I read this maybe about a decade ago (mid 2010s) but it could easily be older. Not too old, though because in my memory it has a post-cyberpunk vibe. (Poor people appropriating tech for their own ends, but not as tech-focused.)

The protagonist lives in a tent pitched outside a skyscraper. The protagonist is a skilled, but careful, climber, and descriptions of the characters' tents/bivouacs and movements tend to mention the number of points of attachment, the secureness of a position, etc.

The tower itself is sealed to those living outside, though there is some potential danger of being chased by tower security. Many floors above the altitude they live at, however, there are balconies that are potentially accessible though the security there is far greater.

For some reason the protagonist decides to steal fruit from a tree on one of the balconies for another (older) woman who also lives on the outside of the tower; this misadventure kicks the plot into motion.

I don't think it was a novel, but it might have been a longer piece of short fiction, either a novelette or a novella.

  • Could it be "Farewell Horizontal" (scifi.stackexchange.com/q/96982/28516) At least the part about living outside the building matches. Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:26
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    @OrganicMarble I browsed through the reviews on Goodreads and they talk about automated systems (boot wires, special belts) to keep people tied to the building, even vehicles that can traverse the outside. This is not that book; climbing is a manual skill and people can die if they don't tie off properly.
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:39
  • Possibly one of the stories from Flynn's "Nanotech Chronicles". Do you remember a graffiti/street are component to the story? Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:51

1 Answer 1


Peaches for Mad Molly by Steven Gould

As for this story, some time in the Earth’s future, it is presumed, many (if not most) of the planet’s inhabitants live in apartment buildings two kilometers tall. Some who do not, and there are a few, live on the outside of the buildings, much like the homeless people of today live on sidewalks under bridges.

Some do so by choice, however, either for a sense of independence or the thrill of adventure. Such a one is the unnamed narrator of this story, a man who climbs up and down the outside of the building using ropes and grapples and with a whole lot of flair. On the occasion of Mad Molly’s birthday, he decides to surprise her by going down and fetching her some fresh peaches. It means, however, crossing the floor 520 to 530, claimed by the Howlers as their territory.

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    That's gotta be it. It sounded familiar, because it's in one of the Wollheim year's best. Nice! Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:53
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    This title I somehow remembered off the top of my head
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 17:54
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    Peaches! If I'd remembered that I would definitely have found it! I was picking up older copies of Dozois' Year's Best series (the first one I bought new was 11) around 2010-2012, so I probably read this in #6. I have the copy of Analog this first ran in, but I'm sure I was too focused on the conclusion of Falling Free to pay much attention to it.
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 18:04
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    Note that this summary is incorrect (and my remembrance correct) in that the peaches are up (floor 752) from where the protagonist lives (low 600s). The Howlers are down, but that's a different aspect of the story.
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 18:17
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    I'll look for a better review or I'll quote the story, later this weekend
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 18:33

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