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9 Sci-Fi Stories About Artificial Intelligence

These books offer reminders about the potential—and perils—of artificial intelligence.

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  • Photo Credit: Xu Haiwei / Unsplash

If there’s one thing science fiction and fantasy books all agree on, it’s that artificial intelligence (A.I.) can’t be trusted. Sure, it’s smarter than we are. But what about empathy? Sympathy? Any emotion at all? 

Now that technology is catching up to these once far-off technological concepts, these questions are more important than ever. Will A.I. turn on us like Skynet and send Terminators to kill humanity’s last hope? Will all A.I. end up believing it is an all-powerful being and humans are not capable of our own autonomy? Maybe. But it’s interesting to explore the possibilities. We found nine SFF books that explore the role A.I. could play in the not-so-distant future.

The Pandora Sequence

The Pandora Sequence

By Frank Herbert

To save mankind, humans created a powerful artificial intelligence to run a spaceship heading to a new world. Now only known as Ship, it has grown in intellect and power. When it decides it is now a god, Ship chooses a new planet to give humanity: Pandora. The planet is mostly seas with deadly predators and sentient kelp, making survival difficult. When Ship demands to be worshipped (pun intended), life gets even harder. If people fail to pass its tests, they risk eradication. But maybe living on the surface was never the right decision in the first place. And there might be another entity that can help them survive.

The Stars Are Also Fire

The Stars Are Also Fire

By Poul Anderson

The cybercosm has rendered humans obsolete. It runs Earth and the rest of the universe with logic and efficiency. On the moon, a group of genetically modified resistance fighters struggle to maintain control satellite resources along with their freedom. But the Lunar people are about to learn a secret that’s been guarded for centuries, one that could end the cybercosm and machine control. But it would plunge the galaxy into chaos.

The Veiled Web

The Veiled Web

By Catherine Asaro

At a chance performance at the White House, ballerina Lucia del Mar meets a handsome Moroccan businessman, Rashid al-Jazari. Her first passion may be dance, but her second is the World Wide Web. He’s the creator of a new technology that the internet can’t stop talking about. But his work has far-reaching consequences that are yet to be seen. As she’s drawn closer to Rashid and brought into his world, she becomes more and more isolated. And before she can wonder if it’s for her protection or silence, the terrible implications of Rashid’s technology are already being unleashed—and maybe it can’t be stopped.



By Arthur C. Clarke

When 2001: Space Odyssey ended, it left more questions than answers. Was HAL really insane? Why did he kill the crew? And what happened to the spaceship after David Bowman passed through the alien Star Gate? Ten years later, Professor Heywood Floyd boards Russian spacecraft Alexei Leonov to recover the Discovery. But what they find on the moons of Jupiter is far more than they ever imagined possible. 

Becky Chambers interview A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit

By Becky Chambers

When Lovelace wakes up in a new body after a total system shut down and reboot, she doesn’t remember when she was only a ship’s artificial intelligence. But at least she isn’t alone. Pepper is an engineer, and she’s determined to help Lovelace learn and grow. Life isn’t easy trapped in one body. Especially when Lovelace had nearly omnipotent capabilities as the ship’s AI. But, as Lovelace and Pepper roam the galaxies together, they begin to learn that no matter how big space is, sometimes, all you need is one other person to make it feel a little less lonely.



By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

The last thing Kady Grant thought she’d find herself in the middle of is a war between two mega-corporations. Forced to evacuate with her ex-boyfriend, Ezra, they find themselves on a derelict spaceship with a warship determined to hunt them down. To make things worse, the ship’s AI, AIDEN, might be the bigger threat to their survival. Using her skills as a hacker, Katy is determined to find the truth behind the attack, the rogue AI, and the odds of their survival. The only person who might be able to help is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never talk to again.



By S.B. Divya

In 2095, humans are reliant on pills to compete with AI. The economy is largely driven by a highly competitive gig economy, and without the boost, humans don’t stand a chance. Even though violence has been largely eliminated, Welga Ramirez makes a living as an executive bodyguard. And she’s on the brink of retiring when her client is murdered in front of her by a terrorist group, The Machinehood. They attack multiple pill producers at once with a single demand: stop production of the pills immediately—or else. As pills stop, people panic. But who is The Machinehood? A new threat? Or an old enemy in disguise? One that Welga is uniquely capable of fighting?

The Prey of Gods

The Prey of Gods

By Nicky Drayden

Personal robots are making life easier for the working class in South Africa. Renewable energy is providing the necessary infrastructure to take care of the poor. And thanks to genetic engineering, the coastal town of Port Elizabeth is bustling. The future is full of promise. If they can survive the new hallucinogenic drug threatening to destroy the country. And the A.I. uprising that could dismantle all their progress. And an ancient demigoddess preying on every human she encounters. But hope isn’t lost: For South Africa to have a future, four strangers have to form an unlikely alliance and save the future.

hard sci-fi books by women

All Systems Red

By Martha Wells

Corporations run the universe. Everything—from planetary missions to exploratory expeditions—have to be approved by the Company. And since the lowest bidder wins, safety is rarely a concern. But each mission is equipped with a Company issued security android. Murderbot, as it named itself, is one of these SecUnits. But it hacked its modulator. Except, it doesn’t want to murder anyone. It just wants to watch its soap operas and be left alone. But when they realize there’s another team on the same planet as the team it's assigned to, it’s up to Murderbot to protect the scientists and find the truth.

Featured photo: Xu Haiwei / Unsplash