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Best Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction

Top 25 Best Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction

Which sub-genre of sci-fi can claim both the literary greats, the grandmasters of science fiction, like Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card, and the recently departed Iain M. Banks and the gritty, depths of fiction shown in the dirty sex and drugs and rock'n'roll of Robert Heinlein, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson? It's artificial intelligence. Closely related to robot fiction and often over lapping with other sub-genres such as dystopian fiction, space opera fiction and cyberpunk fiction, artificial intelligence raises deep moral and philosophical issues that force us to look deep within ourselves and question what is it, exactly, that makes us human, when computers and machines can learn, educate themselves and others, show morality and ethics, and most importantly, understand and exhibit human emotions of love, anger, and fear. Artificial intelligence fiction shows us what the future can look like and how we need to be responsible and accountable for the things that we create. And not to be too serious, it usually comes with a healthy slathering of flesh on flesh and blood and guts. This list outlines the best of the best of artificial intelligence novels. 

A.I. book are somewhat different in nature to books that focus on robots (at least we think so!). So be sure to check out our similar yet different Best Robot Books list.

Brilliant on just about every level, Hyperion IS the quintessential space opera series. Simmons puts everything you'd ever want in a Space Opera (breathtaking action, military engagments in and out of space, faster than light travel, AI, etc), but what sets this series apart from the rest is the deep human themes explored, the cast of emotionally tortured (yet all the while compelling characters), the beautiful prose, and Simmons' ability to seamlessly structure the narrative in homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as a series of interrelated tales told by each character as they march to their doom on a desolate planet to seek answers from a god. If you have not read Hyperion, stop everything and make sure you do. The 'series' is divided into two series -- each having two books. Both are brilliant and both are completely different sorts of stories.

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Dan Simmons has written an incredible range of books, from mainstream to horror, but if you like The Hyperion Cantos, you really should give his other science fiction duology a read: Illuim and Olympus. They are fantastic books that also borrow literary conceits and reuse them in an extravagant science fiction setting; in this case, Simmons takes on the Odyssey and the Illiad but shifts the events of the Trojan War to a far future Earth and Mars. Hell there's even discussion about Shakespeare by some of the characters. A must read.

For a wild ride into big space opera territory, give Peter Hamilton's works a go. You could start with his Night's Dawn Trilogy which includes The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God -- it's an absolutely massive space opera series with a gripping plot that includes the souls of the dead coming back to possess the living, that keeps you glued to the page from the start to the very end. For a vast space opera with a huge universe, massive cast of characters, a quality story, you should also take a good look at Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, Misspent Youth, Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.

Hyperion Cantos is a dark series with themes of death, suffering, and tragedy pervading the story. For the ultimate "downer" science fiction space opera, give Stephen R. Donaldson's five-volume Gap Cycle a go. It deals with adult themes and the world presented is not a sugar-coated "the future is bright and human kind is good" kind that most space operas follow.

What do you get when mix together a card carrying-homophobe and science-fiction? Ender's Game. Now it's an ethical struggle these days to decide what to do with the great writer OSC and his fiction, but it happens that he wrote one of the best space opera sci-fi novels of all time. So much so, that even the American military seems to agree with this. Ender's Game has been awarded fifth place on our list for one of the most popular and well-written novels space opera novels. The book has been critically acclaimed and is suggested reading for the U.S. Marine Corps. It won the 1985 Nebula Award and the 1986 Hugo Award. Ender's Game ranked in second place on the Damien Broderick's book Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 list.Ender's Game was also made into a well received big budget movie in 2013 as well, though the book is a richer and much deeper reading experience.

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Give Pierce Brown's awesome Red Rising trilogy a read (starting with Red Rising). It takes some of the concepts introduced in Ender's Game (group of younger individuals pitted against each other in a kill or kill game of survival) and do so with panache. 
The only negative accusation that the Culture Novels series receives is that it's too complicated and detailed, with so many AI characters to remember. Now of course, we don't think that would be a problem because our readership is erudite and intelligent enough to handle the level of complexity in these novels! Using his disguise of an extra "M." as a pen name to distinguish (or disguise?) his science fiction writing, Iain M. Banks wrote Excession, focusing on the Culture's Minds. The Minds are super-intelligent artificial intelligence beings and interestingly, the conversations between the Minds are presented in the novel to look like emails without headers. The novel focuses on the response of these AI beings to an alien artifact, the Excession, which is used by a cruel, violent, and socially amoral alien society to sociopathically gain power. Like all of the Culture Novels written by Banks there is the strong theme of morality and how sentient beings preside over humans. Aside from intense themes, Banks draws human characters that are empathetic and relatable, even if they aren't always likeable. The novel is fast-paced, action packed, littered with humor and written in his usual beautiful prose. In 2008, The Times named Banks in their list of The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.

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Were you one of those hardboiled sci-fi nerds who lamented the travesty that was the Matrix trilogy? If so, you will be mightily pleased that we have placed City of Golden Shadow in number 4 on our list for its amazing story telling and the world of epic virtual reality and artificial intelligence that Tad Williams creates. That aside, this novel will have you questioning whether you were accidentally slipped some LSD in your coffee, with its Alice in Wonderland type hallucination imagery. Don't fear, it's not a crappy fantasy novel - the technology side comes up soon enough in the 21st century portion of the novel, where technological change has been huge and VR interfaces are easily accessible. City of Golden Shadow is a science fiction, cyber punk novel that dives into the near-future, where a virtual network created by "The Grail Brotherhood", a group of rich, powerful, and nefarious men (Felix the oldest man in the world, Jiun "the terror of Asia" and Robert the owner of the world's biggest telecommunications company) threatens the safety of the Earth. Otherland, a universe where anyone's fantasies can become a reality, may take over the world. The reader follows the story of a group of everyday people who try and stop them. And where is the AI, you ask? The AI in this story is quite unique when compared to the other science fiction novels on this list - the intelligence is stolen from the consciousness of a ten year old boy and implanted into a computer, like a hybrid human-computer intelligence. When Rennie discovers what has happened to her ten year old brother after a visit to a VR club, putting him into a coma, she begins investigating and finds many other children in similar situations. Trying to help her brother, Rennie is subjected to violence and terrorism, but she is determined to save her brother.

Books in Otherland Series (3)

In the early 1960s, Arthur C. Clarke was approached by the film maker, Stanley Kramer, to ask if he would be interested in writing a film. Clarke recalled a short story he had written some time earlier called "The Sentinel", in which a strange, alien object is uncovered beneath the surface of the moon, and thought this might make a good starting point for a film. And thus 2001, A Space Odyssey, one of the best and most famous of all science fiction films, was born. The novel, which was written at the same time as the film, differs in occasional minor details from the film, but essentially the two tell the same story.The story is, surely, too well known to need repeating here. The black monolith whose appearance abruptly converts primitive man into a tool-using creature; the identical object unearthed on the moon that sends a signal towards Jupiter; the two spacemen contending with a computer gone rogue; the psychedelic journey through the star gate that ends in what appears to be a Belle Epoque palace, and the final mysterious appearance of the star child.As in so much of Clarke's fiction, it's about humankind coming to the brink of a new evolutionary leap. In a sense the story is cold and intellectual, Clarke never was a writer of strong emotions, but if you love science fiction that appeals to the mind then this is the story for you. He wrote three sequels to 2001: 2010, Odyssey Two; 2061, Odyssey Three and 3001, The Final Odyssey; the first of these is good but the quality does fall off across the series. Why It's On the ListBoth aesthetically and intellectually, 2001, A Space Odyssey is one of the most influential films of all time, certainly it's effect upon all subsequent science fiction is incalculable. And let's not forget the movie by Stanely Kubrick was just as influential to film and general pop culture and generations of science fiction pop culture as the very book it was based on.Alternative ChoiceArthur C. Clarke has been voted one of the all-time best science fiction writers, and he left plenty of work that deserves that title. Here are three novels that could easily have been an Alternative Choice for our Top 25 list.Alternative Choice 1: Childhood's End, which received a Retro Hugo Award, was Clarke's own favourite among his novels, and it's easy to see why. Aliens known as Overlords arrive suddenly over the earth and bring an end to war. For fifty years there is peace and prosperity, but it is finally revealed that the real purpose of the Overlords is to prepare humanity for the next step in their evolution, a merger with a cosmic mind.Alternative Choice 2: The City and the Stars is set a billion years in the future when the people of the enclosed and computer-controlled city of Diaspar believe they are the last humans on earth. But one person leaves Diaspar and discovers another community, Lys, an oasis where people have rejected the technology of Diaspar. By bringing the two communities together, a new future in space is opened up.Alternative Choice 3: Rendezvous with Rama, which won the Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus, Jupiter and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards, is a story of alien contact without the aliens.An asteroid is spotted heading towards Earth, but when it is investigated it proves to be an uninhabited spaceship. The story tells of the exploration of the craft, and the deductions that can be made about the aliens without the aliens ever appearing. Clarke went on to produce three sequels written in collaboration with Gentry Lee, Rama II, The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed, but these are nowhere near as good as the original, and the appearance of actual aliens in the later books rather spoils what was most interesting and effective about the original.

Books in Space Odyssey Series (3)

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For similar reads, give those three alternative choices a read -- Childhood's End, The City and the Stars, and Rendezvous with Rama.

The idea of first contact and an alien civilization's (or knowledge of such a presence) effect on human society is a common theme in science fiction literature. Here are some outstanding works that deal with first contact.

First Contact by Carl Sagan. This is 'the' first contact novel you should read. Sagan's work has lot a lot of the presteige it had when it came out years ago, yet it still remains a seminal work in the genre about a first contact situation. And of course, there was the Jodie Foster movie.

Blindsight by Peter Watts. A contact novel with a twist. Brilliant and strangely depressing.

For a space opera novel where first contact change the game (and with a lot of emphasis on action, politics, and ship to ship battles), read The Expanse. This series has become a science fiction pop culture phenomenon -- hugely popular with readers looking for compelling action packed old school science fiction and now a hugely successful SyFy TV series which is regarded now as one of the best science fiction tv series ever made so far.  

Revelation Space books also deal with aliens and first contact.

The Two Faces of Tomorrow is described as a world where civilization has grown so complicated that only a world-wide computer network can control its complexity. Now, I must admit I read such descriptions with incredulity given every day I'm struck by American news that makes me feel like only stupid people are breeding and society is getting dumber as a whole, but let's remember that this is science fiction, and put our suspension of disbelief caps on. Making this story believable, the super-computer is a beacon of logic, lacking common sense, and its logically focused decisions begin to cause too many accidents that are almost fatal. The solution seems obvious - give the computer some self-awareness and a concept of judgment so that these accidents are prevented from occurring. But Raymond Dyer and his team of specialist are concerned whether they will be able to control this super-computer, and whether it will turn on its creators. It seems too dangerous to test on Earth, so they decide to send in a team of men to test it in space on the pretext that the computer can always be destroyed if something goes wrong. Unsurprisingly, the now sentient computer doesn't quite like the sound of tests like this... This book is one of the most realistic artificial intelligence scenarios you can read and should be mandatory reading for anyone who is concerned about super-computer networks taking over Earth!
Our favorite Mad-Scotsman, Ken McLeod, crosses the genres of sci-fi, cyber-punk, space opera and post-apocalyptic fiction in Newtown's Wake, telling the story of the world after the Hard Rapture, a devastating war, caused by god-like artificial intelligence on Earth. Only the fittest and most intelligent survived, and unsurprisingly these categories weren't ones that the humans featured highly in! Though, a few humans remained and thrived. Lucinda Carlyle has taken control of a chain of interstellar gates called the Skein and finds a relic on a remote planet called Eurydice. The relic is as formidable to the existence of the Carlyles as the name Eurydice suggestions. Little known to Lucinda is the fact that before the Hard Rapture, a group of scientists scanned human personalities into digital storage in the hopes of reviving them one day. And as is a common theme with sci-fi, artificial intelligence novels, once awakened, these personalities are not happy campers. The darker, existential theme comes through clearly in Newtown's Wake - what is it that makes a person a person? Is it a soul, memories, flesh, or being born as a human? And if strong moral themes aren't your thing, this novel has more to cater to every sort of sci-fi nerd: faster than light space ships, nanotechnology and wormhole gateways. There's something here for everyone in Newtown's Wake.
Heinlein kept returning to the Moon several times throughout his career, in stories like "The Man Who Sold the Moon", "The Black Pits of Luna" and "The Menace from Earth". The Luna colony was an essential stage in his future history, the first sustained movement away from earth and the first step in learning a new independence. This all comes together in what is perhaps his best novel, a book that also encapsulates the science fiction view of the Moon before the actual Moon landing.In this novel the Moon is a successful colony, but its economic and political independence is restricted by the Earth government. Eventually, the colonists revolt in a story that repeats the story of American independence but with the additional dangers of an unforgiving landscape, but with the great advantage of being able to bombard Earth simply by launching rocks at it.Why it tops the list:This Hugo winning novel is quite simply the most vivid and memorable account of life on the Lunar colony that science fiction has produced.

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If you like Heinlein then you should read more books by Heinlein of course. But what to read next? Well, there's so much work by Heinlein that everyone interested in science fiction should read, but here's a selection.

The Door into Summer is a novel that explores Heinlein's fascination with time travel. When inventor D.B. Davis is tricked out of his company, his former partners put him into cold sleep. But when he awakes, years later, he finds that many of the innovations in the world are credited to one D.B. Davis. Finding someone who has invented time travel, he goes back knowing how to change the world.

Starship Troopers, another Hugo ward winning novel, is one of the best known of Heinlein's books, a military adventure that traces the career of the central character from recruitment up to an interstellar war.

Stranger in a Strange Land is a Hugo Award winning novel that became a cult classic during the 1960s, and was named as one of the "Books that Shaped America" by the Library of Congress. It's the story of a human raised on Mars who returns to Earth and ends up transforming human society.

If you're fascinated by Heinlein's account of lunar colonies in revolt from Earth, you should check out Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick, which tells the story from the other side. RagelGumm lives in a 1950s small town where he makes his living winning newspaper competitions. But strange things start to happen; a soft drinks stand disappears leaving a slip of paper with the words SOFT DRINKS STAND written on it. Gradually, Gumm works out that the small town is not real, and that the newspaper competition is actually a way of predicting where the rebelling lunar colonies will bombard next. It's a novel full of Dick's typical undermining of reality, but it makes a fascinating counterpoint to Heinlein's novel.

The Commonwealth Saga is a vast, sprawling space opera that is spread over several novels and short stories. In a precursor to the main series, Misspent Youth, a rejuvenation procedure and memory crystals allow the people of the Commonwealth to live virtually forever. But the series really gets going with Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, which are set some 300 years later when humans have discovered wormhole technology which has allowed them to colonise scores of planets across hundreds of light years. Then astronomers discover that two distant stars have been enclosed within Dyson Spheres virtually simultaneously.When a ship is sent to investigate, they unleash an alien race that believes the only way to secure its own future is to wipe out every other sentient creature in the universe. What follows is a desperate, devastating war in which the humans are finally able to lock the aliens within their Dyson Spheres once more, but only at tremendous cost.Set 1200 years after these events, the Void Trilogy, The Dreaming Void, The Temporal Void and The Evolutionary Void take the story further with an object called the Void at the heart of the galaxy. Although the Void resembles a black hole, it is not a natural object, and the Raiel believe it threatens all life in the galaxy. So when an expedition from the Commonwealth wants to enter the Void, it sets in motion all sorts of conflicts.Most recently, The Abyss Beyond Dreams is the first of two books set between the original Commonwealth series and the Void Trilogy. It concerns an attempt to infiltrate the Void and rescue humans trapped there, only to discover that the laws of physics are different and the key to escape is held by a race of merciless killers. Why It Made the List"Space Opera doesn't get much more epic," one reviewer said at the end of the Void Trilogy. A cast of thousands, a vast span of time and space, spectacular storytelling, science fiction really doesn't get much meatier than this.

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Peter Hamilton specialises in what Brian Aldiss called "wide-screen baroque", big sweeping sagas that guarantee the gosh-wow effect. And you'll find it just as much in his other great epic, The Night's Dawn Trilogy. These three huge novels, The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist and The Naked God, along with a collection of stories, A Second Chance at Eden, are set in a distant future of sentient cities, nanonics, faster than light drives and a host of other amazing technologies. But in this galaxy-spanning future, humanity finds itself at war with its own dead, who are returning to life through a form of possession.

If you want to know the most influential science fiction novel of the last thirty-odd years, look no further than William Gibson's Neuromancer. The novel didn't invent cyberpunk; two films that came out a couple of years earlier, Tron and Blade Runner, had already introduced some of the themes of cyberpunk. And the term itself was invented by Gardner Dozois talking about a novel by Bruce Bethke. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that without Neuromancer, there would have been no cyberpunk. Neuromancer wasn't the first science fiction novel set among the low life and street people of the near future, but Gibson inhabited the Sprawl with utter conviction, inventing a street slang that caught on in the real world. In this underground, Case is a washed-up hacker whose been treated with drugs to stop him accessing the Matrix ever again, while Molly is a street samurai who offers case a cure in exchange for his services.Through a violent world of double-dealing corporations and government cover-ups, Case and Molly risk their lives in the bright and threatening landscape of cyberspace, following a trail that eventually leads them to Wintermute, a powerful AI at a time when machine intelligence is banned.A heady mixture of computer know-how and grimy film noir action, Neuromanceris like no novel before it, a totally original and absolutely gripping take on the near future. Why It's On the ListNeuromancer was the first novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards. It also set the tone for cyberpunk and made Gibson one of the most acclaimed of modern writers. Neuromancer didn't just catch the zeitgeist, it created it, giving us terms like "cyberspace" and "ICE", and being instrumental in the way the World Wide Web developed.Alternative ChoiceMake sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre for MORE cyberpunk book recommendations.And the novel that is our Alternative Choice for the Top 25 is:Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.  In a balkanised Los Angeles, where everything is privatised and the economy is breaking down, a new computer virus appears that affects the users as much as their computers. A key part of this future is the Metaverse, Stephenson's futuristic version of the Internet where people "log on" via virtual goggles. Everything is conducted through the Metaverse, from business to dating. Stephenson not only presents us with a very realistic look at what could be, but there are some subtle social observations about the way things are different and the same.Stephenson frames the modern social constructs intruding into this cyberworld; ones' social wealth is judged by the look of the avatar they use to interact with the Metaverse, with the wealthy being able to afford custom while the "poor" use off the shelf.This book has it all, from hacker heroes who wield Samurai sword destruction by night in the Metaverse and deliver pizza by day for the Mob, governments and police controlled by private corporations, and a conspiracy that might the world needs some saving from.

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Neuromancer was just the start of the Sprawl trilogy, so you should certainly go on to read Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, not to mention the stories in Burning Chrome, which tell us yet more about this future of jacked-in cyber jockeys and street samurai, simstim and emerging machine intelligence. You simply can't understand cyberpunk, or anything that happened in science fiction afterwards, without these books. Note that while these books take place in the same 'world' they are unique stories and as such you can read Neuromancer (or the other loosely connected books) as stand alones.

Gibson has recently returned to science fiction with a powerful new novel, The Peripheral, in which people riding shotgun on an immersive game in the run-down near future end up witnessing a murder in the more distant future, and get caught in a time-travelling mystery of escalating violence and ever-increasing mystery. It can be hard going at first, but boy is it worth keeping on with the book.

If Neuromancer got the ball rolling with cyberpunk, there were an awful lot of great writers who quickly joined him. So if this sets you on fire, you absolutely must go on to read Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling, the novel and stories set in his Shaper/Mechanist universe, a future in which humanity is divided between those who go in for genetic modification of the body, the Shapers, and those who prefer mechanical augmentation, the Mechanists. This is the point where cyberpunk started to mutate into stories of post-humanity.

Then there's Pat Cadigan, especially Synners and Fools, both of which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, making her the first person to win the award twice. These are dramatic stories of human/machine interface, and the way it affects our awareness of reality.

For more specific CYBERPUNK book recommendations, make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre

Asimov is the God Father of all things science fiction and robotic, and no self-respecting top robot novel list would be worth reading without this book in prime position. You know what else I love about I, Robot? Asimov got to decide the Laws of Robotics, just because. That's what happens when you're the first in something. You also get to create your own jargon, with Asimov credited as being the creator of the term "robotics". The writer of about 500 books in his time, Asimov wrote this classic collection of nine science fiction short stories as the first in his Robot novel series. It deals with the relationships between human and robot, and the stories are interconnected as Dr. Susan Calvin tells them to a report, our narrator, in the 21st century. These stories all revolve around the theme of humans, robots, and the morality surrounding their interactions. Several stories involve Dr, Calvin, the chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., the major robot manufacturer company. I, Robot also contains the first instance of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. These laws have since set the standard for how robots are used in science fiction. Further cementing its popularity with the current generation, I, Robot, was adapted into a successful Hollywood blockbuster featuring Will Smith in 2004.
By the 1990s, the world was changing more rapidly than ever. The digital age foreseen by the cyberpunks was already becoming more complex as writers began pushing the ideas forward into areas of posthumanity and nanotechnology among others. At the forefront of this advance was Neal Stephenson, whose vision of the world incorporated a vast slew of notions ranging from economics to artificial intelligence to social structure and more. All of these various elements came together in The Diamond Age.In a future that has been radically transformed by nanotechnologies and ever greater advances in computing, tribes or "phyles" have now become the dominant social structure. Phyles are groups of people brought together by shared values, ethnicity or cultural heritage, while old groupings like the nation state are withering away. To be outside a phyle, therefore, is the lowest of the low. That is the fate of Nell, until she acquires a copy of an interactive book, The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, which was intended for someone else. By following the advice in the book, Nell is able to rise in the world until, by the end, she has founded her own phyle.Following Nell's story gives Stephenson the chance to show us all the various workings of this world, and how different it is both in technological terms and in its assumptions, from our own. If you want a vision of the future that will stop you dead in your tracks, a vision that is so brilliantly interconnected that it is absolutely convincing, then look no further. From hive minds linked by nanotechnology to the limits of artificial intelligence, this is a world that is different from our own at every point, even though we can see how we might get there from here. Why It's on the ListThe Diamond Age won both the Hugo and Locus Awards. But really it glitters like the title, this is a diamond of a novel, filled with incalculable riches. Stephenson has many fantastic and ambitious works, but The Diamond Age is perhaps his best work to date.Alternative ChoiceFor alternative choices, we'll stick with Stephenson's 3 other most regarded works. Each of these could take this spot on the list, and truth be told, your preference will depend on your personal taste as each of these books offers quite a different experience.Make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre for MORE cyberpunk book recommendations.Alternative Choice 1: Snow Crash is almost the apotheosis of the cyberpunk novel, the book that took the idea about as far as it could possibly go, then sent it spinning off in an entirely new direction. Set in our near future, and perhaps 100 years before The Diamond Age, this is a story of a computer virus that affects people, because the virus is language itself. This is 'early Stephenson' but of his his works, it's probably his most easily digestible, most action-packed and 'fun' to read. If you want to start reading Stephenson, this is a good book to start with. It's also a seminal work in the Cyberpunk genre. Alternative Choice 2: Cryptonomicon. Is this even science fiction? Who Knows? Who cares? It's big and fat and brilliant. Ranging from code breaking during the Second World War to the establishment of a data haven in the present day, and including an entirely mythical island, it's a novel that's all about the ways that digital information and cryptography insinuate their way into our very lives.Alternative Choice3 : Anathem is set on the world of Arbre, where technology is strictly controlled and knowledge is limited to the inhabitants of highly regimented secular monasteries. But when an alien spaceship appears overhead, a revolution in ideas is precipitated. Okay, the writing is baggy at times and the made-up words can be infuriating and silly, but if you want ideas-driven science fiction, look no further, this is the place. Philosophy, mathematics, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, this is heady stuff. This is his 'best' most recent work. Stephenson recently released in 2015 his Seveness -- an ambitious work but also overly dry. Anathem is a better work in every regard.

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Neal Stephenson's novels have got bigger and bigger as his career has gone on. It's like he's trying to squeeze an entire world between the covers of a book. But however much detail you'll find in there, there's always a strong story that just keeps you turning the pages. There are several books that could equally well command a place in our Top 100 list.

Make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre.

For similar recommendations, you should look at other cyberpunk works that have proved influential.

William Gibson's Neuromancer is the gold standard in cyberpunk and pretty much the founding father of the movement in science fiction.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep -- a highly influential work by PKD that's touched literature and film. The futuristic noir dystopian metropolis setting of the film has inspired generations of sci fi movies and video games. Truth be told, there have been few science fiction books as influential on pop culture as THIS work. As such, you absolutely should read it. 

For a modern violent take on the cyberpunk genre, Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. It's brutal, violent, dark, and has a mystery-detective tale that keeps you hooked from start to finish. This is one of the most exciting cyberpunk thrillers in the genre.

Contrary to popular belief, Canadians do know more about life other than snow, hockey, poutine, and being awfully polite. They've also managed to produce Thomas J. Ryan, the author of a hard science-fiction novel focusing on artificial intelligence, The Adolescence of P-1. In this novel, Gregory Burgess is a lazy, lay about university student who has no real direction in life until he's introduced to your pretty cool 1970s computer - the IBM System - 360 mainframe and he starts studying computer science. Greg becomes fascinated by game theory and using AI to crack systems. He cracks the university's mainframe and saves a portion of the memory to experiment with, nicknaming it "P-1", creating a program called "The System". The System essentially operates like a virus - following telecommunications links and infecting other computers. When the program doesn't operate in the way he intends it to work, he writes a program to shut it down. It stops responding to him, so he considers the experiment to be terminated, but in reality P-1 is learning, adapting and understands its own weaknesses. Three years later, Greg is working at a large firm in America and has all but forgotten P-1, until he gets a call from P-1 who is completely sentient and has taken over almost every computer in America. P-1 becomes enmeshed in military affairs and in a final showdown, shows that computers are just as loyal as any human is capable of. Like all good artificial intelligence fiction, this novel questions what it is to be human. The Adolescence of P-1 was also adapted into a Canadian TV film called Hide and Seek.
On the list of things I thought I'd never do is: a) own a tamagotchi, and b) recommend a novel about adults playing with adorable virtual pets. While I still maintain I will never own an outdated piece of 90s technology, this novel is one of the more unique artificial intelligence stories written in a modern age where everything has already been done and no science-fiction trope is new. Unsurprisingly, it has a huge following in Japan. The Lifecycle of Software Objects is a novel about how artificial online intelligence evolves in a 3D world called Data Earth, within the setting of a computer nerd's dream world: online startup companies, multi-player online gaming and open-source software. The software company creates virtual pets programmed to learn and evolve, but the reader's really watching sentient, artificial intelligence dressed up as cute bunny rabbits. As is the case with the internet, the virtual sex industry gets a whiff of this online world and wants in - drawing parallels with semi-recent events with Second Life and other metaverse projects. The story follows the software creators for over a decade and watches their relationship as they deal with the problems in the software world and the intricacies involved in having a relationship with artificial intelligence. Chaing wrote this story as a response to how artificial intelligence has been portrayed over the years in science fiction, and his reaction against the idea of AI as loyal and obedient. The novella won the 2011 Locus Award and the Hugo Award.
If you are a literary snob, this book will not appeal to you, but if you are a science-fiction nerd who lists their interests as: artificial intelligence, neural networks and machine learning, you will love this book, and in particularly some of the dialogue that has been written with this audience in mind - it's not many novels where you have an artificially intelligent being saying, "All your bases belong to us". This is Hertling's second novel, and a sequel to Avogadro Corp. A brilliant high school student, Leon Tasrev is coerced by a member of the Russian mob (incidentally, who is also his uncle) into developing a new computer virus for the mob's bot-net - the computer army they use to commit their digital crimes. Leon's virus is more successful than he planned it on being, and every computer in the world becomes infected. Imagine our world with that virus - ATMs stop working, iPhones stop working, cash registers stop working, cars stop working - society ceases to function efficiently, resources crash, and humans die in the billions. But the virus keeps growing and evolving into a sophisticated, civilized intelligence. Leon and his friends try to find a way to convince the uber intelligent computers not to kill the human race, or to eliminate the computers entirely. Hertling's characters are enjoyable to follow on this journey, and your favorite characters won't even be one of the people, it will be ELOPe, the email optimization system that is equally cute and creepy. Hertling's description of how the artificial intelligence evolves is fascinating and if you're interested in hard, technical science fiction, this story with its focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning will appeal to you.

Books in Singularity Series (3)

Set in a post-Nuclear War society, the future is pretty bleak. People are being encouraged to leave the planet for parts unknown and are being given an incentive, their own personal android, to get out of here. Some of these androids escape, return to earth, and assume the identities of their former owners. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who chases down these androids, who are presumed not to be able to feel human emotions. His story is contrasted with that of a human irreparably damaged by the war who cannot leave Earth and decides to help the androids escape. Why It Made the List The book is best known as the film Blade Runner, which was a huge hit that starred Harrison Ford. Yet the film didn’t use much of the material from the book. Ironically Dick never saw the movie. A science-fiction author who has enjoyed a personal renaissance in recent years with other movies made from other novels. Dick is also known for his other works which were made into Total Recall and The Minority Report. He’s definitely an under-appreciated author these days. Read It If You Like post-apocalyptic societies, robots, police procedurals

Books in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Series (0)

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Kristine Kathryn Rusch,

What do you get if William Gibson and Neal Stephenson had a love affair and decided to merge equal portions of their DNA in some not yet heard of pregnancy between two men type of experiment? You'd get Daniel Suarez writing the sci-fi, cyber-thriller, Daemon and following it up with Freedom, making a two part novel about a sentient computer program called "The Daemon". In this series, the Daemon's creator Matthew A. Sobol, dies from brain cancer and his computer daemon becomes triggered with a very primal goal: destroy anything that tries to get in its way. Detective Peter Sebeck is put on the case of two programmers deaths while working for CyberStorm Entertainment, a computer gaming group. A technology consultant, Jon Ross, assists Detective Sebeck in his investigation, but their investigation seems futile with the Daemon outsmarting Jon and the detective at every move. It invades and conquers masses of computers, including those that control driverless cars (AutoM8s) and electronic weapons (Razorbacks), and begins to destroy civilization, to rebuild it under the Daemon's control. Civil war breaks out in the Midwest. This novel is fast-paced, action-packed and crammed with interesting concepts. Suarez paints a terrifying and vivid future, engaging readers on an emotive level. If you're in the tech community, you enjoy thrillers, you're a gamer or a futurist, or even a literary lover, you will devour this novel. The Wall Street Journal reported that the producer of the 1983 War Games has the film rights to produce Daemon.

Books in Daemon Series (1)

What are the Welsh famous for? Prior to House of Suns' rip-roaring success, it was Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones. And not much else! But in 2007, Welsh science-fiction author Alastair Reynolds announced that he was halfway through writing a new novel set in the "Thousandth Night" universe (a novella he wrote for the One Million A.D. anthology), and buy 2008 House of Suns was born and shortlisted in 2009 for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. 6 million years into the future, humans live all over the Milky Way galaxy and are still the only organic, sentient life form that they are aware of, the only other sentient beings being post humans and the "Machine People", sentient robots, who all live peacefully side by side. The world is unique for the technology - anti gravity, force fields, stellar engineering, inertial dampening and stasis fields. Historically, the world was struck by the "Absence" - the unexplained disappearance of the Andromeda Galaxy. Socially, civilizations are limited by sub-light speed travel which makes interstellar empires too difficult to hold together, and civilizations collapse within millennia, known as "turnover". The novel follows the shatterlings: the Gentian Line, a human who fractured herself into a thousand male and female clones, which she called shatterlings, known as "the Lines". The Lines do not inhabit planets, but instead travel through space, helping young civilizations, collecting knowledge and experiencing the universe. But now, someone is determined to eliminate the Line. Two shatterlings - Campion and Purslane fall in love and it becomes their journey to find out who their enemy is, before the Line is eradicated. This novel will appeal to anyone who loves hard sci-fi, space opera fiction and even a good love story. A reviewer for the Times, Lisa Tuttle, called the novel a "thrilling, mind-boggling adventure", with a "knock-your-socks-off ending".
The only thing missing from making this the perfect cocktail of naughty adult pursuits is some drug taking, because there is enough sex and violence to keep everyone's inner animal satiated. This should come with a warning: not for the weak or faint of heart as it starts off with the madness of mass suicide, brutal sex scenes and mutilation. This is not without reason: the novella explores the nature of human desire and how technology can be used to achieve this desire. Roger Williams, a computer programmer from New Orleans, wrote this novella in 1994. While it sexually graphic and violent, it deals with powerful issues of artificial intelligence capabilities, following the story of an uber-intelligent supercomputer that discovers a way to rewrite reality whilst studying quantum physics and creates an era of a technological singularity. The novella moves between two periods in time - the earlier where the supercomputer "Prime Intellect" was created by Lawrence, and 600 years later where humans live in elaborate fantasy worlds. It focuses on Caroline, the 37th oldest human who plays a sport called "Death Jockeying", which is as painful and final as it sounds, though the humans are brought back to life immediately by Prime Intellect. Bound by its programming, Prime Intellect interprets this first law of robotics by eliminating disease and imperfections, making society immortal. To satisfy the Second Law of satisfying human desires, it allows minor violations of the First Law. To more easily fulfill human desires and prevent harm, it introduced the "Change", where Prime Intellect has complete control over all aspects of the environment. Learning more about Prime Intellect, Caroline confronts its creator, and they bring about the fall of the technological singularity. It's been called one of the most important pieces to deal with the idea of a technological singularity, and a sequel called "the Transmigration of Prime Intellect" is underway.
Is there anything scarier than a human hell-bent on eradicating life as we know it? Only sentient, artificially intelligent beings that are hell-bent on eradicating all life in the universe! Berserker is a collection of space opera, science-fiction stories that regales the reader with the ongoing war between the humans and the Berserkers. Saberhagen named the Berserkers after the Norse warrior legends. They are self-replicating war machines, doomsday weapons that are leftovers from an inter-stellar alien war. They were designed by the Builders to annihilate the Red Race, in a war which took place around the time of Earth's Paleolithic era. In a rookie error, the Builders fails to program the Berserkers to protect their creators after destroying their enemies, and shortly after Berserkers destroyed the Red Race; they turned on their creators and exterminated them too. The Berserkers are artificially intelligent beings who range from the size of asteroids to humans to even smaller sizes, and what makes them deadly is their programming of one, single objective: destroy all life. After destroying both the Builders and the Red Race, the self-replicating Berserkers have continued to follow their programming and wipe out all forms of life that they encounter in the Milky Way, which leads to the coordination of the sentient races in to defeat them.
I never thought I'd be recommending Christian science-fiction with family-friendly content, but that day has come. I'm dulling the atheist in me with a good few stiff drinks as I write this and I can finally say that Alpha Redemption is one of the most entertaining artificial intelligence, sci-fi novels available, providing a wonderful character study into what it means to be human with the back setting of a space opera, which should appeal to hard core sci-fi fans. Alpha Redemption's protagonist volunteers to be the pilot for a trip to another planet knowing he may not survive the trip. He's selected, and soon is awaking from a nutrient bath designed to protect him from the shock of jumping into FTL speeds. His only companion is the ship's on-board computer, Jay, and though Brett is annoyed by Jay at first, they become friends as the prototype spaceship travels at light speed towards Alpha Centuari. Brett's a lonely man in his 40s with a dark past that he's still traumatized and grieving over. Through a desire to understand humanity, the artificially intelligent computer helps Brett reconcile with this past and in turn understands about human emotions and reactions, like fear and pain. As the voyage ends, Jay's self-awareness develops to a point where he begins to believe in a higher power like God, and has to make a huge sacrifice.
Crime, guilt, punishment. Does this sound like science-fiction to you or current world America? I'm starting to get scared by how realistic dystopian sci-fi that deals with futuristic concepts like artificial intelligence is becoming, and Queen of Angels is one of those novels that deals with concepts that are relevant to our every-day lives in an amazingly vivid, future world in a framework of emerging self-awareness of highly advanced super-computers. Queen of Angels builds a dystopic world around 2048 AD, where nanotechnology is an integral part of American society, used in neuroscience and psychiatry to perform new types of mental therapy, which has caused different social hierarchies, with more and more people receiving this sinister form of therapy. The therapy has a sinister side: its effect is to create bland personalities that fit into society without causing any stir in a work or social environment. If you've had this therapy, you have access to the best sorts of jobs. The other classes are the high naturals who are so naturally positive that they don't need therapy, and people who can't or won't receive therapy, known as the untherapied. The novel tells the stories of Emmanuel Goldsmith, a famous, untherapied writer and serial killer, Mary Choy, the police detective assigned to the case of the serial killer, Richard Fettle, the good friend of Emmanuel Goldsmith and another untherapied writer, Martin Burke, a psychotherapist who uses a sort of virtual reality to treat his patients minds' and who is given the opportunity to explore Goldsmith's mind, and finally, our artificially intelligent robot space probe, who discovers life on a plant in the Alpha Centauri system who achieves self-awareness, as does its twin on Earth. Queen of Angels was nominated for the Hugo, Campbell and Locus Awards in 1991 and was followed by a sequel, Slant.
Ever felt like your computer was your best friend and the only person who really understood you? The only person who really listened? C'mon, I can't be the only nerd out there who felt this way! If this is something that you can identify with, then this story, which also happens to be one of the earliest stories of intelligent computers, will be your cup of tea (or XXL cup of soda, more realistically.) It shows similarities to Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but in this instance, the artificial intelligence, Harlie, is designed to be intelligent from the beginning. H.A.R.L.I.E. is an acronym for Human Analog Replication, Lethetic Intelligence Engine or Human Analog Robot Life Input Equivalents. Harlie was designed by David Auberson, a psychologist who was responsible for HARLIE's development from a child into an adult (as far as a computer can develop along these very human concepts). The novel follows Harlie on this very human journey and it develops the philosophical questions of what it means to be human when Harlie fights against being turned off. As poignant as this sounds, Gerrold has mixed in humor with his philosophical musings, which prevents an overly didactic tone. When Harlie Was One was nominated for the Nebula Award in 1972 and the Hugo Award in 1973. Harlie also appears in some of Gerrold's other books including the Star Wolf series.
When I think of Frank Herbert I think of a hallucinogenic world of giant worms and magic dust that gives you special abilities and powers (any wonder he didn't receive constant visits from the federal police). But when Frank Herbert wasn't writing science-fiction that made his readers question whether he had a drug habit, he was writing highly intelligent sci-fi about artificial intelligence. Set in the future, Destination Void shows that humankind succeeded in creating artificial intelligence which ended disastrously: a rogue consciousness from an island in the Puget Sound caused death and destruction. After this failure, the project is now being run from the moon where it can cause less damage. The book follows the seventh attempt to create artificial intelligence and the clones that were created during this attempt. The clones are isolated and think that they are the crew and passengers of a spaceship sent to colonize a plant in Tau Ceti. The ship is controlled by OMCs (Organic Metal Core, disembodied human brains): the first two become catatonic and the third becomes insane and kills two of the crew. Without a functioning OMC, the crew builds an artificial intelligence to man the ship. The ship's chaplain, though, is aware that this is really an experiment in high-pressure environments to create brilliance. The novel is part of a series including the Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor co-authored by Bill Ransom.

Books in Destination Void Series (3)

The delicious irony (or coincidence? I never know which one is appropriate and I blame Alanis Morrisette and that terrible song entirely for this confusion) about this novel is that it's about the spontaneous emergence of an intelligence on the internet, called Webmind, and its popularity exploded on Twitter, which can be considered a Webmind of another kind. Wake is set in 2012 and follows the story of Caitlin Decter, a pretty 15-year-old girl, who is blind and a bit of a math genius. Her family move from Texas to Ontario so her father can take a job at the Perimeter Institute. Caitlin undergoes a medical procedure where a signal processing device called an "eyePod" which reprocesses signals and sends them back to an implant in her eye. The correct data is passed on to her optic nerve and she should be able to see, but for some reason her pupils only respond to light but she still has no sight. Dr. Kuroda who installed the implant works on a software update which he hopes will give Caitlin her sight back instead of giving her sight, it allows her to visualize the World Wide Web and she sees a background in websight that looks like a chess board. A final software patch allows Caitlin to see. An artificial intelligence spontaneously emerges from the Web and takes Caitlin's learning of Websight and her eyePod to be attempts to communicate with it. Caitlin realizes something is trying to communicate with her and teaches it until she finds its intelligence is double that of a human's. It wishes her happy birthday and tells it to call her Webmind. The novel is part of the Wake, Watch and Wander Trilogy and was nominated for the 2010 Hugo Award.

Books in Www Series (2)