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Five Things to Read or Watch If You Loved Westworld

By / June 1, 2017 / no comments

Last year’s HBO Westworld, an adaptation of a film by novelist Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park) from the 70’s, hit the ground running, drawing in many into its sci-fi western world.

Many have even said that it might do for science fiction media what Game of Thrones has done for fantasy. A strong story with an interesting mystery, which I will try to not to spoil here, the show has left many scratching their heads, and wondering at the nature of what makes a person a person, and what is real.

The following five titles, be they books, comics, film, or television, also play with reality and other themes that Westworld uses to charm us all.

 

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I’ve seen Blade Runner. You’ve probably seen it. Everyone within sight of these words has probably seen it.

This is what, for the most part, it was based off of. In a dismal future of 1992, or 2001 depending on which edition you are reading, most of the world’s animals are gone, most of the population has moved off of Earth to protect the species, and human looking androids exist.

The protagonist is a bounty hunter tasked with the hunting down and killing, so coldly referred to as retiring, rogue androids.

The lines between who is human and who is not is blurred, and the ethics of killing things that you couldn’t, with real certainty, tell wasn’t human. And besides, if these machines move and act to defend themselves and preserve their own existence, that at least makes them sentient, and thus, perhaps…people. Right?

 

2. Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow

Originally a manga, this iconic tale has been told and retold many times since it was first published in 1989.

Through its various iterations, one core concept remains, how much does the body have to be organic for it to be a person. If the machine considers itself a person, if it has thoughts and emotions and the personality of a person, is it not that person?

These themes get more complex when you introduce a world where hackers can break into that machine.

If you can’t trust in the security of the machine, how do you know what you’re doing is what you want to do, and not the will of some shadowy outside force? That sort of existential horror is something I felt in my first viewing of Westworld as well.

 

 

3. The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People (by Matthew Graham, directed by Julian Simpson)

Doctor Who series six episodes five and six respectively.

What if you could make avatars of yourself to do hazardous work, keeping your real body relatively safe from harm?

Your avatar will be you, think like you, have your memories, and act just like you would, but will be turned off when the job is done, turning back into amorphous goo when you’re finished, or when it becomes damaged in such a way that would kill you.

But what if this avatar was sentient, what if it remembered all the times it, you, died? What if, after an accident, they become separated from you, operating independently from you. They remember everything you remember. They think like you, look like (for the most part) you, and can predict your actions because, of course, that is how they would act as well. What makes you the real you, what makes the biological you more deserving of your life than this doppelgänger?

This two-part pair of episodes of one of the most famous science fiction shows on television in the world explores many topics, and though this is towards the middle of the season, the serialized nature of the show doesn’t really demand that you watch anything else to get the meat of the episodes, and is available on Amazon Prime Video.

 

4. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

What happens when the machines we make turn against us? I mean, this is a pretty popular question in science fiction, see

I mean, this is a pretty popular question in science fiction, see The Terminator, The Matrix, I, Robot, Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse, or Michael Crichton’s (who wrote and directed the film Westworld was based on) Prey and many, many more.

But Ellison in this horrific short story takes this to an extreme, to a point in the future after the machine controlling the world has killed all but four people, and has been torturing them for who knows how long.

How much of that is that cast of humanity’s just deserts? Hubris is sort of the name of the game in that subgenre, so some of this is our chickens coming home to roost, but where is that line between that and torment, justice and evil?

Hubris is sort of the name of the game in that subgenre, so some of this is our chickens coming home to roost, but where is that line between that and torment, justice and evil?

 

5. The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Considered by King himself to be his magnum opus, this eight book series is his longest and, in my opinion, most involved work. Interweaving fantasy, horror, and western tropes, as well as many references to his earlier works,

Interweaving fantasy, horror, and western tropes, as well as many references to his earlier works, The Dark Tower the story of a group of people brought together through fate to take down a powerful foe.

It’s difficult for me to think about a modern series that unabashedly captures the western feel like both Westworld and The Dark Tower, while serving other genres as well. Additionally, it will soon be a film, starring mega star Idris Elba, scheduled currently to be released in August.

Additionally, it will soon be a film, starring mega star Idris Elba, scheduled currently to be released in August.

 

 

 

 

 

Which media would you suggest for fans of Westworld as we wait for season two to drop, which will be sometime in 2018. Do you agree with my list? Which things would you suggest instead? Tell me which things, and why, in the comments below

About the author

David Castro

David Castro is co-editor and co-founder of Babbling of the Irrational, a submission based literary blog. Writer, Nerd, other single word descriptions. Flushing, New York

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