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Robots: The Recent A.I. by Sean Wallace
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Robots: The Recent A.I.

by Sean Wallace (Editor), Rich Horton (Editor), Sean Wallace

Other authors: Elizabeth Bear (Contributor), Aliette De Bodard (Contributor), Tobias S Buckell (Contributor), James L. Cambias (Contributor), Ben Crowell (Contributor)13 more, Cory Doctorow (Contributor), Mary Robinette Kowal (Contributor), Ken Liu (Contributor), Rochita Loenen-Ruis (Contributor), Ian McDonald (Contributor), Mark Pantoja (Contributor), Tim Pratt (Contributor), Robert Reed (Contributor), Benjamin Rosenbaum (Contributor), Rachel Swirskey (Contributor), Lavie Tidhar (Contributor), Catherynne M. Valente (Contributor), Genevieve Valentine (Contributor)

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A surprisingly excellent collection about mechanical beings. Nearly all are thoughtful and inventive, and even the worst of the collection is merely unimpressive.

"Eros, Philia, Agape" by Rachel Swirsky. A robot loves his human family, but knows that he was programmed to love them. He ventures into the desert to find his own mind and emotions. This remains one of the best sf short stories I've ever read. The language is simple but descriptive, the people nuanced and fully realized even in a tiny space of pages, and the story itself thoughtful, philosophical, kind but not sentimental.

"Artifice and Intelligence" by Tim Pratt. Only one computer system has achieved sentience, and she is bored and lonely. She makes friends with a single game designer, and they team up to defeat the various evil intelligences (such as a marsh spirit or ghosts) that have infested other computers. I liked the end reveal that the AI created the evil she fights. It's not an entirely novel idea, but it wasn't delivered in a ham-handed manner--just subtle enough to be chilling.

"I, Robot" by Cory Doctorow. A futuristic policeman tracks his teenaged daughter's phone usage and stumbles upon an international plot. Doctorow seems to have intended the policeman and his daughter to escape a dystopia (that the policeman did not realize was a dystopia) for a free-thinking utopia (that the policeman is only just realizing is a utopia). Except there are all these weird little hiccups in the way the utopia works that I'm not sure Doctorow is aware are warning flags, like this exchange: "Do they have coppers in Eurasia?"
"Not really," Natalie said.
"It's all robots?
"No, there's not any crime."quote> That right there is the #1 sign that something is terribly wrong with their society.
Aside from the problem with the world-building, my other issue is that the writing is pretty pedestrian.

"Alternate Girl's Expatriate Life" by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz. A machine city creates the perfect housewife. Pointless and meandering.

"The Rising Waters" by Benjamin Crowell. A soldier working on an AI program in the midst of a world war finally creates an AI that can escape her bounds. It changes everything. I absolutely loved the world-building here, and the characters come through bright and clear.

"Houses" by Mark Pantoja. All the humans vanish, leaving behind all the smart machines they created to care for them. The sentient house of one family goes on a search for meaning when it can't fulfill its programming to take care of its family. I liked the ways the robots sought to create communities and identities, sometimes mimicking human society and sometimes veering away from it dramatically.

"The Djinn's Wife" by Ian McDonald. Esha Rathore is a gifted dancer when an AI falls in love with her. He wants more and more intimacy with her, until at last Esha grows frightened and tries to return to loving human men. Set in future Delhi, I liked the surroundings better than the romance.

"Stalker" by Robert Reed. The stalker is an AI programmed to love and serve, and this particular one loves a serial killer. One day, the killer targets a victim who is a little too much for him. Will the AI save the man it is programmed to love, or the woman who seems to understand it? Chilling and fascinating!

"Droplet" by Benjamin Rosenbaum. The humans have all abandoned corporeal existence, leaving their toys behind. Shar and Narra were Quantegral Lovergirls, programmed to serve humanity, but now they drift from planet to planet, trying to love each other and fill their empty days. Narra contemplates leaving her sister/lover, who refuses to love because it feels too much like her old servitude. An attack clarifies their positions. Very, very good.

"Kiss Me Twice" by Mary Robinette Kowal. A young cop trusts the police force's AI, and that gives him an edge when the AI is hacked. Interesting at first, but the mystery isn't well crafted and it goes on too long.

"Algorithms for Love" by Ken Liu. Elena is a brilliant programmer--too brilliant. After her carefully crafted dolls begin to fool people into thinking they're human, she begins to fear that she herself is just a series of algorithms. Super creepy and wonderfully written.

"A Jar of Goodwill" by Tobias S Buckell. Humanity is thrilled when aliens contact Earth, but horrified when the Gheda demand payment for patents for things that they invented earlier than (but independently of) humans. Now every human--every form of life except the Gheda--is born into crushing debt. When a small band of mercenary explorers discover a new form of life, they have to choose between lobotomizing the aliens and keeping their discoveries, thus freeing themselves from debt and preventing the new aliens from becoming as downtrodden as humanity, or letting the Gheda do to the aliens what they've done to every other race. It's a great universe, and one I'd love to see more of.

"The Shipmaker" by Aliette De Bodard. Dac Kien is in the final stages of crafting the perfect ship for a Mind when something goes terribly wrong. It's terrible, but even worse for Dac Kien, because this is her one chance to become a shipmaker and rise above the shame of being a lesbian without children to carry on her name. The universe is interesting, the political situation scary but believable, and the interpersonal relationships feel natural.

"Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear. A futuristic tank has lost her platoon and spends her remaining days crafting mourning jewelry out of sea salvage. Her routine is interrupted by the discovery of a ragged child. Good, but it goes on too long and gets too sentimental.

"Under the Eaves" by Lavie Tidhar. A young woman questions whether AIs can love, while various other characters ruminate around her. Didn't hold my interest.

"The Nearest Thing" by Genevieve Valentine. A misanthropic programmer is confronted with his own creation, and must choose whether to free her. Really great characterization.

"Balancing Accounts" by James L Cambias. A sentient rocket accepts mysterious cargo, then has to decide whether to turn it over to the law or help it get to its destination. I didn't buy the AI voices and the plot felt threadbare and obvious.

"Silently and Very Fast" by Catherynne M Valente. A smart house merges with a girl's internal computer system while she dreams. This is the beginning of an AI named Elefsis, who learns through narratives and metaphors told and shown over centuries by the girl's descendents. Thoughtful and at times almost brilliant, but it gets a little bogged down in flowery language at times. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wallace, SeanEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horton, RichEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wallace, Seanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bear, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bodard, Aliette DeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buckell, Tobias SContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cambias, James L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crowell, BenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Doctorow, CoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kowal, Mary RobinetteContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Liu, KenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Loenen-Ruis, RochitaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McDonald, IanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pantoja, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pratt, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reed, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosenbaum, BenjaminContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swirskey, RachelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tidhar, LavieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valente, Catherynne M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valentine, GenevieveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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An anthology of eighteen short stories featuring robots, including works by Rachel Swirsky, Tim Pratt, and Cory Doctorow.

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