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What happens when you take elements from the past and elements from the future and fuse them together? Usually something pretty fucking average. Unless you're Dan Simmons, and then you get one of the most brilliant artificial intelligence novels to ever be written - and it is that brilliance (along with its popularity - yep, we like a popularity contest here) that places Hyperion from The Hyperion Cantos series of science fiction novels in first place.
Hyperion follows a group of travelers sent by the Church of the Final Atonement, Shrike Church, on a pilgrimage on the eve of Armageddon while the entire galaxy is warring, to the Time Tombs on Hyperion. On Hyperion there is a creature called the Shrike that is feared and worshipped, but there are also those who are ready to destroy it. As they progress, the reader learns each traveler's tale and is drawn in by the depth of character that they learn about. There are so many traditional science-fiction elements and contemporary ideas in this story by Simmons that it has something to appeal to everyone.
There's even a little bit of the Wizard of Oz in it, if that's your thing! Almost every novel within The Hyperion Cantos series won a Locus Award, with Hyperion winning both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1990. A film adaptation is currently being developed by Warner Bros. Similar Recommendations: The Fall of Hyperion; Endymion and The Rise of Endymion (all part of The Hyperion Cantos series).
Orson Scott Card may be a card carrying-homophobe (had to get that white elephant out up front, right?) but he also wrote one of science fiction's best novels with Ender's Game. It comes in at second place on our list for providing with one of the most popular and ground breaking novels in the artificial intelligence genre.
In the future, mankind has survived battles with an insectoid alien species called the Formics or "Buggers", who are an ant-like group and aggressively protective of their ant-Queen leader. In anticipation of another invasion by the Buggers, a school of human children is maintained to source and train future fleet commanders. Talented youngsters are trained at the Battle Centre, including our protagonist Ender Wiggin, who is revealed to be a tactical genius, too powerful to return to Earth and be used be leaders for nefarious purposes.
Instead, Ender joins a colony program to populate a former Formic colony world. When he explores the Formic colony world, he finds a dormant Formic Queen egg. The Queen uses telepathy to tell Ender that the Formics had assumed humans were a non-sentient race due to their lack of a hive mind. The queen asks Ender to take the egg to a new planet to allow the race to repopulate.
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.
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.
A venture capitalist with a brain-damaged mother. A technology that can transform the world. A ruthless enemy with a dark agenda.
A venture capitalist with a brain-damaged mother. A technology that can transform the world. A ruthless enemy with a dark agenda.
Packed to the brim with non-stop action and thought-provoking science, Mind Machines is an intensely complex sci-fi thriller you don’t want to miss. The unpredictable plot hooks you immediately, and the snarky narration lightens even the darkest scenes. The inventive Brainocyte technology will appeal to die-hard fans of the genre as well as casual readers.
The characters are well-developed and the relationships are realistic. As entertaining as it is clever, Mind Machines is a story you won’t soon forget. Get the Kindle ebook copy here, paperback here or audiobook here.
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.
"I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that." No, that's not Siri talking to you from your iPhone5, that's HAL, the sentient computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke would be chuckling in his grave if he knew how spookily similar our phones are these days to the fiction he wrote in 1968. I know I'm afraid that one day Siri's going to answer back with, "I'm afraid I can't do that," and lock me into my apartment when I'd rather be going out on an all-weekend bender.
2001: A Space Odyssey begins with man-apes discovering a huge monolith that causes them to evolve into what man is today. In the future, a spaceship travels to Saturn using a computer system called HAL that can operate on its own, but requires commands for basic tasks. Things start to go horrible wrong with HAL, leaving one astronaut to complete the mission. The novel shows a multi-faceted combination of theory, mysticism, religion, science and fantasy in a way that's not shown in the movie, being more a declaration of faith.
Many people don't realize that this novel was developed concurrently with the film, so it's an unusual novel in that it's not a novelization of the movie, and neither is the movie a Hollywood adaptation of the novel. When you read the novel, it fleshes out the ideas in the movie and overtakes it in superiority of depth and vision. It's for this reason and because the novel was written by one of the masters of science fiction, that it comes in at number 5 on our artificial intelligence list.
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.
Do you love free love? How about breakfast? If you say no to either, I'll call you a liar. Robert Heinlein, the writer who brought us Starship Troopers, uses both of these concepts liberally in his works of fiction. If those base desires aren't enough to satisfy the more erudite among you, then Heinlein was also the first named Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Heinlein has an engaging quality to his writing that demands attention, but personally, I enjoy his writing because he writes a good story and who doesn't love bisexual women who enjoy a good romp with multiple partners?
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was published in 1966 about a moon colony rebelling against Earth's rule, and is considered one of the most important science fiction novels written for its detailed and realistic presentation for a future colonizing the moon. Set in 2075, "loonies" populate the Moon -; criminals, exiles and their descendants (much like Australia, come to think of it) and there is twice the number of men compared to woman, so polyamorous relationships are not unusual.
The Warden holds power, but is a toothless tiger in the rough and ready Lunar colony. HOLMES IV (which stands for "High Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV") is the master computer controlling all machine life on Luna. The story is narrated by Mannie who discovers that HOLMES IV is a self-aware being with a sense of humor. They become friends and Mannie names HOLMES IV, Mike.
The book won the Hugo Award in 1967 and was nominated for the Nebula Award in 1966.
What do you get if you combine the genius and intelligence of Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert? The literary equivalent of their lovechild: Peter Hamilton. Hamilton's novels combine the style and skill of literary greats with the fascinating space opera concepts of the science fiction grand masters.
Hamilton builds a 2380 world where humans have colonized the galaxy through wormhole travel, meeting aliens and artifacts along the way. Humanity has colonized hundreds of planets across hundreds of light years. One of the few mysteries left is the "Dyson Pair", a barrier around the stars. An astronomer, Dudley Bose, undertakes the first observations of the Dyson Pair Enclosure, where two stars located approximately 1,000 light years from Earth and 750 light years from the edge of Commonwealth space disappear between the Dyson spheres.
Fascinated, the humans build an interstellar, FTL space ship, "The Second Chance" to investigate, manned by Wilson Kime, one of the first men to walk on Mars. When the Second Chance arrives they explore an enclosure generator which is shut down and they encounter an aggressive alien species called the Primes who were warring over limited natural resources. The Primes capture Dudley Bose and discover the location of the Commonwealth. Will the aliens turn on the humans with their resources? You have to read the sequel to find out, as this is pretty much where this novel ends. The novels in the Commonwealth Saga all have beautiful vibrant worlds created by vivid imagery and filled with complex characters.
The King of Cyberpunk, rates in tenth place on this list with Neuromancer, a satirical piece of cyberpunk science fiction, pissing all over multinational corporates and the negative effect MNCs and technology have on your normal, everyday person's life. Neuromancer is the most important cyberpunk novel - the vibrant, complex imagery of contemporary technology set new standards for science fiction, and invaded cultural references with terms like Cyberspace and the Matrix borrowing from Gibson's Neuromancer.
Aside from being cyberpunk royalty, Gibson has a sharp, discerning wit, and has been quoted with some of the most amusing lines to ever come from a writer: "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."
Neuromancer is the first novel in the Sprawl trilogy (Count Zero, the second book, and Mona Lisa Overdrive, the final installment). A suicidal, unemployable, drug addicted hacker, an "interface cowboy", called Case, is hired by a mysterious detective, Armitage, who offers a cure in exchange for his services as a hacker. Only problem is, Case doesn't know what the job is or who or what Armitage is. This novel packs a punch, with strong themes about corporate power, artificial intelligence, and what it means to be human.
This novel got the trifecta of awards here winning the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Philip K Dick awards.
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.
Neal Stephenson creates a vividly terrifying Neo-Victorian world in his science fiction, cyberpunk novel. A small girl receives the gift of "The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" from her father, and the primer teaches her a range of subjects, from martial arts to computer programming, preparing her to be a hero. The primer is really a huge parallel computer where each page can intuitively change and arrange itself to tell a story it's computer artificial intelligence mixed with human acting. In a more meta reality, the primer is just a plot device, allowing Stephenson to focus on his fixation with nanotechnology and speed (which we see in images like Ben racing through the city on skates at 100 miles an hour), pushing the plot forward at a whip-fast pace, and with his usual splattering of social commentary.
And it's the social commentary that makes this book accessible to readers beyond your usual Stephenson fan-boys and hard science-fiction nerds. It makes the reader question their understanding of class, ethnicity, and social systems, and the way they treat people in socio-economic classes different to their own. The cool part of The Diamond Age? Nanotechnology affects every aspect of life, right down to each household owning a matter compiler to create any object with the proper program. But I admit, the part that stayed with me the most was the section on the Drummers.
Is it just me, or did anyone else find this scene kind of weird? For such an important part of the story it opened up so many plot holes, making me wonder if Stephenson was just dying to write an orgy scene and dumped it in here thinking NO ONE WILL NOTICE BECAUSE...ORGY?. The other cool part is when our protagonist, Hacksworth, emerges like a horny Rip Van Winkle from his 10 year underground orgy, and his wife has divorced him. Hackworth was surprised. I wasn't.
The Diamond Age also won the 1996 Hugo Award.
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.
I blame this book entirely for my childhood belief that when I was an adult, I'd be driving a hover car. Come 2013, and I'm not exactly filled with confidence that in less than a decade, society will: a) have advanced technologically enough to develop a hover car; and b) advanced socially enough to figure out how to drive upwards and downwards, when they can barely even figure out how to drive straight on a road.
The world Phillip K Dick creates in this novel spans sci-fi, dystopias, and post-apocalyptic society. The world suffers the ravages of World War Terminus. Animals are endangered or extinct due to radiation poisoning, and owning a pet is a status symbol. A bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, must "retire" six escaped androids, while John Isidore assists the androids. The novel explores what it means to be human, contrasting humans with the androids, who lack the ability to empathize. In some ways, the present is a disappointment because of the vividly brutal and simultaneously beautiful way Phillip K Dick painted it to be. We have no robots, let alone robots that we're disappointed with because of how starkly non-human they are.
If you think you know all about this novel because you've seen Blade Runner, you're wrong. Blade Runner shows a sympathetic point of view, while the novel shows a distinctly anti artificial intelligence sentiment, with robots being deplored for their inability to feel and think like humans. The novel sits at 51 on the Locus Poll Award for All-Time Best Science Fiction Novel before 1990.
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.
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.
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.
Our Version of the List
At a Glance
- 1 Hyperion (Dan Simmons)
- 2 Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
- 3 Excession (Iain M. Banks)
- 4 City Of Golden Shadow (Tad Williams)
- 5 2001 A Space Odyssey (Arthur C. Clarke)
- 6 The Two Faces Of Tomorrow (James P. Hogan)
- 7 Newton's Wake (Ken MacLeod)
- 8 The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (Robert A. Heinl...
- 9 Pandora's Star (Peter F. Hamilton)
- 10 Neuromancer (William Gibson)
- 11 I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)
- 12 The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson)
- 13 The Adolescence Of P-1 (Thomas J. Ryan)
- 14 The Lifecycle Of Software Objects (Ted Chiang...
- 15 A.i. Apocalypse (William Hertling)
- 16 Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep (Philip K...
- 17 Daemon (Daniel Suarez)
- 18 House Of Suns (Alastair Reynolds)
- 19 The Metamorphosis Of Prime Intellect (Roger W...
- 20 Berserker (Fred Saberhagen)
- 21 Alpha Redemption (P. a. Baines)
- 22 Queen Of Angels (Greg Bear)
- 23 When Harlie Was One (David Gerrold)
- 24 Destination Void (Frank Herbert)
- 25 Www: Wake (Robert J. Sawyer)
Publicly Ranked Version of the List40 items >>
- Hyperion (Dan Simmons)
- Neuromancer (William Gibson)
- I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)
- Daemon (Daniel Suarez)
- Excession (Iain M. Banks)
- Www: Wake (Robert J. Sawyer)
- Berserker (Fred Saberhagen)
- Otherland (Tad Williams)
- Queen Of Angels (Greg Bear)
- Spin State (Chris Moriarty)
- River Of Gods (Ian McDonald)
- Colossus (Michael Hiltzik)
- Fool's War (Sarah Zettel)
- Rule 34 (Charles Stross)
- Extras (Scott Westerfeld)
- God Machine (Chandra Free)
- The Jazz, (Melissa Scott)
- Newton's Wake (Ken MacLeod)
- The Jazz (Toni Morrison)