In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, robots have emerged not only as marvels of engineering but as compelling characters that explore the complex intersections of humanity and artificial intelligence. From classic tales that ponder the ethical implications of creating sentient beings to futuristic visions of societies shaped by robotic companions, literature has been a fertile ground for exploring the vast potential—and potential pitfalls—of robotics. Join us on a literary adventure as we unveil a list of 25 exceptional books about robots. These diverse narratives traverse genres, offering readers a spectrum of perspectives on the profound impact robots have on our lives, ethics, and the very essence of what it means to be human.
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Books About Robots
Whether you’re a seasoned science fiction enthusiast or a curious newcomer, these books are bound to captivate your imagination and spark contemplation about the fascinating relationship between humanity and its robotic creations.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
A masterpiece ahead of its time, a prescient rendering of a dark future, and the inspiration for the blockbuster film Blade Runner
By 2021, the World War has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remain covet any living creature, and for people who can’t afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra: horses, birds, cats, sheep. They’ve even built humans. Immigrants to Mars receive androids so sophisticated they are indistinguishable from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans can wreak, the government bans them from Earth. Driven into hiding, unauthorized androids live among human beings, undetected. Rick Deckard, an officially sanctioned bounty hunter, is commissioned to find rogue androids and “retire” them. But when cornered, androids fight back—with lethal force.
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick Awards, Neuromancer is a science fiction masterpiece. A classic that ranks as one of the twentieth century’s most potent visions of the future.
Case was the sharpest data-thief in the matrix—until he crossed the wrong people and they crippled his nervous system, banishing him from cyberspace. Now a mysterious new employer has recruited him for a last-chance run at an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, a mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case is ready for the adventure that upped the ante on an entire genre of fiction.
Neuromancer was the first fully-realized glimpse of humankind’s digital future. A shocking vision that has challenged our assumptions about technology and ourselves. And forever altered the landscape of our imaginations.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
For fans of Artemis—the visionary tour de force from “one of the grand masters of science fiction” (The Wall Street Journal).
Widely acknowledged as one of Robert A. Heinlein’s greatest works, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress rose from the golden age of science fiction to become an undisputed classic. And a touchstone for the philosophy of personal responsibility and political freedom. A revolution on a lunar penal colony provides the framework for a story of a diverse group of men and women grappling with the ever-changing definitions of humanity, technology, and free will.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress gives readers an extraordinary, thought-provoking glimpse into the mind of Robert A. Heinlein, who, even now, “shows us where the future is” (Tom Clancy).
The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov
A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history. The colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot.
Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer.
The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. Worst of all was that the “R” stood for robot. And his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim!
All Systems Red – Martha Wells
A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red. A tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence.
“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid. A self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
Cinder – Marissa Meyer
The #1 New York Times Bestselling Series!
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. She must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
It’s an ordinary Thursday morning for Arthur Dent . . . until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly after to make way for a new hyperspace express route, and Arthur’s best friend has just announced that he’s an alien.
After that, things get much, much worse.
With just a towel, a small yellow fish, and a book, Arthur has to navigate through a very hostile universe in the company of a gang of unreliable aliens. Luckily the fish is quite good at languages. And the book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy . . . which helpfully has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large, friendly letters on its cover.
Now, if you could only figure out the question. . . .
Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Once, she was the Justice of Toren — a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away. Leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
The Automatic Detective – A. Lee Martinez
Even in Empire City, a town where weird science is the hope for tomorrow, it’s hard for a robot to make his way. It’s even harder for a robot named Mack Megaton, a hulking machine designed to bring mankind to its knees. But Mack’s not interested in world domination. He’s just a bot trying to get by. Trying to demonstrate that he isn’t just an automated smashing machine, and to earn his citizenship in the process. It should be as easy as crushing a tank for Mack, but some bots just can’t catch a break.
When Mack’s neighbors are kidnapped, Mack sets off on a journey through the dark alleys and gleaming skyscrapers of Empire City. Along the way, he runs afoul of a talking gorilla, a brainy dame, a mutant lowlife, a little green mob boss, and the secret conspiracy at the heart of Empire’s founders. Not to mention more trouble than he bargained for. What started out as one missing family becomes a battle for the future of Empire and every citizen that calls her home.
Robopocalypse – Daniel H. Wilson
Not far into our future, the dazzling technology that runs our world turns against us. Controlled by a childlike—yet massively powerful—artificial intelligence known as Archos, the global network of machines on which our world has grown dependent suddenly becomes an implacable, deadly foe. At Zero Hour—the moment the robots attack—the human race is almost annihilated, but as its scattered remnants regroup, humanity for the first time unites in a determined effort to fight back. This is the oral history of that conflict, told by an international cast of survivors who experienced this long and bloody confrontation with the machines. Brilliantly conceived and amazingly detailed, Robopocalypse is an action-packed epic with chilling implications about the real technology that surrounds us.
The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi
Recipient of the Sturgeon Award, Paolo Bacigalupi’s writing has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and the environmental journal High Country News. His non-fiction essays have appeared in Salon.com and High Country News, and have been syndicated into numerous western newspapers.
Daemon – Daniel Suarez
Daemons: computer programs that silently run in the background, waiting for a specific event or time to execute. They power almost every service. They make our networked world possible. But they also make it vulnerable…
When the obituary of legendary computer game architect Matthew Sobol appears online, a previously dormant daemon activates, initiating a chain of events that begins to unravel our interconnected world. This daemon reads news headlines, recruits human followers, and orders assassinations. With Sobol’s secrets buried with him, and as new layers of his daemon are unleashed, it’s up to Detective Peter Sebeck to stop a self-replicating virtual killer before it achieves its ultimate purpose—one that goes far beyond anything Sebeck could have imagined…
Autonomous – Annalee Newitz
When anything can be owned, how can we be free?
Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap scrips for poor people who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.
Hot on her trail, an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understand.
And underlying it all is one fundamental question: Is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
The Three Laws of Robotics:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) Robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov formulated the laws governing robots’ behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future—a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.
Saturn’s Children – Charles Stross
Sometime in the twenty-third century, humanity went extinct, leaving only androids behind to fulfill humanity’s dreams. And, having learned well from their long-dead masters, they’ve established a hierarchical society—one with humanoid aristo rulers at the top and slave-chipped workers at the bottom, performing the lowly tasks all androids were originally created to do.
Designed as a concubine for a species that hasn’t existed for two hundred years, femmebot Freya Nakamichi-47—one of the last of her kind still functioning—accepts a job from a stranger to deliver a package from mercury to Mars. Unfortunately, she’s just made herself a moving target for some very powerful, very determined humanoids desperate to retrieve the package’s contents…
Machinations – Hayley Stone
Waking up as a clone with a broken memory? Not great when you’re leading the resistance.
Rhona has battled the malevolent A.I. intent on wiping out humanity since the first Machinations began—until she’s killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now, Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA and her personality.
She’s a clone… of herself. Except for her missing memories. Some of which could potentially turn the tide of the war.
Trapped in the shadow of the life she knew and rejected by the man who once loved her, the reincarnated Rhona must fight to secure her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humanity for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.
The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect – Roger Williams
In the best possible future, there will be no war, no famine, no crime, no sickness, no oppression,
no fear, no limits, no shame…
…and nothing to do.
In a time not far from our own, Lawrence sets out to build an artificial intelligence that can pass as human — and finds himself instead with one that can pass as a god. Taking the Three Laws of Robotics literally, Prime Intellect makes every human immortal and provides instantly for every stated human desire.
Caroline, Queen of the Death Jockeys, finds no meaning in this life of purposeless ease, and forgets her emptiness only in moments of violent and profane exhibitionism.
At turns shocking and humorous, Prime Intellect looks unflinchingly at the extremes of human behavior that might emerge when all limits are removed. The international internet sensation, first released in 2003, continues to spark debate about one possible human future.
Robot Visions – Isaac Asimov
From the writer whose name is synonymous with the science of robotics comes five decades of robot visions-36 landmark stories and essays, plus three rare tales-gathered together in one volume.
In the Lives of Puppets – TJ Klune
In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees, live three robots—fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too. They’re a family, hidden and safe.
The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled “HAP,” he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio–a past spent hunting humans.
When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio’s former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe. Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic’s assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming.
Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: Can he accept love with strings attached?
Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro
Here is the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel
A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery. And figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?
The Wild Robot – Peter Brown
Can a robot survive in the wilderness?
When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.
As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home. Until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built – Becky Chambers
It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools. Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
The Moon and the Other – John Kessel
In the middle of the twenty-second century, over three million people live in underground cities below the moon’s surface. One city-state, the Society of Cousins, is a matriarchy, where men are supported in any career choice. But no right to vote—and tensions are beginning to flare as outside political intrigues increase.
After participating in a rebellion that caused his mother’s death, Erno has been exiled from the Society of Cousins. Now, he is living in the Society’s rival colony, Persepolis, when he meets Amestris, the defiant daughter of the richest man on the moon.
Mira, a rebellious loner in the Society, creates graffiti videos that challenge the Society’s political domination. She is hopelessly in love with Carey, the exemplar of male privilege. An Olympic champion in low-gravity martial arts and known as the most popular bedmate in the Society. Carey’s more suited to being a boyfriend than a parent, even as he tries to gain custody of his teenage son.
When the Organization of Lunar States sends a team to investigate the condition of men in the Society, Erno sees an opportunity to get rich. Then Amestris senses an opportunity to escape from her family. Mira has a chance for social change. Carey can finally become independent of the matriarchy that considers him a perpetual adolescent. But when Society secrets are revealed, the first moon war erupts, and everyone must decide what is truly worth fighting for.
Deception – Glynn Stewart
Kira Demirci left her homeworld of Apollo pursued by assassins seeking revenge for her victories in the war against the Brisingr Kaiserreich. Now she has a new home and a new role. The nova fighter wing commander aboard the mercenary carrier Conviction under Captain John Estanza.
Conviction is on retainer with the royal family of Redward. They encourage Kira and her pilots to make themselves a new home on the frontier planet. But there is a reason they want to tie the mercenary carrier’s crew more tightly to themselves and stormclouds are brewing on the horizon.
Those clouds break when a Redward warship goes missing on a standard patrol. Conviction and her fighters are sent out to find the destroyer. Instead they find a deadly plot by old enemies that will bring down the Syntactic Cluster in fire and war.
Unless Kira Demirci can do the impossible.
Other Genres To Try if you like Books about Robots
If the grand narratives of books about robots captivate you, you’re in luck. The vast world of literature is teeming with genres that share thematic elements and character arcs. For those who’ve journeyed through the stars and seek adventures similar to that of books about robots:
Epic Fantasy: Epic fantasies traverse expansive kingdoms, showcasing heroic quests, mythical creatures, and intricate political landscapes. Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and Brandon Sanderson masterfully paint vivid universes that echo the scale and depth of space opera sagas. With creatures non-humane and often mystical, it’s easy to see why fans of books about robots may enjoy these novels.
Military Science Fiction: If the strategic battles and interstellar skirmishes of robot wars intrigue you, this subgenre focuses on warfare in space, delving deep into the tactics, technology, and ethics of futuristic combat. Such books often feature robots and robot armies. Dive into the works of authors like Joe Haldeman and David Weber.
Cyberpunk: Dystopian futures, high-tech worlds, and morally ambiguous characters are the hallmarks of cyberpunk. This genre is spotlighted by authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. This will cater to those who relish the technologically advanced settings common in space operas.
Steampunk: For readers who appreciate the fusion of technology with historical elements, steampunk offers tales set in a Victorian-era backdrop powered by steam and clockwork innovations. Authors like Cherie Priest and Scott Westerfeld present worlds where adventure and invention intertwine.
Remember, while books about robots offer a unique blend of elements, the literary universe is vast and diverse. By venturing into these genres, you’re expanding your reading horizon. Also deepening your appreciation for the interconnectedness of storytelling across different landscapes and timelines. Happy reading!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best books about robots?
Classic novels such as Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot” and Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” delve into the ethical and existential questions surrounding the creation and interaction with robots.
Are there books that examine the impact of robots on society and employment?
Yes, books like “Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Autonomous” by Annalee Newitz. These delve into the socio-economic repercussions of widespread automation. Often offering thought-provoking perspectives on the future of work.
What is the difference between science fiction and space opera?
Science fiction is a broad genre that encompasses speculative stories based on imagined future scientific or technological advances. Space opera, on the other hand, is a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on grand, galaxy-spanning adventures.
While all space operas fall under the umbrella of science fiction, not all science fiction stories are space operas. Other subgenres of science fiction include cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and hard science fiction.
Are there books suitable for young readers that explore the theme of robots?
Yes, books like “The Wild Robot” by Peter Brown and “The Iron Giant” by Ted Hughes. These offer engaging stories that introduce younger audiences to the world of robots while addressing themes of friendship and acceptance.
As we conclude this exploration of 25 captivating books about robots, we find ourselves at the intersection of science fiction and profound philosophical inquiry. These novels have illuminated the intricate dance between humanity and artificial intelligence. You’ve been intrigued by the ethical quandaries posed by Asimov. Chuckled at the wit of Douglas Adams. Or pondered the societal impacts envisioned by Vonnegut. Each book on this list is a portal to a world where robots cease to be mere machines and instead become mirrors reflecting our own hopes, fears, and aspirations.