Ungoverned, available at baen.com/Chapters/1416520724/1416520724___4.htm "Al's Protection Racket operated out of Manhattan, Kansas. Despite the name, it was a small, insurance-oriented police service with about 20,000 customers, all within 100 kilometers of the main ship." Jun 26, 2020 at 20:38

Not much to go on, but I'll suggest Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series. In it, nations have become irrelevant and people instead voluntarily belong to "Hives", which are philosophies/clubs. The Hives could be what you're remembering as "Tribes".

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    This sounds amazing. Added to my reading list! I don't think it's the one because I read about it over a decade ago.
    – haozan
    Jun 25, 2020 at 22:49

In Distraction by Bruce Sterling many people have dropped out of traditional society and joined nomadic groups such as the "Regulators" and "Moderators". These groups organise themselves through reputation scores gained on distributed social media. Their protocols are incompatible, which has led to fights over resources between the groups, sometimes verging on open warfare.


It could also be Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe, though I don't recall the Tribes in that book having their own official governing bodies or currencies. In the novel, the "tribes" are based on time zones, with tribe members living their lives as if they're in that time zone no matter where they actually are in the world.


Since this doesn't have an accepted answer, I'll add another possibility: "To Hie From Far Cilenia" (2008) by Karl Schroeder. It's a novella, not a full novel, but it was published as part of the collection METAtropolis (2008, John Scalzi ed.) which contains stories linked by a shared background, so it's possible you recall this as novel.

The story takes place in the near future where everybody habitually uses Augmented Reality (AR). The physical world is still the same (maybe a bit more run down, since most people are looking at rendered overlays of everything), so countries still exist. But AR allows people to join societies with other people with the same outlook, and most people feel a stronger attachment to their community than the place they physically reside. (Some of the communities are radically diverged from the baseline.)

Many of the overlays are public, and people can download and run, say, a steampunk overlay, so that everyone they see is in Victorian clothes, cars are steam-powered, glass buildings are made of brick, etc. These ones can be sampled by anyone, and are relatively harmless.

But over the course of the story the protagonist (Gennady) digs deeper into hidden communities. They exist alongside everyone else, but all their communications are encrypted, their purposes, mediums of exchange, and sometimes even their language are all unknown. The only way to join one is to be invited and provided with hardware that is loaded with the correct keys to access the common overlay.

One take-away is that nobody knows how many of these communities there are, who might belong to them, and what their purposes and goals might be. (It has already been established that some of these goals are not harmless or peacefully intended.)

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