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5 Robot Sci-Fi Books for Last Minute Gifts That Have Real Science



A robot looks for a sci-fi book as a last minute gift
A robot looks for a sci-fi book as a last minute, but perfect, gift

Here are five robot books you might have missed that make great gifts (to others or for yourself!) and include some surprisingly accurate science- they've been subjects in my monthly column for the journal Science Robotics.


  1. The Strange. Did you like the Western True Grit? Classic scifi like The Martian Chronicles? Scifi horror like Annihilation? Steam punk? How about robots? If yes to any or all of the above, The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud is for you!  It’s a captivating book. And as a bonus, it’s a great example of the real world principle of bounded rationality, Read about the science at Science Robotics  or here at RTSF 

  2. Providence.  It’s about a superfluous crew onboard an AI ship tasked with fighting off an alien invasion. nothing supernatural, just layers and layers of dread. Like the best Shirley Jackson sci-fi novel she never wrote, everything is claustrophobic, ambiguous and leaves the protagonists wondering how much is them, how much is the AI ship, and how much the aliens.  It’s literally a textbook example of human trust in AI and robots. Read about the science at Science Robotics  or here at RTSF 

  3. Sea of Rust. What if the robot revolution comes from the caregiver robots, not the military mechs?  And would those social robots feel remorse and regret? That’s the one of the premises of the 2017 novel Sea of Rust. who was a co-writer of Dr. Strange. It's great lead in to the at the science of how real world robots show regret and remorse in real life- which roboticists define differently than the normal usage of the words. Read about the science at Science Robotics   or here at RTSF

  4. Machine Man. Probably the funniest and scariest book about cyborgs— this is not your Steven Austin Six Million Dollar Man but how R&D might really go down. It should be required reading for any tech developer applying for an institutional review board review of research or anyone interested in brain machine interfaces. Read about the science at Science Robotics  or here at RTSF

  5. Three Miles DownThis is a great read for anyone, but especially for history buffs or someone who lived through the Watergate Era.  It’s 1974 and a nice guy oceanographer gets drawn into a CIA operation to retrieve a sunken Russian sub. The cover story is that Howard Hughes is using the Glomar Explorer to mine magnesium nodules from the sea floor. This all actually happened! The twist in the book is that the cover story is itself a cover story for the real mission, which is to recover the alien space craft that collided with the Russian sub… Delightful retcon of the Nixon presidency and the difficulties in designing a 3 mile long robot manipulator arm.   Read about the science at Science Robotics or here at RTSF 


Other book lists you might enjoy:

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