- Megan Bingham
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Westworld, HBO TV Series (2017-)
A dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin—exploring a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged. Exploring what it means to be human through the eyes of the lifelike AI "hosts" in the park, the series investigates the boundaries of an exotic world set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past. Meticulously crafted and artfully designed. Westworld offers its guests an unparalleled, immersive world where they have the freedom to become who they've always wanted to be—or who they never knew they were. No rules, no laws, no judgment. Live without limits.
Westworld is an American science fiction western thriller television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for HBO. The story takes place in the fictional Westworld, a technologically advanced Wild West-themed amusement park populated by android hosts. Westworld caters to high-paying guests, who may indulge in whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts. It is based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written and directed by American novelist Michael Crichton, and to a lesser extent on the 1976 sequel Futureworld. It is the second TV series based on the two films, the first being the short-lived 1980 series Beyond Westworld. Nolan and Joy serve as executive producers along with J. J. Abrams, Jerry Weintraub, and Bryan Burk, with Nolan directing the pilot. The first season premiered on October 2, 2016, concluded on December 4, 2016, and consisted of ten episodes. In November 2016, HBO renewed the show for a ten-episode second season, which is set to premiere on April 22, 2018. Westworld has received largely positive reviews from critics, with particular praise for the visuals, story, and performances. See the trailer for the second season below.
Here are a few book titles involving technology, the Old West, robots, and dangerous adventures.
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
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.
Anything Goes by Richard S. Wheeler
Cowboys, gold miners, outlaws, gunmen, prostitutes, and marshals who populate the Wild West never see much big-city entertainment. Most towns are too wild and rowdy for entertainers to enter, let alone perform in. All that is about to change. August Beausoleil and his colleague, Charles Pomerantz, have taken the Beausoleil Brothers Follies to the remote mining towns of Montana, far from the powerful impresarios who own the talent and control the theaters on the big vaudeville circuits. Their cast includes a collection of has-beens and second-tier performers: Mary Mabel Markey, the shopworn singer now a little out of breath; Wayne Windsor, "The Profile," who favors his audiences with just one side of his face while needling them with acerbic dialogue; Harry the Juggler, who went from tossing teacups to tossing scimitars; Mrs. McGivers and her capuchin monkey band; and the Wildroot Sisters, born to show business and managed by a stage mother who drives August mad. Though the towns are starved for entertainment, the Follies struggles to fill seats as the show grinds from town to town. Just when the company is desperate for fresh talent, a mysterious young woman astonishes everyone with her exquisite voice. The Wild West will never be the same. They've seen comics, gorgeous singers, and scimitar-tossing jugglers. Now if the troupers can only make it back East . . . alive!
The Buntline Special: A Weird West Tale by Michael D. Resnick
Welcome to a West like you've never seen before, where electric lights shine down on the streets of Tombstone, while horseless stagecoaches carry passengers to and fro, and where death is no obstacle to The Thing That Was Once Johnny Ringo. Think you know the story of the O.K. Corral? Think again, as five-time Hugo winner Mike Resnick takes on his first steampunk western tale, and the West will never be the same.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (Movie version: 1982's Blade Runner and 2017's Blade Runner 2049)
By 2021, the World War had killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending mankind off-planet. Those who remained coveted any living creature, and for people who couldn't afford one, companies built incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep. . .They even built humans. Emigrees to Mars received androids so sophisticated it was impossible to tell them from true men or women. Fearful of the havoc these artificial humans could wreak, the government banned them from Earth. But when androids didn't want to be identified, they just blended in. Rick Deckard was an officially sanctioned bounty hunter whose job was to find rogue androids, and to retire them. But cornered, androids tended to fight back, with deadly results.
Dream Park by Larry Niven
A group of pretend adventurers suit up for a campaign called "The South Seas Treasure Game." As in the early Role Playing Games, there are Dungeon Masters, warriors, magicians, and thieves. The difference? At Dream Park, a futuristic fantasy theme park full of holographic attractions and the latest in VR technology, they play in an artificial enclosure that has been enhanced with special effects, holograms, actors, and a clever storyline. The players get as close as possible to truly living their adventure. All's fun and games until a Park security guard is murdered, a valuable research property is stolen, and all evidence points to someone inside the game. The park's head of security, Alex Griffin, joins the game to find the killer but finds new meaning in the games he helps keep alive.
Ghost in the Shell (Volume 1) by Masamune Shirow
Deep into the twenty-first century, the line between man and machine has been inexorably blurred as humans rely on the enhancement of mechanical implants and robots are upgraded with human tissue. In this rapidly converging landscape, cyborg superagent Major Motoko Kusanagi is charged to track down the craftiest and most dangerous terrorists and cybercriminals, including "ghost hackers" who are capable of exploiting the human/machine interface and reprogramming humans to become puppets to carry out the hackers' criminal ends. When Major Kusanagi tracks the cybertrail of one such master hacker, the Puppeteer, her quest leads her into a world beyond information and technology where the very nature of consciousness and the human soul are turned upside down.
I, Robot by 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) A 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 changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: 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. Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians and robots who secretly run the world—all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov's trademark.
More Human Than Human: Stories of Androids, Robots, and Manufactured Humanity
The short stories in More Human Than Human demonstrate the depth with and breadth of artificial humanity in contemporary science fiction. Issues of passing, of what it is to be human, of autonomy and slavery and oppression, and yes, the hubris of creation; these ideas have fascinated us for at least two hundred years, and this selection of stories demonstrates why it is such an alluring and recurring conceit.
The Regulators by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
It is a summer afternoon on Poplar Street in Wentworth, Ohio, and the 14-year-old who delivers the local shopper is biking his route. A weird-looking red van waits, motor running, at one end of the block. When the vehicle coasts down the street, the "fun" begins. Its windows roll down to let shotgun barrels protrude. The boy is blasted off his bike, the first of many victims of a wave of assaults by a strange company of cartoonish, futuristic shock troopers and western-movie cowboys. What's more, telephones, electricity, and wristwatches are dead all up and down the block; nobody from the next street over in either direction seems to notice the gunfire and burning buildings; and when some of the besieged neighbors try to get to an adjacent street, they discover their surroundings transformed from suburbia to a western desert landscape resembling a child's drawing. What in the hell is going on?
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true. Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two. This was a terrible plan. Contained within this volume is a 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
It's been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI, or "One World Intelligence," the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world. One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep a deteriorating mind and body functions in a world that has lost all meaning. Although unable to experience emotions like a human, Brittle is haunted by the terrible crimes the robot population perpetrated on humanity. As Brittle roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, the loner robot slowly comes to terms with horrifyingly raw and vivid memories—and nearly unbearable guilt.