Author: Daniel H. Wilson, John Joseph Adams, Julianna Baggott, Alastair Reynolds, Alan Dean Foster, Ian McDonald, Robin Wasserman, John McCarthy, Seanan McGuire, Nnedi Okorafor, Scott Sigler, Charles Yu, Anna North, Genevieve Valentine, Hugh Howey, Ernest Cline, Cory Doctorow, Jeff Abbott
Summary: There were some awesome ideas in this collection, but many of the stories felt under-developed or incomplete.
I don’t read a lot of sci-fi any more, but it’s one of the genres I read the most in high school and I still often love it when I pick it up. So, even though short stories aren’t always my thing, I thought there couldn’t be much better than a collection all about robot uprisings. I also recognized the names of a number of authors in the collection, including Nnedi Okorafor, Ernest Cline, and Cory Doctorow.
As you might have guessed from my intro, there is a ‘but’ coming. The topics and the authors made me think this had to be good, but it was a bit of a disappointment. Short story collections by multiple authors are typically hit or miss for me, but this book had exceptionally few hits. As you can see from the plot of my ratings below, I’d only give 5 out of these 17 stories a rating of 4 or 5 stars. I also handed out a lot of 2’s – not a rating I use often!
I can only conclude that the editor for this collection doesn’t share my short story pet peeves. Many of these finished just as they got to the interesting bit; had great ideas that weren’t fully fleshed out; and/or left me hanging instead of resolving the interesting situation they’d drawn me into. A few didn’t explain enough to even make sense. There were a ton of great, unique ideas here though. Stories were told from the perspectives of both humans and robots. Robots took over in subtle ways or with guns blazing. Robots experienced emotions or were pitiless machines and had motivations from concern for humans to a desire for revenge. Many of these stories, even those I gave poor reviews, had ideas I’d love to read more about. These authors were just not, in my opinion, very good at writing short stories.
Since I think all of the stories I disliked are summed up pretty well above, I’ll wrap up with some short reviews of the stories that did win me over.
- Genevieve Valentine’s Eighty Miles an Hour All the Way to Paradise – I really enjoyed this story. The way the humans fought back in this world was something I’d love to see in a movie. The people story was engaging and while the end still left some plot points unresolved, I felt that gave this story a haunting , melancholy feel that I enjoyed.
- Cory Doctorow’s Epoch – The AI in this story had an awesome personality as did the sys admin he worked with. I loved the quirky, geeky, pop culture references. I thought both the writing and the plot were quite clever. I’d still have liked a slightly happier, more resolved ending, but that didn’t keep em from enjoying fun, fantastic, well-thought out story.
- Jeff Abbott’s Human Intelligence – I initially didn’t like this story, because the main character was a stereotypical, macho, ex-law-enforcement officer and the author didn’t make him at all sympathetic. He also used acronyms I didn’t think we catchy enough to be believable. That makes me even more impressed that he managed to garner my only 5 star rating for a fantastic twist.
- Julianna Baggott’s The Golden Hour – There wasn’t much to the plot in this one, but the way the robots’ experience of emotion was described was unique and beautiful.
- Alastair Reynolds’ Sleepover – The idea for this story wasn’t as unique as some of the others, but the implementation was much better. The details of the world the author created were unique and the plot and action sequences were exciting. They’d make for a great movie. And the author managed to deliver a complete story, unlike so many others. I’d read more about this world, but appreciated that the story itself felt like one, complete episode.
- Honorable mentions for Nnedi Okorafor’s Spider the Artist, which evoked the feel of African mythology, and Anna North’s Lullaby, which was like a sci-fi haunted house story. Both of these were too short to get more than three stars from me, but they’ve stuck with me and I’d read more by either author.