60 pages 2 hours read

Neal Shusterman


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2018

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Genre Context: Artificial Intelligence in Science Fiction

Since the dawn of science fiction, writers have pondered the concept of humans creating sentient life forms. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which kick-started the science fiction genre in 1818, serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of such ambition, suggesting that if humans try to create intelligent life, that creation will inevitably turn on its creator and deliver destruction. Hundreds of years later, echoes of these fears can be found in countless works of science fiction as well as in non-fiction accounts of the rise of artificial intelligence in our modern world.

In the Industrial Age, human laborers watched as many jobs became automated with machines. While this change accomplished tasks more quickly and jump started urbanization across the world, the idea of machines “taking” jobs from human workers was born during this era. By the late 20th century, this distrust of complex manmade machines intensified. Computers entered residential households, and the 1980s saw a rise in science fiction movies and fiction depicting artificial intelligence as a hostile force that would destroy humanity if left unchecked.

In Thunderhead, Shusterman takes a different approach and challenges these long-held beliefs about artificial intelligence. The Thunderhead of Shusterman’s Post Mortal world is not a proud, vengeful, or power-hungry AI with a malicious streak.