The best science fiction books on artificial intelligence

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm particularly intrigued by the topic of artificial intelligence and whether an artificial brain can become conscious and how we'll be able to control a superintelligent AI. I follow all the developments in the field of artificial intelligence and have tried to incorporate some of them into my own fiction writing. I have a scientific background as a former professor of psychology and neuroscience researcher and published a book in the Johns Hopkins Series on Neuroscience and Psychiatry, and numerous scientific articles. I'm also a member of the Society of Philosophers in America. I've been a fan of science fiction since childhood. Science fiction has always seemed to me to be a perfect mixture of fiction and philosophy.

I wrote...

Ezekiel's Brain

By Casey Dorman,

Book cover of Ezekiel's Brain

What is my book about?

Ezekiel’s Brain is a story of a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) that goes rogue and exterminates the human race. Two hundred years later, AIs have replaced humans and are exploring the universe, but a malignant AI mutation leads to an intra-galactic war that can only be won by resurrecting Ezekiel, an electronic copy of a human brain.

This is hard science fiction with a philosophical twist. What begins as an earth-bound thriller about a mysterious government agency trying to weaponize a powerful AI, becomes the beginning of a new race of machines who send a crew of AIs off to the far reaches of space. The first book in the Voyages of the Delphi series features the next step in the evolution of intelligence—from human to machine.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Casey Dorman Why did I love this book?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the novel behind the 1982 film Bladerunner, is the quintessential AI novel because it presents two of the major dilemmas presented by advanced artificial intelligence: 1) If an AI is as smart as a human, how do humans control it? 2) If an AI can think like a human, should it be regarded as a fellow living being? The beauty of the novel is that it presents these issues from the point of view of a human being, Rick Deckard, who has to make decisions about whether to allow the android AIs in the story to live or die.

The novel takes place on a post-nuclear-war Earth, which has been abandoned by healthy and well-to-do humans, leaving radiation-infected and poor people behind. The rich are served by androids, some of whom escape to come to Earth and pass themselves off as humans. Deckard must hunt them down and kill them. A new version of these androids is indistinguishable from humans, even when given the empathy test that usually identifies them, and Deckard falls in love with one of them he is supposed to kill.

When Deckard encounters these new AIs, he has difficulty distinguishing them from humans and begins to wonder if he, himself might be an AI. Even when he decides he is human, he is torn between allowing the AIs to live and terminating them, especially the one with whom he has fallen in love. It’s a classic story and one that makes you think.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…

Book cover of The Invincible

Casey Dorman Why did I love this book?

Stanislaw Lem, the Polish philosopher and science fiction novelist, had the talent of writing novels that raise profound questions about the human condition. One of the issues he tackled was whether our human form of intelligence is just one of many types of intelligence that might be found in the universe.

In one of his most gripping and mind-stretching novels, The Invincible, an Earth spaceship lands on an apparently uninhabited planet only to find that many years previously, another race had crash-landed on the planet, and their small, robotic assistants were the main survivors of the crash. Those automata evolved into a collection of tiny “flies,” which, although not individually conscious or possessed of reasoning, use evolved herd behaviors to destroy their surviving alien masters and all other living creatures on the planet’s surface. When the humans from Earth explore the planet, they encounter clouds of these tiny metallic creatures who think as one entity and kill any other living creatures including the humans from Earth.

Lem’s novels, such as The Invincible, are groundbreaking from a philosophical point of view because they show us that conceptualizing intelligence and consciousness in human terms and elevating it to the peak of evolutionary development is a limitation in our thinking, based upon our anthropocentrism.

By Stanislaw Lem,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Invincible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A space cruiser, in search of its sister ship, encounters beings descended from self-replicating machines.

In the grand tradition of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, Stanisław Lem's The Invincible tells the story of a space cruiser sent to an obscure planet to determine the fate of a sister spaceship whose communication with Earth has abruptly ceased. Landing on the planet Regis III, navigator Rohan and his crew discover a form of life that has apparently evolved from autonomous, self-replicating machines—perhaps the survivors of a “robot war.” Rohan and his men are forced to confront the classic quandary: what course…

Book cover of Permutation City

Casey Dorman Why did I love this book?

A different version of the AI problem is the one discussed by a multitude of scientific and philosophical authors: what if the world in which we live, including our own consciousness, is a computer simulation? Permutation City, by Greg Egan, is one version of this dilemma. In this novel, those wealthy enough to afford it may upload their consciousness into a virtual world, one which they have a part in creating, and one which aims to be self-sustaining after they die.

The plot revolves around a researcher who has invented a virtual self-generating chemical germ-seed that can evolve and populate such a world. However, eventually, the germ-seed creates its own world and rejects the presence of the uploaded human consciousness in it, who are then faced with having to decide whether to leave and seek another virtual universe that the mathematics predicts exists. This novel challenged my intelligence at every turn of the page, but was also mind-expanding, and, although written in 1994, it is still considered a classic example of philosophical techno-sci-fi.

By Greg Egan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Permutation City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Egan is determined to make sense of everything - to understand the whole world as an intelligible, rational, material (and finally manipulable) realm - even if it means abandoning comfortable and comforting illusions. This is fundamental to the whole project of SF and it's why Egan's Best - and his Rest - is worth any number of looks. -Locus

What happens when your digital self overpowers your physical self?

A life in Permutation City is unlike any life to which you're accustomed. You have Eternal Life, the power to live forever. Immortality is a real thing, just not the thing…

Book cover of 2001

Casey Dorman Why did I love this book?

It took me many years after seeing the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey to finally read the book. At last, I learned why “Hal,” the cordial, polite, and deadly AI of the film went rogue and killed all but one of the travelers on the spaceship heading to one of Saturn’s moons (Jupiter’s moon in the film). Hal and his voice are by far the signature and most unforgettable aspects of the film and ones that live on as cultural memes for AIs who defy human control.

The novel was written simultaneously with the film (Arthur C. Clarke co-wrote the film script). However, the novel is more detailed, less confusing, and more extensive than the film, which relies heavily on visual effects. It’s a novel about the evolution of man and about the dangers of nuclear war even more than it is a novel about the dangers of artificial intelligence. It remains a classic by one of the all-time greats in the science fiction field.

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked 2001 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written when landing on the moon was still a dream, and made into one of the most influential films of all time, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY remains a classic work of science fiction fifty years after its original publication.

The discovery of a black monolith on the moon leads to a manned expedition deep into the solar system, in the hope of establishing contact with an alien intelligence. Yet long before the crew can reach their destination, the voyage descends into disaster . . .

Brilliant, compulsive and prophetic, Arthur C. Clarke's timeless novel tackles the enduring theme of mankind's…

Book cover of I, Robot

Casey Dorman Why did I love this book?

When people think about artificial intelligence or robots, invariably they mention Isaac Asimov’s classic book, I, Robot, which is really a collection of stories, held together by a thin overall plot. The book was published in 1950, but some of the stories appeared earlier in various science fiction magazines in the 1940s. Asimov, who was knowledgeable in a variety of scientific and mathematical fields as well as literature and philosophy, used his ample imagination to deal with issues that were far from reality at that time, but not so far now.

The central character of the novel, Dr. Susan Calvin is a robot psychologist who is an expert regarding the psychological issues of robots. She tells a series of stories about various issues that came up with the first group of robots invented by her employer, U.S Robotics and Mechanical Men, Inc. Central, to several of the stories is the development of Asimov’s famous “3 laws of robotics,” which are still quoted today in discussions of how to keep AIs “friendly” or, in AI terms, “aligned” with human values. Asimov is, above all else, an entertaining writer with a rich imagination and a healthy sense of humor. I, Robot is well worth reading, despite its age.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked I, Robot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Voyager Classics - timeless masterworks of science fiction and fantasy.

A beautiful clothbound edition of I, Robot, the classic collection of robot stories from the master of the genre.

In these stories Isaac Asimov creates the Three Laws of Robotics and ushers in the Robot Age.

Earth is ruled by master-machines but the Three Laws of Robotics have been designed to ensure humans maintain the upper hand:

1) A robot may not injure a human being or allow a human being to come to harm
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such…

You might also like...

The Pact

By Lisa Darcy,

Book cover of The Pact

Lisa Darcy Author Of The Pact

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Cat lover Traveler Reader Amateur tennis player Foodie

Lisa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Pact is a contemporary fiction novel about Australian sisters, Samantha and Annie, who are doubles tennis champions. This story amplifies the usual sibling issues and explores their professional partnership and personal relationships – similarities, differences, motivation, competition, abandonment, and grief – and how they each respond to the stress of constantly being under the media spotlight.

What happens when, at the pinnacle of fame, it all falls apart?

With dreams shattered and egos destroyed, how do they cope?

I have an older sister and although our rapport isn’t as dramatic, or as close, for that matter, I was able…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in artificial intelligence, robots, and immortality?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about artificial intelligence, robots, and immortality.

Artificial Intelligence Explore 291 books about artificial intelligence
Robots Explore 97 books about robots
Immortality Explore 45 books about immortality