The Two Faces of Tomorrow by James R. Hogan (1979)
Long before Terminator brought us the terrors of a unified, anti-human computer named Skynet, James R. Hogan addressed the issue with exciting but more favorable results.
In the near future, an integrated computer system on the moon follows an order to remove a lunar ridge for a construction crew. Unfortunately, the engineers who requested the removal are on-site when a lunar cannon obliterates it.
On Earth, a charismatic scientist and his department have been working on a new generation of their Skynet, but after version one goes off the rails, all AI development is suspended. Wait a minute, says the director. Give us one of the empty orbiting colonies to test our latest version. Let us see if we can stop a power-mad computer in an isolated place. That will make sure that if it tries to take over the Earth, we’ll know how to defeat it.
Oh, and let’s staff the orbiting colony with military and scientists. What could possibly go wrong?
The inevitable battle ensues with the humans getting decimated until the computer witnesses two scientists trying to save the orbital station even though they know the computer will kill them. Could humans be self-aware like the computer and deserving of life?
My daughter would not approve of the depiction of women in this novel. In the seventies, a single woman still had to have a man co-sign before she could get a credit card. That’s no excuse, but Mr. Hogan wrote this during those times.
The women are love interests, obnoxious opposing viewpoints, and hysterical plot devices to move the action toward the climax. There’s also a “girl” reporter who helps the director try to stop the atomic bomb the government hid aboard as a failsafe (darn those devious men in black). I think she’s there for him to talk to.
In the end, the computer is the hero and the most human character in the book.