Are we in the era of AI? Some want us to think so. As developing technology creeps ever closer towards human intelligence, we’re all left with questions about how the future will look. While there are plenty of nonfiction books that discuss the coming AI age, sometimes fiction dares to dream a little bigger (and scarier). Classic science fiction authors like Phillip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov wrote some of the quintessential literary works on the subject. But this list is one that dives into the more modern takes on the future we’re currently living in.
If you’ve been watching Mrs. Davis or using ChatGPT, make sure you pick up these books that will bend and twist your perception of tech.
The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz
Not all AI stories are about the apocalypse. In this quiet novel about an AI repair technician and a tea shop-running robot, the nature of a retro-futuristic world is explored. With kindness and heart, this story is as warm as a cup of Earl Grey. It’s also a nice way to dive into the genre without overloading on doom.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
In this decadent and terrifying near-future, calories are currency. In a world ravaged by bio-engineered plagues, we meet two characters. Anderson Lake a “Calorie Man” who combs Bangkok for extinct foods and Emiko, a beautiful, non-human relic once used to pleasure businessman and now regarded as a soulless being. The dystopian landscape that contains whispers of our current world will haunt you. And the exploration of Emiko will have you questioning what makes something a being.
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
Over 100 years from now, Jack is a pharmaceutical Robin Hood of sorts, providing drugs to the poor. But his latest good deeds have left a trail of overdoses. Now, a military agent and his robot partner are on the case, hunting down Jack and the origins of his dangerous drug. In a story about freedom and ownership, this highly revered novel tackles questions we should all start asking ourselves today.
Rose/House by Arkady Martine
If you’re looking for a quick read that will fully immerse you in AI, this novella is it. Turning the haunted house paradigm into a tech thriller, Basit Deniau’s Rose House is AI. Not just enhanced by it, but from floor to ceiling is AI. When its owner dies, it locks the house up according to his will. Only one person may enter once a year, Dr. Selene Gisil. She is the only one allowed in, yet she is not there, but a dead body is.
Company Town by Madeline Ashby
Company Town is a city built on an oil rig owned by a wealthy family. Hwa is the only organic human remaining in the community, refusing bio-enhancements. When a series of murders turns the already unstable community up to boil, all clues point back to Hwa. In this fast-paced thriller that involves AI’s integration with humans, you won’t know who to trust.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
What if AI was our solution to government? In Infomocracy, a search engine led the charge to a global democracy. Now, another election is pending and the stakes are high for all involved. In this political thriller, we see how humans are still human, even when AI has taken over.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
In a story that brings us back to the lighter side, AI is in the skilled hands of a master science fiction author. Klara is an Artificial Friend observing the world from the store. She hopes to be bought as she watches people come and go. Filled with love and poignant observation, this story allows us the chance to see ourselves through the eyes of AI.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
Neuromancer is consider the foundation of the cyberpunk genre. It has also been referred to as “the matrix before The Matrix.” In this world we find case, an ex-hacker who was banished from cyberspace when his former employer injured his nervous system. Now, he’s been hired to for a last-chance run at a powerful AI. If you want to get a feel for the kind of novel that kicked off all the novels on this list, Gibson’s is one that can’t be missed.
Afterword by Nina Schuyler
Is AI here to save us or to harm us? Depends on whose hands it’s in. Virginia Samson is a pioneer of artificial intelligence, but when her rebuilt digital love starts actively reporting citizens’ wrongdoings to the Chinese government, she has to face her creation. The interplay between humans and tech is strong and compelling in this fresh take on the subject.
Meet Us by the Roaring Sea by Akil Kumarasamy
In the not-so-distant future, a young woman finds her mother dead on the floor. This sets a chain of events in motion that sends a young woman through archives, AI and television as she attempts to translate a manuscript in the wake of her tragedy. When a friend presents her with the opportunity to work on an AI project, she must confront her own ethics and life in order to move forward.
Whether you’re all about the advancement of technology or certain it will lead to a Terminator-esque reality, there is some incredible material out there imagining our future with artificial intelligence at our side. If you’re interested in more, check out this article on how we think AI will impact readers: