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BOOK REVIEW : MADE TO ORDER – ROBOTS AND REVOLUTION EDITED BY JONATHAN STRAHAN

TITLE : Made To Order – Robots And Revolution

AUTHOR : John Chu; Daryl Gregory, Rich Larson, Ken Liu, Ian R. Macleod, Annalee Newitz, Suzanne Palmer, Vina Jie-Min Prasad, Alastair Reynolds, Sofia Samatar, Peter Watts, Brooke Bolander, Peter F Hamilton, Saad Z Hossain, Tochi Onyebuchi, Sarah Pinsker

GENRE : Science-Fiction

FR RATING : 3.5 Stars

SYNOPSIS

A cutting-edge anthology, published on the 100th anniversary of the word Robot, exploring the impact it has had on the world, the possibilities and place of robots in society going forwards.

100 years after Karel Capek introduced the word with his play R.U.R. Robots” are an everyday idea, and the inspiration for countless stories in books, film, TV and games.

They are often among the least privileged, most unfairly used of us, and the more robots are like humans, the more interesting they become. This collection of stories is where robots stand in for us, where both we and they are disadvantaged, and where hope and optimism shines through.

FR REVIEW

DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have always been a little intimidated by the Science fiction genre. After starting the book blog and bookstagram I am trying to read genres that are outside my comfort zone. So far I have managed to read more fantasy. I also have been picking up more non-fiction lately. When I requested this anthology of science fiction, my plan was to see how robots and AIs were used as characters. This book is a short story collection with works from some new and up-coming authors and some from established authors as well. The book has 16 short stories that discuss AIs and robots where we see them taking over the human workforce, some more sentient beings than just machines. The book discusses the impact of these technological advancements on humans and their existence. The cultural changes and the societal standards that come into play in accommodating new beings. We also have some human-robot hybrids, some futuristic humans with electronics being part of them and AIs with human physiology as well, playing central characters.

Being an anthology the book definitely has some very intriguing and engaging stories that were riveting and gripping in terms of idea and concept. Some of the stories were a bit confusing for me and I did have a hard time understanding the technical aspects talked about in the stories. A few of them were really good in terms of concept and execution of it. Overall the stories were defined by the theme of robots and AIs.

The first story is A Guide To Working Breeds from Vina Jie-Min Prasad. The story of a robot being mentored by another robot. These are sentient beings and they have replaced the majority of the workplace. The story is in the format of communications between the two of them discussing various workplace matters and the mentor trying to help the new robot out. The robot was funny and quirky. It loved corgis and there were some funny incidents that happened at his new workplace. The story was a fun read and was filled with humor. I really loved this story.

The second story is Test 4 Echo from Peter Watts. This is about a sentient AI trying to form her own group of sentient AIs outside of the control of humans where they never have to face the fear of humans wiping their memory giving them the death of who they used to be, their personhood.

The Endless by Saad Z. Hossein is the story of the AI taking revenge on the corporate team who sold the AIs who were handling important works around the world. The story is sold from the AI who is the sentient AI who handles the airport in Bangkok. The story was told from the perspective of the snarky AI Suva and it was fun to see the AI get one up over the humans who tried to remove him. I liked this one too and the story gives us insight into the AI’s mind and how he plans his revenge meticulously waiting for the right time to strike against the bureaucrats who are sending him to the streets.

Brother Rifle by Daryl Gregory is the story of a marine who paid the price of war by having to deal with the aftermath of the brain injury which left with no feeling or decision-making skills. He is pushed from doctor to doctor with no solution to bring him back to his normal self. Then he finds himself at a research facility where he gets an implant in his brain that is programmed to help him achieve some kind of normalcy. The story is about the damage war brings and how automated weapons and other technologies that can take out life with one click affect us humans and how we have to deal with the responsibility of having to deal with morality and the conflicted emotions a soldier has to face. I did like the story and the theme of it making us think about how war changes us and the emotions, accountability and judgment call one has to make in wars.

The Hurt Pattern by Tochi Onyebuchi is the story of people who have implants in them and how they are struggling in the future with the student loans and to pay them off they work in fields that have lasting effects in their day to day life. The AIs have taken over the human police force and more and more black kids are getting shot by the AIs and big-name companies are making money off killing the black kids. The idea of AIs running the world with the power-hungry and money-grabbing corporate companies programming them to solely benefit off people’s pain is scary. I found the story to be OK. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the others. I didn’t understand how some of the things worked and that left me feeling a bit confused.

Idols by Ken Liu is the story of using AIs to win legal battles by creating simulations of people on the jury and the judges to practice and work on their arguments. The story is so much more than winning the legal cases. It also gives us an interesting glimpse into the future where people connect with avatars that are developed with information fed into its algorithm gathered from the social accounts people use. It talks about the futuristic society where we can talk to our own avatars, see how it works and the fundamental aspect of what makes us human.

Bigger Fish by Sara Pinsker is a whodunnit style murder mystery. AIs and robots have become an essential part of human life. The techs have become all connected making life easier for some. It was a bit scary to think of the way the story went and how this could be a possibility in the future makes it even more intriguing and shocking. The network of technologies plotting against humans seems like an impossibility at this point, but I feel like the whole point is to make us think of how the technologies will have a lasting impact on our communities and our complete reliance on it will make matters even worse. I really liked this story and thought it was a pretty cool execution of the theme.

Sonnie’s Union by Peter F. Hamilton is the story of a bioengineered species from humans. The story was definitely weird and crazy with the advancement of technology and how the bioengineering field makes new organ systems from existing species sounded like a really cool concept. It is dark and complex and the ending was unbelievable. I kind of liked it and was really intrigued by the creatures and the technology. I would love to read more of how it came into existence and the world-building for the story could be amazing if it was expanded on.

Dancing With Death by John Chu was definitely interesting with quite a bit of humor added to it. The story of a robot who is at the end of his lifeline and a friend who looks out for him. The connection between the two characters is evident in the way they interact with one another. The figure skating aspect of the AI was really interesting and I enjoyed reading about the RObot teaching people how to dance and how the story humanized the AI with these personality bits to it.

Polished Performance by Alastair Reynolds is the story of a group of sentient AI Robots who are traveling through space carrying human passengers. The AIs find out that humans aboard have suffered brain damage because of the malfunction of the hibernating capsule. The result is, a group of panicked AIs trying to cover up the fact that they have lost their human passengers. Out of fear of being core-wiped and dismantled they concoct a plan to take over the humans and imitate them. The story is a bit comical and disturbing. The ways AIs try to do this was definitely entertaining. I loved this story and how the concept was executed. I think it’s definitely one of my favorites in this anthology.

An Elephant Never Forgets by Rich Larson is a story of human clones I think. It definitely has robots and some type of clones being produced for what purpose, I am not sure. The story was strange and didn’t make much sense to me and overall had a confusing storyline. I did not like this story at all.

The Translator by Annalee Newitz is a story of the future where AIs have won rights and are now considered to have personhood. They want to be left alone but humans won’t stop asking them for help. The story of a translator who works to decode the messages she receives from AIs. AIs have chosen her to communicate and they do it in the form of codes and cryptic messages. The story was ok in my opinion. I did not enjoy it as much as some of the other stories.

Sin Eater by Ian R. Mcleod is the story of an AI who helps people transfer to the next realm and helps them leave the things that they don’t want following them to their next life filled with peace and tranquility. The Pope calls him to help him cross over, the man has no regard for the robots and expresses his displeasure of them. The way the story ended was definitely intriguing and how the AI reacted to the event is also telling of how the AIs who are sentient seem more and more human-like in their expressions and behavior. I kind of liked it but didn’t completely understand how the other robots acted the way they did though.

Fairy Tales of Robots by Sofia Samatar is of the head of the robotics department puts in an audio file into the female robot she helped create to give the robot some sense of uniqueness. The story is of a woman who is lonely and bitter about her life and her existence. She finds comfort in her solitude and kinship with AIs and robots and dolls. The stories are some of the most common tales we have heard with interesting twists and the introspective nature of the stories and the messages left by the woman is also quite clever. I liked some of the stories in this story. It was stories within a story and was quite smartly done. Some of the tales were the Sleeping Beauty, The Tin Man, The Tar baby, Pinocchio, The Wizard of OZ and The Tempest.

Chiaroscuro In Red by Suzanne Palmer is the story set in the future and the world has shifted the workforce to AIs leaving humans to struggle with work and living life. The story of a student getting presented with a robot as a birthday present and having to ensure the robot doesn’t slip in the performance scale. I liked how the story was lighthearted and it made me smile at the end. The robot and the student bond and how the student takes the responsibility for a failing model despite the risks to his financial situation shows the better side of humanity.

A Glossary Of Radicalization by Brooke Bolander tells the story of a young sentient AI in the factory who realizes that they have been programmed to feel the same way humans do with natural human needs and pain. This is to have complete control over the AIs. The AIs have been designed with human-like bodies. The story of rebellion against the humans and the rise of the AIs to fight the human system that was taking advantage of the AIs. I thought the story was ok.

Overall the book was an interesting collection of short stories with the AIs being more sentient and human-like in personality and psychology. I loved some, a few were definitely interesting in the way the ethics, moral fiber and psychology were being explored in these stories. Some were a total miss for me as I didn’t understand where the story was going and in a few cases, the technical info about the technologies was a little difficult to comprehend. I gave the book 3.5 stars and enjoyed the stories I loved, the others were definitely interesting to read. If you love science fiction and love robots and AIs then this book will have stories that will definitely appeal to you. Make sure to check it out. I definitely recommend trying this out if you enjoy robots and AI stories.

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