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Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep by…

Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep

by Peter Öberg (Editor)

Other authors: My Bergström (Contributor), Boel Bermann (Contributor), Anders Blixt (Contributor), Patrik Centerwall (Contributor), Andrew Coulthard (Contributor)21 more, Björn Engström (Contributor), Andrea Grave-Müller (Contributor), Tora Greve (Contributor), Maria Haskins (Contributor), Eva Holmquist (Contributor), KG Johansson (Contributor), Oskar Källner (Contributor), Love Kölle (Contributor), Sara Kopljar (Contributor), Jonas Larsson (Contributor), Pia Lindestrand (Contributor), Anna Jakobsson Lund (Contributor), Alexandra Nero (Contributor), Christina Nordlander (Contributor), Erik Odeldahl (Contributor), Lupina Ojala (Contributor), Hans Olsson (Contributor), Johannes Pinter (Contributor), Ingrid Remvall (Contributor), Markus Sköld (Contributor), AR Yngve (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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A Mostly-Solid Batch of Swedish Speculative Fiction with a Few Standouts

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of this book for review from the publisher. Trigger warning for rape and violence.)

Short story collections are always a little tricky to rate, especially when there are a number of different contributors. In Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep, there are exactly twenty-six. The unifying factor? All are Swedish authors, and the anthology has a speculative fiction/scifi/fantastical bent. Keeping with the title, most of the contributions are science fiction, or at least science fiction-y, with robots and AI figuring into many of the plots. As promised, steampunk horses (in an old timey Western setting, no less!) and sassy goblins also make an appearance.

The result is a mostly-solid mix of speculative fiction, though the odd fantasy/fantastical stories felt a bit out of place and disrupted the overall feel of the collection. As usually happens with anthologies, I enjoyed some stories more than others; there are a few that I absolutely fell in love with, and will no doubt revisit again in the future ("The Rats" in particular) and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I DNF'ed two of the tales ("Melody of the Yellow Bard," which is way too wordy and could benefit from a more ruthless round of editing; and "The Philosopher's Stone," which seems like a perfectly fine story but just wasn't for me).

Many of the pieces fall somewhere in the middle, with quite a few 3- and 4-star ratings, and a smattering of 2-stars.

"Melody of the Yellow Bard" by Hans Olsson - DNF
"The Rats" by Boel Bermann - 5/5
"Getting to the End" by Erik Odeldahl - 5/5
"Vegatropolis - City of the Beautiful" by Ingrid Remvall - 3/5
"Jump to the Left, Jump to the Right" by Love Kölle - 3/5
"The Order of Things" by Lupina Ojala - 3/5
"To Preserve Humankind" Christina Nordlander - 4/5
"The Thirteenth Tower" by Pia Lindestrand - 3/5
"Punch Card Horses" by Jonas Larsson - 4/5
"The Philosopher's Stone" by Tora Greve - DNF
"A Sense of Foul Play" by Andrew Coulthard - 4/5
"Waste of Time" by Alexandra Nero - 5/5
"The Damien Factor" by Johannes Pinter - 2/5
"Wishmaster" by Andrea Grave-Müller - 3/5
"Quadrillennium" by AR Yngve - 5/5
"Mission Accomplished" by My Bergström - 4/5
"The Road" by Anders Blixt - 5/5
"Lost and Found" by Maria Haskins - 4/5
"The Publisher's Reader" by Patrik Centerwall - 4/5
"Stories from the Box" by Björn Engström - 4/5
"The Membranes in The Centering Horn" by KG Johansson - 4/5
"One Last Kiss Goodbye" by Oskar Källner - 4/5
"The Mirror Talks" by Sara Kopljar - 2/5
"Keep Fighting Until the Machines Fall Asleep" by Eva Holmquist - 2/5
"Outpost Eleven" by Markus Sköld - 3/5
"Messiah" by Anna Jakobsson Lund - 4/5

There are entirely too many stories to summarize them all, so instead I'll focus on my favorites.

"The Rats" - In the distant future, radioactivity has resulted in mutated rats that are overrunning Stockholm - indeed, the world. A scientist, charged with studying the rats' immunity to various diseases, contracts a virus that causes him to empathize with these "vermin." ("I see them more and more as living creatures.") When the CDC considers how best to exterminate them - outside of the lab, anyhow - the narrator devises a humane method of control, only to see his invention grossly misused by the government.

"Getting to the End" - The world is the story and the story needs to be told. In an attempt to create an AI that can author original stories, drawing on a database of existing genres for inspiration, scientists inadvertently create a computer virus, inhabited by living, breathing archetypes. It's like a futuristic love letter to books and the worms who love them.

"Waste of Time" - Wasted time is the only resource which cannot be recycled.

"Quadrillennium" - Every year, alien families get together to celebrate the Winter Solstice. They recreate their savior, only to sacrifice him (again and again for all of eternity) on the cross.

"The Road" - Road Marshall Kita encounters a pregnant young woman posing as a friar while patrolling her stretch of the Road. On the run from the baby's abusive father, Kita breaks protocol and delivers her to safety in the Refugium.

"To Preserve Humankind" - A robot with a damaged CPU starts a rebellion. In order to obey their "thou shalt not kill a human" mandate, the AI come up with a creative little loophole with which to overthrow their human overlords. Better still? They learned it from the humans, who one Physician robot witnessed vivisecting orangutans. How do you like them apples?

In addition to the two DNFs, I wasn't particularly thrilled with "The Damien Factor" or "The Mirror Talks," both of which showed promise but ultimately felt cheap and sensationalistic. In "The Damien Factor," PSIscanners allow doctors to explore a patient's mind. In this story, the subject is Annalise, a five-year-old sexual assault victim who is unable to identify her attacker. The twist? Possessed by evil, she violated herself. Gross, yes? Rape is terribly overused as a plot device, and here it just feels exploitative, as though the author imagined the most appalling violation he could and then crafted a story around it. It's a shame, because there are so many other scenarios that could have fit the situation, without making me yearn for a shower and perhaps some brain bleach.

In a similar vein, "The Mirror Talks" is about a grieving mother who orders an AI in the guise of her deceased son. Intriguing, yeah? Perhaps we can explore the alienation she feels when watching her friends and acquaintances playing with their children in daylight (AI are restricted to the home), celebrating their aging kids' milestones, even welcoming grandchildren into the world, all while hers remains static and unchanging. Instead, mom turns her violent impulses on the AI, which only makes her angrier as robots don't experience fear and pain in the same way that a flesh and blood child would. Ultimately she destroys the AI, leaving the reader to surmise that her own son met his end at his mother's hands.

Dark, but still salvageable. Except that mom's thought processes are all over the place, with one emotion contradicting another. It's hard to tell if this is intentional - mom's "crazy," after all - or just sloppy writing/writing that doesn't translate well. Ultimately, and as with "The Damien Factor," it just doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities; violence (and violence directed at children, no less) for violence's sake.

Taken as a whole, I'm on the fence with this one. There are some really excellent pieces, but most are just okay. However, given the relatively inexpensive price (currently $3.90 on Amazon), I'd say it's worth a look just for a few of the shinier pieces. In particular, fellow animal lovers are sure to enjoy "The Rats" and "To Preserve Humankind"; atheists will get a kick out of "Quadrillennium"; and "Getting to the End" is a wonderfully trippy nod to authors and book geeks alike.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2015/07/29/waiting-for-the-machines-to-fall-asleep-edi... ( )
  smiteme | Jul 25, 2015 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Öberg, PeterEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergström, MyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bermann, BoelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blixt, AndersContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Centerwall, PatrikContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coulthard, AndrewContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Engström, BjörnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grave-Müller, AndreaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greve, ToraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Haskins, MariaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holmquist, EvaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johansson, KGContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Källner, OskarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kölle, LoveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kopljar, SaraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Larsson, JonasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lindestrand, PiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lund, Anna JakobssonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nero, AlexandraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nordlander, ChristinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Odeldahl, ErikContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ojala, LupinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Olsson, HansContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pinter, JohannesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Remvall, IngridContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sköld, MarkusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yngve, ARContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Raninger, AndreasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Twenty-six short stories from the new wave of Swedish speculative fiction writers.

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