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Ambiguity Machines: and Other stories by…
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Ambiguity Machines: and Other stories (2018)

by Vandana Singh

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Showing 5 of 5
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
If you like science fiction and fantasy short stories from a different point of view, read this book. Instead of using the standard European influences, some of these stories are based on Indian mythology. One of my favorites (the last) stars an Indian woman who has traveled to a warming Arctic to collect her aunt's belongings. Even though I've already read this as a pre-release ebook, a print copy is on its way to be added to my collection. ( )
  kbuxton | Jan 20, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I've been a fan of Vandana Singh since I read The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories and met her at the Science Fiction Research Association 2015 conference, so I was excited to acquire an advance review copy of this, her second collection of short fiction, covering works released (mostly) after the publication of her first. A second novel is always a tricky thing; I'm wondering if a second short story collection can be even more so.

I enjoyed the first collection for its thoughtfulness and its sense of play, but I'm used to Singh's voice now, and at times I felt that Ambiguity Machines & Other Stories wasn't giving me much that I hadn't got out of the first. Singh has a recurrent interest in how (what one of her characters in TWWTSWP&OS called) "inner space" and "outer space" need to be accessed at the same time. As a result, there are a lot of ruminative stories about people in outer space here, people's ordinary lives paired with extraordinary journeys through time and space. On top of that, AM&OS adds an interest in the environment-- as is common in contemporary sf, a lot of these tales take place after some kind of ecological disaster or environmental collapse, though sometimes they're about one being forestalled. I'll be honest, occasionally it started to all blend together.

But when Singh hits, she really does sing. I really enjoyed "Peripeteia," about a physics academic who, after her lover leaves her, starts to worry that Occam's Razor might not be true, and maybe all of physics is just an ad hoc alien construction. "Are you Sannata3159?", about a man working for a pittance in a meat factory in a stratified future society, is a really dark story, more like what I would expect of Manjula Padmanabhan (it's sort of Harvestesque), but blackly good. "Sailing the Antarsa," about a lone space explorer who discovers there's always a new unknown to know, was a nice and uplifting counterpart to that one. I liked the knitting together of the stories of ordinary people during a fantastic event in "Cry of the Kharchal."

The second-best story in the volume is the last (and the only one not previously published): "Requiem," about a graduate student who goes to Alaska (in a time of environmental collapse) to collect the belongings of her recently deceased beloved aunt. A strong take on grief, with some intriguing ideas under the surface. The best story in the volume is the title story, "Ambiguity Machines: An Examination," three stories about nameless characters encountering machines that may or may not exists, each one on its own an insightful, melancholy tale, but in combination, greater than the sum of their parts. Which is true for many machines, many stories, and many collections, including this one.
  Stevil2001 | Jan 12, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an excellent collection of short stories. There's a range of fantasy and sci-fi, with some overlap, but the stories are all very different from each other. The one dystopic horror story, Are You Sannata3159?, didn't do much for me, but it just wasn't my thing. Everything was well written.

My favorite piece is Requiem, the novelette that closes out the book (and is original to this collection), an ecological sci-fi tale about a young woman visiting the arctic research station where her aunt died. Environmental themes also show up (though subtly) in Indra's Web, Cry of the Kharchal, and With Fate Conspire. Other themes include communicating across time, and Indian myths and epic poetry. Oblivion: A Journey, a space opera revenge fantasy that draws on the Ramayana, was another standout. ( )
  Euryale | Jan 2, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A collection of science fiction stories from author Vandana Singh. They were very original and well written with really interesting settings. There’s a range of themes throughout the stories too. Often her Indian culture shows up in the stories lending them a much different feel to most of the English language sci-fi that’s out there. I particularly enjoyed the unusual revenge story Oblivion: A Journey, and Requiem, where a woman travels to a research station in Alaska where her aunt had been working before she died. The latter is the final story in the collection, appearing here for the first time, and it’s the longest story too. All of the stories have something interesting in them though, and are full of intriguing ideas. If anything, sometimes it feels like the detailed worlds she built needed more than just a short story to take advantage of them and occasionally it feels like the plot gets lost amongst all the details. Mostly though, it’s an excellent collection of science fiction with a different feel from most.
  valkyrdeath | Dec 31, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a collection of Fantasy and SF short stories from an Indian author. Most of them have been published elsewhere, but the last, and maybe the best, hasn't. It's a refreshing change to read stories that come from a non-English speaking tradition, and even the stories that are set somewhere else other than Earth have a different influence from the SF I'm used to reading. There's a great variety of settings, from the past to the future, but the same high quality story telling in each. I really enjoyed reading each one. ( )
  paulmorriss | Dec 29, 2017 |
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je t'aime pour toujours
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"In her first North American collection, Vandana Singh's deep humanism interplays with her scientific background in stories that explore and celebrate this world and others and characters who are trying to make sense of the people they meet, what they see, and the challenges they face"--… (more)

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