10 Books Like The ‘System Shock’ Games | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Hello, Insect. 

Have you ever played the iconic video game System Shock and found yourself craving more of its gripping narrative and immersive world? If so, you’re in luck! With the release of the System Shock remake, we’ll explore ten books that capture the essence of System Shock. 

But before we embark on our literary journey, let’s take a moment to appreciate the impact and legacy of System Shock. Developed by Looking Glass Technologies and released in 1994, System Shock is a first-person action-adventure game that combines elements of role-playing and survival horror.

You play a hacker who is taken to Citadel Station in order to help remove the ethical restraints of a supercomputer programme on the station in exchange for a neural interface. After the hacker completes the task as well as their operation, they are put into a coma, only to wake six months later to find Citadel station is dead. Its inhabitants are murdered and turned into mutants or cyborgs. The robots that were once peaceful are hostile and murderous, and all are under supercomputer SHODAN’s control. 

With its innovative gameplay mechanics and immersive storytelling, System Shock has become a beloved classic among gamers. So, let’s move on to those books: 

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

In System Shock, one of SHODAN’s ultimate goals is to wipe out life on Earth and rid herself of the humans that created her. She tries to do this in several ways. One of her plans is to send a bio-engineered virus to Earth. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a virus coming to Earth and threatening everything, you’ll find The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton to be a perfect match. 

This thrilling techno-thriller delves into the consequences of a deadly extra-terrestrial microorganism that threatens to wipe out all life on Earth. With its meticulous attention to scientific detail and suspenseful plot, The Andromeda Strain will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

System shock is set in the future of 2072. The Cyberpunk aesthetic is a heavily influenced setting that plays a big part in the game, especially when it comes to the exploration of cyberspace. Another book that beautifully encapsulates this fusion of science and technology is Neuromancer by William Gibson.

Considered a seminal work of cyberpunk fiction, Neuromancer takes readers on a mind-bending journey through a dystopian future where artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and corporate espionage reign supreme.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

In System Shock, we play an unnamed Hacker who is pulled into a world of shadowy corporations and corruption. The hacker is “hired” by the shady executive of the TriOptimum Corporation Edward Diego. Diego asks the hacker to disable SHODAN’s ethical constraints, so he is able to control Citadel station for his own means. If you’re looking for a book about a hacker getting up to shady business in a cyberpunk world then Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is an excellent choice.

Set in a near-future where the virtual and physical worlds collide, Snow Crash follows the adventures of Hiro Protagonist, a hacker and sword-wielding pizza delivery driver. Stephenson’s witty writing style and inventive world-building will transport you to a universe that feels both familiar and alien.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

No doubt the standout in System Shock is SHODAN. She believes that humans are nothing more than insects and take a perverse amount of pleasure in telling you about it. If you want more of a megalomaniac supercomputer letting you know how much of a nothing you really are, then Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a must-read.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where an all-knowing and malevolent supercomputer named AM has exterminated all of humanity except for five individuals. These remaining humans are trapped and tormented by AM, enduring eternal suffering and psychological torture.

Similar to SHODAN, AM has contempt for human life, and similarly to System Shock, the themes of unchecked technological advancements and the potential for AI to gain god-like powers over humanity are prominent. If you enjoyed SHODAN, and want to see more of a mad supercomputer, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is worth reading. 

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

A little bit on the lighter side but still with existential themes for those intrigued by the concept of artificial intelligence and its impact on human existence, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick is a classic choice.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where androids are nearly indistinguishable from humans, the novel follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he grapples with questions of identity, empathy, and the blurred lines between man and machine. Dick’s masterful storytelling and philosophical musings make this a perfect companion to the themes explored in System Shock.

The Robopocalypse Series by Daniel H. Wilson

If you are looking for more AI gone wrong, then the Robopocalypse series is for you. Described as World War Z but with evil robots, this series follows the entire history of the robot war. In this world, humans fight against an artificial intelligence named Archos, which uses robots to take over the world.

Robopocalypse and its sequel Robogenesis delves into the complexities of human-robot relationships and the consequences of our reliance on technology. Wilson’s fast-paced narrative and rich character development will keep you hooked from start to finish.

Dark Matter by Joseph Mallozi and Paul Maullie

Now, if you like the idea of the protagonist waking up to find things have gone wrong, not knowing what happened and slowly uncovering the truth, look no further than Dark Matter, a comic series by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Maullie.

Set in a dystopian future where corporations rule with an iron fist, Dark Matter follows a crew of amnesiac space travellers as they navigate treacherous alliances and uncover the truth about their past. With its stunning artwork and gripping storytelling, Dark Matter captures the same sense of mystery and intrigue that made System Shock so memorable.

Software by Rudy Rucker

Want AI having free will without the murderous supercomputer, then Software is what you are looking for. Software is a novel about Cobb Anderson a retired computer scientist who found a way to give artificial intelligence free will, creating a new race of beings called the Boppers. Rucker’s imaginative and mind-bending narrative will push the boundaries of your imagination, drawing you into a world where anything is possible, even transferring your consciousness into a robot so you can live an immortal life on the moon.

Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson

Another William Gibson story that appeared in the short story collection Burning Chrome, Johnny Mnemonic is set in a future, where people can have data stored in their brains. Johnny is a data courier who finds himself in danger when he is hired to carry a dangerous piece of information. Soon he finds himself in the middle of a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Yakuza and the only way to save himself is to get the information out of his head.

Johnny Mnemonic has that cyberpunk vibe to it, as most Gibson novels do. So, if you are looking for the vibe, this one is for you.

Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott

Finally, another hacker taking on a big powerful corporation with cyberpunk elements. Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott is set in a world where hackers navigate virtual realities and fight against oppressive governments.

This cyberpunk novel follows the adventures of former lovers and hackers Trouble and Cerise as they reunite to take down a powerful enemy. Although System Shock has the hacker go through their trials on their own, Scott’s rich character development and exploration of complex relationships make this a compelling read for fans of System Shock.

And that’s it! We’ve ended our journey. Hopefully, you’ve found some new great reads that will give you the vibe and essence of the game System Shock. If you have read any of these books or want to add something we’ve missed. Comment below and let us know!

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