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Anachronox & Philip K. Dick

When it comes to worldbuilding, you go to a master – Philip K. Dick. From novels such as A Scanner Darkly to his charged short stories, he can build a whole new world inside you with just a few words, and you become immersed, you believe it. And if it’s immersive experiences you want, I’ll offer you to my adolescent obsession: Anachronox. Released in 2001, it’s a cyberpunk/noir mix of third person RPG and turn-based combat that follows down-on-his-luck PI Sly who gets swept up in a ‘fate of the universe’ quest across varied planets and with a huge cast of allies, including sarcastic robot assistants, dangerous ex-girlfriends, brilliant scientists, washed-up superheroes and a planet (yep, a planet). Although a bit buggy due to rushed production, Anachronox is a classic, with so many side quests (that smelly-sock quest, though…) and genuinely funny dialogue, you can replay it as many times as you can reread a Philip K. Dick book. 

 

Portal & Harlan Ellison and Robert Heinlein

If you thought GLaDOS was the best part of Portal (or, really, the preferred Portal 2: When Nature Calls) then I recommend trying the horrific (and very much problematic, but still a classic) short story ‘I have no mouth and I must scream’ by Harlan Ellison in which a megalomaniac supercomputer has taken over the world and is keeping the last few humans – it’s creators – hostage. This isn’t for the fainthearted, it is a dark and twisted view on technology and humanity, and it is probably one of the seminal texts in the evil-AI canon. 

However, if you’re looking for a little less evil, then it’s gotta be Mike AKA HOLMES IV from Robert Heinlein’s Hugo Award–winning The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The story takes place in 2075 in penal colony on the moon and depicts the plotting, enactment and aftermath of a revolution – a fascinating look at individualism, liberty and the frontier mentality – but it is also about Mannie, a computer tech, who realises that by continually expanding the functions of the computer that runs their settlement, the HOLMES IV computer (ie. Mike, short for Mycroft) has achieved self-awareness, a sense of humour… and the capacity for friendship.

 

Mass Effect & Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer books

Sticking to the AI theme, if the politics of the Geth (cybernetic organisms created and used for labour who become self-aware and then outlawed) in Mass Effect really had you hooked, then you’re going to love A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. And the politics of AIs and their autonomy is really expanded with Lovelace’s arc in book 2. Mass Effect is so effective at hooking you in to a strong narrative, the writing is killer – something it has in common with Chambers’ books. If out-of-this-world worldbuilding and developed, complicated characters and relationships are what you’re looking for, look no further.

 

Fallout: New Vegas & The Postman  

In the fourth instalment of Bethesda’s Fallout series you follow a character known as ‘The Courier’ through a desert of the American west coast long after the world was torn apart by nuclear war, watching as he travels to different communities and makes allies, his actions eventually swaying the outcome of the warring between local political factions.

In David Brin’s Hugo and Nebula shortlisted classic The Postman you follow a man who calls himself ‘The Postman’ as he travels through the deserts of the American west coast in the aftermath of a world torn apart by bioweapons, reading as he travels to different communities and makes allies, eventually swaying the outcome of the warring between local political factions.

What more is there to say? And if you’ve already replayed New Vegas through each of the four endings at least twice and your copy of The Postman is falling apart at the spine, you can check out this anthology of grim futures, Wastelands.

 

Bioshock & Stephen King’s The Dark Tower

Gripping, epic, a hero traveling through a multiverse – are we describing the super-addictive Bioshock or are we discussing King’s magnum opus, The Dark Tower series? Why not both? Booker and Roland have some serious similarities: both once great soldiers, men on a quest, haunted by guilt of the past, both with a young follower (Jake, Elizabeth – really the Wesley Crushers of their respective media), both traversing detailed historical and imagined landscapes – both forcing us to consider the consequences of our actions. I read recently that Bioshock’s underwater paradise of Rapture was based on the ideas of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism – but considering Rand’s The Fountainhead was, like, the worst, I’d recommend picking up King instead. (Tip: The Gunslinger: Book #1 is great, but isn’t the strongest of the series – I’d highly recommend pushing through to book 2 to get a true feel for the epic saga at play.)

  • A Scanner Darkly - Philip K. Dick

    Substance D - otherwise known as Death - is the most dangerous drug ever to find its way on to the black market. It destroys the links between the brain's two hemispheres, leading first to disorentation and then to complete and irreversible brain damage. Bob Arctor, undercover narcotics agent, is trying to find a lead to the source of supply, but to pass as an addict he must become a user and soon, without knowing what is happening to him, he is as dependent as any of the addicts he is monitoring.

  • Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams - Philip K. Dick

    The ten short stories which inspired the hit TV series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, from the author of BLADE RUNNER and MINORITY REPORT, with new material by the producers and directors of the show!

  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Harlan Ellison

    First published in 1967 and re-issued in 1983, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream contains seven stories with copyrights ranging from 1958 through 1967. This edition contains the original introduction by Theodore Sturgeon and the original foreword by Harlan Ellison, along with a brief update comment by Ellison that was added in the 1983 edition.

  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein

    Life isn't easy for the political dissidents and convicts who live in the scattered colonies that make up lunar civilisation. Everything is regulated strictly, efficiently and cheaply by a central supercomputer, HOLMES IV. When humble technician Mannie O'Kelly-Davis discovers that HOLMES IV has quietly achieved consciousness (and developed a sense of humour), the choice is clear: either report the problem to the authorities... or become friends. And perhaps overthrow the government while they're at it.

  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: Wayfarers 1 - Becky Chambers

    Firefly meets Mass Effect in this thrilling self-published debut! The astonishing self-published debut novel that Guardian calls 'a quietly profound, humane tour de force.' When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

  • A Closed and Common Orbit: Wayfarers 2 - Becky Chambers

    The extraordinary new novel by Becky Chambers, author of the beloved debut novel THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET: 'a quietly profound, humane tour de force.

  • The Postman - David Brin

    He was a survivor - a wanderer who traded tales for food and shelter in the dark and savage aftermath of a devastating war. But when he borrows the jacket of a long-dead postal worker, his life changes for ever. As he journeys from one isolated community to the next, the old, worn uniform becomes far more than a protection against the unrelenting cold: it becomes a reminder of how things were before the world collapsed - and a symbol for how things might be again. And his story becomes one of a lie that turns into the most important kind of truth.

  • Wastelands - John Joseph Adams

    An anthology of post-apocalyptic short fiction from some of the biggest names in science fiction and speculative fiction - including Stephen King, George R. R. Martin and Orson Scott Card.

  • Dark Tower: The Gunslinger - Stephen King

    In this first novel in his epic fantasy masterpiece, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger.

Sophie Mayfield

Sophie Mayfield

Production Editor for Hachette Australia. Raised on acronyms such as TNG, SG1, BtVS, MtG and DnD, I have a particular fondness for short stories, gruff space cowboys, time travel and word play. Injuries resulting from my architecturally unsound TBR pile are a statistical certainty.

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