One of my favourite prompts for next year’s ATY challenge is # 17. A book involving intelligence. Of course, for me the obvious choice is a book about AI, but the best part about this prompt is its flexibility, you can read about smart humans, animal intelligence or spies instead. Here are some of my recommendations for the prompt.

I Still Dream by James Smythe is one of my all time favourites and I’ll never miss an opportunity to recommend it. It starts in the 90’s when a lonely girl creates an AI as a friend and therapist, and then it jumps through the decades looking at how AI evolves from there.

Becky Chambers created an AI to mourn for in her debut, but it’s really A Closed and Common Orbit that focuses on what it’s like to be an AI. For a cosier time, there’s also the adventures of robot and monk in A Psalm for the Wild-Built.

In Infinity Gate, M.R. Carey explores how intelligence evolves in parallel universes, from slime to AI and what it means to be a self. I always feel Adam Roberts’ books are very smart and The This explores the idea of a hivemind and the horrors of a technologically advanced war.

Illuminae needs little introduction, a futuristic epistolary novel where the ship’s AI goes into full destructive mode, but he’s only looking out for his passengers, the job he’s designed for. It explores sentience in an action packed story and unusual format.

I’ve mentioned The Mountain in the Sea loads of times, there are so many places to slot it into next year’s challenge, but I would definitely recommend it as an exploration of intelligence, both animal and machine.

World Running Down juxtaposes the body dysmorphia of a young trans man with that of an AI downloaded into a flesh body, as they become friends in a post-apocalyptic story full of kindness and compassion.

An older title that I recall quite fondly is The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, a heartbreaking love story between a human and robot.

Of course, AI is starting to creep into our lives already and Jo Callaghan’s crime series starting with In the Blink of an Eye looks at the use of it by the police to solve crimes, both its drawbacks and advantages.

If futuristic stories aren’t your thing, then dark academia is full of intelligent people getting into trouble, from Babel to A Lesson in Vengeance. Or for a lighter approach, Ali Hazelwood’s STEMinist books fit the bill.

I am much more likely to watch something about spies than read about them (shout out to The Americans), but I do have a couple of espionage recommendations. And I’m not sure if The Library counts as an intelligence agency, but Irene is a top rate spy when it comes to books, starting with The Invisible Library.

I recently read Alias Emma which was a fun, Bondesque, rampage through the streets of London following an undercover spy as she tries to save the son of a Russian defector. And Tom Pollock’s White Rabbit, Red Wolf is about an anxious maths genius who challenges the stereotype of the espionage thriller hero.

And if you’d like to learn more about the workings of the human brain in an easy to digest format, The Idiot Brain is a great popular science read.

Lastly, I have to mention Flowers for Algernon, which why I didn’t love I am glad I read it. It’s kind of well done but difficult to stomach in places, somewhat reflecting attitudes of the time.