“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison

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“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” first published in the March 1967 issue of IF: Worlds of Science Fiction, is the story of Artificial Intelligence exacting its revenge on the humans who created it (well, the five humans left in existence, anyway).

My two youngest boys didn’t read this story.

Melissa: I’m not sure I had ever heard of Harlan Ellison before I saw a synopsis of this story on a top ten list. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” is easily one of the creepiest AI takeover stories I have ever read. People are capable of great evil, but imagine how much physical and psychological torture can be inflicted at the, er, circuits? of an artificial overlord with no conscience. This story made me an Ellison convert. I will be reading much more of his work in the future.

Joe: I enjoyed the feeling of helplessness that Ellison was able to convey – from both sides. I appreciate the way it ended, though I would have understood if the final conflict between the humans and AM had ended differently. This story is everything I would expect out of post-apocalyptic science fiction. I would definitely recommend, as it is certainly not formulaic, and carries an interesting presentation of recurring themes of the genre.

Brooke: My overall opinion is that this is a very well-written short story. I would recommend it to people who enjoy post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I thought the character of AM had a personality and cold logic that appealed to me as a reader. The ending was one of the best I have seen in any short story.

Family consensus: 8.25/10

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