This resource lists a bunch of stories which in some way, explore the beautiful ideas behind computer science, software engineering and even plain old programming.

You can add more books, or more reviews of existing books via a pull request (see the project README first). Updates to the display mechanism are also welcome! A lot of the suggestions came from these HN threads: 1 2.

Genre definition

I'm tentatively calling this "hard comp-fi" to echo the well-established genre of hard sci-fi, which is defined by accurate, watertight science taking centre stage in the narrative. In hard comp-fi, by way of contrast, the computer science/software engineering/programming aspects are accurate, watertight and take centre stage in the narrative.

Some stories can be both, but they don’t have to be. In particular, magic lends itself very well as an allegory for computation: unlike its precursor, therefore, hard comp-fi often inhabits a fantasy setting. Hard comp-fi is not necessarily cyberpunk either; the latter can slant away from technical concepts and towards societal implications, usually with a bleak postmodernist aesthetic.

In the hardest comp-fi, programming skills contribute to the reader’s understanding of the plot, or perhaps vice versa: the plot contributes to the reader’s understanding of programming. You could probably class it all as rational fiction.

Genres are often defined by what they are *not*, so here are some honourable mentions:

The List

Ratings are, of course, subjective and best taken with a pinch of MSG. All ratings are out of 5. CompFi proportion describes what proportion of the text is given over to comp-fi concepts. Higher proportion is not necessarily better or worse - it's a stylistic choice that necessarily trades off against e.g. character development. CompFi centrality describes how central comp-fi is to the narrative - not necessarily the same thing as proportion. CompFi combined takes an average of both and overall rating is a more conventional rating of quality.

Click any row to show text reviews, click any header to sort by column. Hyperlinks in titles lead to legal free downloads only.

Work Length CompSci

Works recommended but lacking review