Feb-March were anthology months. Find reviews of other collections here.
A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad ☆☆☆
A feel-good story about a robot mentoring another. There are dogs and contract killers in it too. I liked it but the characters kept changing their handles — you read their chats with each other. At times, it got confusing as to who was saying what. But other than that, a good story with a sweet ending.
Test 4 Echo by Peter Watts ☆☆☆
Will we be doing AI a favor by slapping a label of sentient beings on them? Or is it just a way of keeping them under our thumb? A team of underwater researchers finds out.
The premise is akin to that for the story, A Glossary for Radicalization by Brooke Bolander. And I loved them both.
The Endless by Saad Z. Hossain ☆☆☆☆
AI vengeance at its snarkiest and sassiest. When even some robots who overtook human jobs become redundant, an airport AI is bundled off to a small desk in a dingy office. But he isn’t going down that easily.
I loved everything about this one, except, when at the very end, things got boring and unsurprising.
Brother Rifle by Daryl Gregory ☆☆
A soldier caught in the jaws of PTSD gradually begins to come back to himself with the latest treatment that technology has to offer. While the horrors faced by people on both sides of a war remain a reality, the story didn’t blow me away.
The Hurt Pattern by Tochi Onyebuchi ☆☆
AI police brutality against black teenagers is the focus of this story. And even though incidents like this are quite common in the real world — and more than horrifying –the story didn’t make the concept its own.
Idols by Ken Liu ☆☆
We step into a world where law firms use NLP to create simulacra of the jury and the judge to win cases. Having sampled a reasonably sized portion of Liu’s short fiction recently and liked it, I found this story okayish.
It would be fun to see what Mike Ross and Harvey Specter would make of this tool, though.
Bigger Fish by Sarah Pinsker ☆☆☆
A scum of a wealthy businessman dies and his son hires a PI to solve his murder. Consider the locked-room mysteries by Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton. Then combine their best elements with Asimovian robotic sci-fi. And that’s what this story is, which goes to say that I liked it. But the ending seemed too familiar to surprise me. So, 3 stars it is.
I’d like to read more by this author, though.
Sonnie’s Union by Peter F. Hamilton ☆☆☆☆
I encountered this awesome short while watching Love, Death, and Robots on Netflix. At that time, I thought I loved it. But then, I read it as part of this anthology and I more than loved it! See, they don’t really show the ending the way it is written. They couldn’t have.
Imagine a world where people can merge with monstrous creatures and then have gladiator-style bouts. It’s like Altered Carbon but a monster’s the sleeve. Anyway, we see things from the POV of such a fighter and she’s let say more than invested in the monsters. When the government shuts down the fights, she goes on an avenging spree. It is the way she does the said avenging that takes this story to another level of awesomeness.
Dancing with Death by John Chu ☆☆☆
A penniless robot who cannot afford to keep existing and a fixer-upper who refuses to let that happen. The joy that the robot finds in ice skating and the connection between the two characters will tug at your heartstrings.
Polished Performance by Alastair Reynolds ☆☆☆☆
I loooooved this and wanted to adopt all the robots in it — well, except for Mr. Snooty Pants. So, a ship journeying through space malfunctions and kills most of its human passengers. The good news is that the robots on it to serve the humans have things in hand. The bad news is that they’re awful at being human! Hilarious all the way and a tad sad at the end.
An Elephant Never Forgets by Rich Larson ☆☆☆
Oh, this one was bad. Not in the way that it wasn’t a good story. It was hits-you-in-the-gut kinda bad. An individual wakes up in an asylum without an inkling about who they are, etc. As you read, you slowly understand that the asylum could be any one of the horror houses from the past where children were detained and “uncles” would visit them. Except this one exists in the future and features cloning.
So, while I love-hated the story, I would have liked a clearer conclusion — even if it was just to tell myself that the kids were going to be okay.
The Translator by Annalee Newitz ☆☆
We’re only as useful to this world as our jobs. Or, that is the theme of this story. A translator who interprets the messages of AI is the main character. The AI suddenly announce they’ll be leaving this world. What good would he be if that happened?
I found the lengths that the AI went to for making their conversation more “human” funny.
Sin Eater by Ian R. MacLeod ☆☆☆
A robotic sin eater goes to meet the last surviving human and upload them to the post-singularity digital world. Loved the descriptions and the way the story is told. The ending though turned me off. But then if we had the Pope in the story, crucifixion shouldn’t be a stretch.
Fairy Tales for Robots by Sofia Samatar ☆☆☆
I am adding a whole star for all the effort that probably went into thinking up the premise of this story. In it, we read about an inventor telling fairy tales to her invention — a robot — right before it wakes up. Only, the stories are all parables about life for AI. While I appreciated the concept, the style of telling didn’t draw me in much.
Chiaroscuro in Red by Suzanne Palmer ☆☆☆☆
A student comes into the ownership of a factory-working robot. Since his parents spent their savings on the gift, he decides to keep it. In a manner that reminds readers of Simak’s writing, he begins to care about the bot. Also features two idiot gamers and a voice of reason.
A Glossary for Radicalization by Brooke Bolander ☆☆☆☆
This one’s brutal and raw and I loved it for those very reasons. Humankind creates robots in its image just as God created man in His. The story’s about a girl robot who asks too many questions for someone who doesn’t give a fuck. In the end, she finds the answers, and she WILL share them no matter what!
Summing up, the anthology has an average of 3 stars but my reading experience was higher, so it gets a rating of 4!
I requested this book on Netgalley and I’m glad that I did!