I had to squeeze this tag in before our November celebration of all things science-fictional is wrapped up. It was introduced to the SciFi Month roster by imyril back in 2019 and it’s a been a big favourite of mine ever since.
The rules are simple: take six science fiction books and link them one to the other in a chain using shared themes or tropes. Triple points (and a chunky slice of chocolate cake) are awarded to those who are able, at the end of their chain of association, to link the last book back to the first, creating a scintillating circle of science-fictional delight.
This year I’ve chosen a handful of thought-provoking reads that have stuck with me for one reason or another…
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (for those of you who don’t know – ??!) is about a cyborg construct, calling itself Murderbot. Due to a hacked governor module Murderbot is independent of human control and has, in the past, killed people. Among other things The Murderbot Diaries explore the relationship between constructs and humans.
vN by Madeline Ashby tells the story of Amy, a self-replicating android construct who has been raised like a human child. But Amy’s failsafe is broken meaning that she can kill people, and as a result she is on the run from those who see her as a threat and those who would use her as a weapon. In an interesting side note, Amy and her kind were created by an End of Times group to be companions for people left on Earth after the Rapture.
In Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross android construct Freya Nakamachi-47 lives in a future peopled entirely by AI of various shapes and sizes. All created to be companions for people they’re now on their own because the human race has died out. When Freya – who works as a courier in this post-human world – is involved in a delivery gone wrong, she becomes a target for unsavoury sorts and a thrilling chase around the solar system ensues.
Implanted by Lauren C Teffeau is a cyberpunk thriller in which university student Emery gets blackmailed into becoming a courier for a shady organisation. After her death has been faked and she’s been trained to kick ass she gets to work, and thrilling chases become par for the course. The thing I enjoyed most about Implanted was its vision at how humanity might merge with technology in the future.
Neuromancer by William Gibson is the cyberpunk thriller that kickstarted a genre. It follows ‘console-cowboy’ Henry Case, a hacker, who gets employed by a shady organisation (well, an ex-military dude, but let me have this, please) and ultimately becomes involved in the emergence of an AI superconciousness. This is also a book that looks at how humanity might merge with technology in the future, most strikingly via Molly Millions’ character among others.
Finally, The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag reads like a prelude to Gibson’s world, set as it is in an America littered with giant derelict battle drones and haunted by people wearing ‘neurocasters’. It’s the sparsely told story of a society in flux and there is evidence of ways in which humanity has merged with technology and of the birth of an AI (super?)consciousness. No matter how hard I try, I can’t link this back to All Systems Red except in the flimsiest way: all of these titles look at our relationship with tech in some way or another.
OK. Who else wants to have a go?