All hail our robot overlords. It’s not a question of ‘if’ they take over, but ‘when’. This collection of short fiction, chosen by author Simon Ings, will help to prepare you for the revolution.
There’s a quirky and opinionated introduction to the book, plus introductions for the thematic sections and mini author biographies for each story. I like how the stories are grouped into themes, rather than ordered by chronology. It was very useful to have the original year of publication at the end of each story. Artificial intelligence is represented in the broadest sense. We’re not just talking about clunky humanoid-shaped metal robots. Of course, these are included, but there are many other forms of artificial intelligence which writers have dreamed up. Some of the stories are clearly science fiction, while others are very subtle.
My favourite stories in this collection are ‘Beachcomber’ by Mike Resnick, ‘Adam Robot’ by Adam Roberts, ‘Solar Plexus’ by James Blish, ‘Supertoys Last All Summer Long’ by Brian Aldiss (which was the basis for the Spielberg film AI: Artificial Intelligence), ‘Lex’ by W T Haggert, ‘Dolly Sodom’ by John Kaiine, ‘The Robot Who Looked Like Me’ by Robert Sheckley and ‘Miss Bokko’ by Shinichi Hoshi. I had read three of the stories in this collection before: ‘The Land Ironclads’ by H G Wells, ‘The Veldt’ by Ray Bradbury and ‘The Machine Stops’ by E M Forster. Isaac Asimov is not included, on the assumption that if you’re interested in robots, you’re probably familiar with his work. I suppose he would be too obvious an inclusion but I still would have liked one of his stories in there.
I didn’t love all 100 stories in this collection but I appreciated why each was chosen. There’s a satisfying diversity of writing styles, authors and eras, which ensures you’ll find at least some of the stories to your taste. Even the ones that are difficult or unlikeable still hold some interest.
First published in 2020. Thank you to Head of Zeus for the advance copy via NetGalley.