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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Made To Order: Robots and Revolution by Jonathan Strahan (reviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)



Official Author Website
Order Made To Order: Robots and Revolution over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)


AUTHOR INFORMATION: 
Jonathan Strahan is an award-winning editor, anthologist and book reviewer. He co-hosts the multiple-award nominated Coode Street Podcast.

FORMAT: Made To Order: Robots and Revolution is 416 pages long and it contains sixteen short stories. Published on March 13th, 2020 by Solaris (a division of Simon & Schuster) it's available in an e-book and paperback format from most retailers.



OVERVIEW: Made To Order: Robots and Revolution contains sixteen stories of varying length. All the pieces are original to the collection and cover a variety of themes associated with artificial minds and bodies.


Before we proceed, know this. As much as I love the concept of short fiction, I know from experience that anthologies contain excellent stories, bad stories and everything in between. Because of this, I’ve never given more than four stars to an anthology and I don’t suspect I’ll ever do. And yet I’ve almost done it here.



The anthology revolves around the theme of robots-the creations that can look and behave like us but aren’t like us. They can save humanity or doom it. Philosophers, entrepreneurs, ethicists disagree on this one.



The stories show a remarkable range both in ideas and in tone. The worlds we experience are vivid and compelling. Made To Order: Robots and Revolution is a well-balanced collection of serious and lighthearted, introspective and explosive, realistic and uncanny. Above all, though, it’s smart. Readers interested in artificial intelligence and roboethics will have plenty to think about.


One of the lightest stories of the bunch is the anthology’s opener, A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad. A robot communicates with his mentor. It works a shitty job, overfeeds a possum and loves Corgis. It tries to get better at cooking despite the lack of natural talent. Its mentor, on the other hand, is as badass as its nickname (Constant Killer) suggests. Fast, funny, and endearing. Another story that’s not afraid to be pulpy is Saad Hossain’s The Endless. An embittered AI who didn’t get a promotion to control a space station wants revenge. If you thought that boring work in a cubicle would satisfy it, you were wrong. Very wrong.

On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll find more introspective and intimate stories. In Fairy Tales for Robots, Sofia Samatar examines some of our myths and tales (Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and more). Ken Liu’s Idols shows how the use of simulacra can help lawyers win legal debates but it goes much deeper in its analysis of what makes us “us”. A stunning piece with both solid intrigue and emotional intimacy.

Other stories that struck me include Peter F. Hamilton’s Sonnie’s Union which features a protagonist with peculiar skills. It has a vicious twist that brings everything into focus makes me want to read more about her. Brooke Bolander’s A Glossary of Radicalization shows readers possible beginnings of a possible rebellion. It’s fast and furious.

As for the weaker stories, The Hurt Pattern by Tonye Okanyebuchi didn’t click with me. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author and I’ll certainly try his other works but his position on my TBR list dropped. Though his short story packs a nice twist, I didn’t enjoy the social commentary. I believe it’s the least universal story in the anthology although I suspect US citizens struggling with student loans will see it in a different light than me.

On the whole, Made to Order is excellent. It contains plenty of memorable stories exploring fascinating topics.

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