I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is an original sci-fi short story written by Harlan Ellison in 1966. It won the prestigious Hugo Award for science fiction two years later, and was adapted by the author himself into a point and click graphic adventure game with the same name in 1995, which largely increased the title’s popularity and is today still considered a cult classic of horror videogames.
Warning: this review contains spoilers for both the short story and videogame
The plot follows the misadventures of five tortured souls. The story is set a post-apocalyptic world in which the Cold War evolved into a world war between three major potencies – the US, Russia, and China – each of which created their own super-computer, or “Allied Mastercomputer” (AM). One of the computers soon gained sentience, absorbed the other two, and re-named itself AM (after “cogito, ergo sum … I think, therefore I AM”). Like most sentient beings, AM goes crazy and puts an end to the war by destroying all of humanity, with the exception of the aforementioned five individuals whom I keeps as torture pets for its own entertainment. At the time of the narration, Gorrister, Benny, Nimdok, Ted and Ellen have been kept alive and tortured by AM for 109 years.
While the short story and the game share the same premise and characters, there are a few plot differences: the novel is much more concise and focuses on a single event, narrated by the point of view of Ted. The game goes much more in-depth into the characters’ individual backstories, giving the player a chance to impersonate each of them. It also offers a few alternate endings, although they all more-or-less relate to the ending of the book, and hardly any of them could be considered a happy ending. Since Ellison co-wrote the script and dialogues in the game, and even voiced AM himself, the content of the game can considered canon and complementary to that of the novel.