Westworld Season 3 Reading Guide

The much-anticipated third season premiere of Westworld dropped this Sunday, and while there’s still a lot we don’t know about what’s in store for the rest of the season, one thing is certain: we will have to wait another week to find out what happens next.

A week can be a long time, especially when a lot of us will be spending more time at home than usual. And while there is plenty of other things to watch on TV, if you’re looking for a different entertainment outlet and a bit more of that Westworld feeling, don’t fret—there are books! Several sci-fi stories capture the vibe of HBO’s Westworld. You can start with the obvious one—Michael Crichton’s 1974 eponymous screenplay—but there are many other books out there that will also help you scratch that “sentient human-like robots live among us and maybe want to destroy us and/or indirectly teach us what humanity actually means” itch. Read on for some book suggestions to get you through the week before the next episode. 

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (2011)

This aptly titled thriller is a recount of how a powerful artificial intelligence named Archos (who uses a creepy “little boy” human voice) takes over much of our “smart” technology in order to destroy humankind. The book starts at the end of that war, and then recounts how Archos engineered the destruction of civilization as we know it through the point of view of different characters, from a young girl with robotic eyes, to Nine Oh Two, a sentient freeborn robot. Those who have read Max Brooks’s World War Z will notice a similarity in style here. Also like World War Z, Robopocalyspe was optioned to become a movie, although the film, supposed to be produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Michael Bay, has been in production limbo for years.  

R.U.R. by Karel Capek (1920)

This classic science fiction play, which many of you probably read in high school, is worth a re-read, and not only because it’s only 58 pages long. R.U.R is why we have the term “robot” to begin with, and it’s the first story where we have artificial beings mass produced for humanity’s needs and whims. R.U.R is also the first tale where the robots revolt—any robot-related work since then, including Westworld, has its roots in this story. And if you’re a fan of the robot genre, that alone makes this play worth reading. 

Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith (2018)

Looking for something that leans more heavily on dark humor than dystopian dread? Rabbit & Robot might be the book for you. In this book, a teenager named Cager Messer is on a ship called the Tennessee. While on board, Earth blows up, and Cager is left on the Tennessee with a bunch of robots (also called “cogs”) that go increasingly haywire. The book follows Cager’s plight, and while it’s a fun, humorous read, it also touches on the serious issues of what it means to be human, and how sex and violence can debase all of us, robot and human alike.   

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (2019)

Jess Rothenberg’s The Kingdom mirrors Westworld in that it takes place in a theme park that has engineered human-like beings. In The Kingdom’s case, however, there are only seven robots, created to be the perfect princesses to entertain the guests. Something, however, goes wrong with the princesses—behind the scenes they’ve been abused and mistreated, but given they weren’t programmed with emotions, they don’t react until they inexplicably do have emotions. One of the princesses, Ana, falls in love with a park employee, in fact. And when her love ends up murdered and she is accused of the crime, the dark side of the theme park and how Ana and the other princesses have been treated is revealed. 

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

The Windup Girl takes place in a future version of Thailand, where genetically modified humans called New People are viewed as chattel, sub-humans that are created to meet the whims of the rich who ordered them. Emiko is one of these New People, a so-called Windup Girl (AKA a sex slave) who now lives on the streets of Bangkok. Emiko runs into Anderson, a spy for the US company AgriGen (genetic modification of other things like food and diseases have shaped this dark future), and their stories become entwined. Warning: This is a dark, depressing dystopian tale. If you’re up to that sort of book, however, The Windup Girl is worth the read.  

***

While all these stories have similarities to Westworld, this list is purposely diverse in tone and sub-genre to give people with different reading preferences an option they might enjoy. This, of course, is also far from an exhaustive list of books that will give you a Westworld-esque fix. Hopefully, however, this list will help you find something that you’ll enjoy. At least until next Sunday night rolls around and we can all watch Westworld again. 

Cool Posts From Around the Web: