I have a memory of a book or short story that I read years ago. It was about a group of human explorers who are investigating an uninhabitable planet. They find that a robotic colony ship had crashed, and there was a malfunction of some kind that led to the robots developing their own civilization.

The technology that was originally intended to allow the colony ship to construct the colony and build new robots ended up being used for the robots to reproduce. They had used knowledge of bioengineering, presumably intended for terraforming, to develop biological machines in much the same way humans use mechanical machines.

1 Answer 1


This is probably the Code of the Lifemaker series by James P. Hogan.

Long ago, an alien "searcher" ship flew too close to a star gone nova. Though heavily damaged, the ship landed on Titan, one of Saturn's moons.

Attempting to fulfill its original function of seeding suitable planets for exploitation, the ship creates a bewildering society of self-replicating machines that gives rise to a bizarre ecosystem and culture with intelligent beings and organically grown houses.

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    Yes. The entire first section of Code of the Lifemaker is the story of the failed colony (a story that could have been published separately from the rest of the book)
    – Andrew
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:43
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    This is it. Thank you!
    – kettch
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 19:58
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    My first taught was 'Invincible' from Lem, but this fits better.
    – Uncle Dino
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 8:43

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