Sunday, March 22, 2020

Made To Order: Robots and Revolution, Edited by Jonathan Strahan



As I’ve explained before, I’m not usually a fan of anthologies. The quality and tones of the stories can be highly variable, which I find personally jarring, and one story not to my taste can make me stop reading the whole volume. When I read short stories, I always prefer single authors collections. 

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So why did I request a eARC of Made To Order:Robots and Revolution from NetGalley? 

Well, for starters, I love robots. Always have. Who doesn’t? Remember that part in the beginning of Futurama, when Fry was so excited to have a robot for a best friend because it had always been his dream? I could totally relate. As a kid I remember getting My Robot Buddy by Alfred Slote from the library and I loved the Norby books by Janet and  Isaac Asimov. I wanted to BE C-3P0. Bottom line: I heart robots. 

On top of that, I saw the list of contributors to the collection and I decided to take a chance. There are new stories here by authors I love, including Sarah Pinsker, Peter F. Hamilton, Brooke Bolander, and Annalee Newitz. 

Peter F. Hamilton is most well known for his tomes and doorstops, not his short fiction. But that didn’t make this story, Sonnie’s Union, any less enjoyable. It was a return to his Confederation universe and was excellent, but it really stretched the idea of what is a “robot” beyond what I personally feel is the limit. The story is centered on a woman whose consciousness inhabited a body that was sort of a golem or chimera. To me, once it gets too biological, it stops feeling like a robot. Otherwise, very fun story. 

Sarah Pinsker is one of my new favorite authors. I loved her debut novel, A Song For A New Day, whose near future world of social distancing following a plague and terrorist attacks doesn’t seem so implausible anymore. She wrote Bigger Fish, a detective story that, like Hamilton’s story, is excellent in spite of the lack of traditional SF robots. Instead, the robotic characters are the AIs running a smart home. This story is not to be missed. 

Annalee Newitz also wrote about an AI and not a more traditional robot in The Translator. After the masterful job she did creating the robot protagonist Paladin in her debut novel Autonomous, I was very excited to see what she would do her. I was not disappointed (except for the lack of a traditional clanking robot). Her story is rich and full of heart. 

I could go on about all of the other stories in the anthology, but those three were my favorites. This book is definitely worth checking out!