By Jill Grunenwald, librarian and OverDrive Collection Development Analyst
(Ed. Note: You can see the full collection of Westworld readalikes here.)
Books are great for escapism, about completely immersing yourself in a fictional world. But what if you could really immerse yourself? Like, live in that world and have face to face interactions with the characters? You can fight with them and be friends with them or fall in love with them and … we’ll just leave it at that.
That is the very basic premise of the new HBO show Westworld, based on the 1973 film of the same night that was written and directed by Michael Crichton. This was his “theme park gone wrong” scenario before his blockbuster novel Jurassic Park.
Not gonna lie, I am completely obsessed with this show. Like, falling down the rabbit hole of online theories obsessed. There’s so much to love about Westworld: Wild wild west! Artificial intelligence! Simulated reality! Of course, the show only comes on once a week and unless I want to rewatch each episode (which, of course, I do), the other option is to find some readalikes to keep me entertained in between watching and theorizing.
If you like the Wild West element, try:
True Grit by Charles Portis
This classic novel tells the story of 14 year old Mattie Ross, who ventures into the great wilderness to avenge the death of her father, aided only by a Texas Ranger and a U.S. Marshal known for his violence. I suspect the Man in Black would approve.
If you like the MMORPG / Game Immersion element, try:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Oh that Man in Black, he is a man on a mission. He’s like that guy who plays a video game over and over again because he’s trying to find all the Easter Eggs buried deep in the code by the game developers. Which is pretty much what young Wade is doing in Ready Player One as part of a contest to inherit the legacy of a Steve Jobs like character.
You might also like:
Reamde by Neil Stephenson
Granted, Westworld isn’t an massively multiplayer online role-playing game, but it’s close enough. While Ready Player One focuses mostly on the players, Reamde looks at such games from behind the scenes. Part of the fun of Westworld is seeing how the park operates, what with cold storage and new narratives and, of course, how the host robots get built. Speaking of…
If you like the Artificial Intelligence element, try:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The question of the hosts ability to dream comes up pretty frequently in Westworld. It was a question that acclaimed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick asked half a century ago.
You might also like:
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
Obviously, part of the fun of this book is the title but it takes place in a dystopian future that is almost all entirely automated, kind of like Westworld when you really think about it. Just the opening scenes of watching Dolores go through the motions (literally) shows how mechanical and sequential her existence is. Bonus: Player Piano is Vonnegut’s debut novel.
If you like the Science Fiction Western element, try:
The Gunslinger by Stephen King
The Gunslinger is the first book in King’s epic and iconic Dark Tower series. Roland is a gunslinger who has spent years chasing his own man in black across a vast wasteland. Just like Westworld asks guests if they are a White Hat or a Black Hat, The Gunslinger and the entire Dark Tower series examines the quintessential question of good versus evil.