August 1, 2020

Review: Made to Order: Robots and Revolution

Made to Order: Robots and Revolution Made to Order: Robots and Revolution by Jonathan Strahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anthologies can be pretty hit and miss for me. A lot depends on the theme, and even more on the editor selecting stories that properly fit the theme. Jonathan Strahan has won multiple editing awards, and this collection of stories hits the bulls-eye more often than not. There aren't any typical AI rebellions or Terminator-style apocalypses to be found here--like the good editor he is, Strahan has picked stories that go in different directions.

The highlights:

“Test 4 Echo,” Peter Watts. This has Watts’ trademark hard science, a sympathetic central character, and a bleak, depressing ending. The ending is a little more bleak and depressing than usual, even for him.

“Bigger Fish,” Sarah Pinsker. This has a (slightly abrupt) twist ending that is a very literal, very robotic and more than a little frightening–once you think about it–interpretation of Asimov’s First Law.

“Dancing With Death,” John Chu. The author is clearly a figure skating fan, which tickled me to no end, combining robots with ice dancing (as well as a minor Chinese god).

“Chiaroscuro in Red,” Suzanne Palmer. One of the longer stories in the book, this is a down to earth, Everyman sort of tale about a college kid whose parents buy him an aging factory robot, and he ends up rescuing said robot.

“A Glossary of Radicalization,” Brooke Bolander. The final story in the book, this has Bolander’s usual gritty setting, themes of social justice, and undercurrents of seething rage.

Even the one or two stories I didn't care for I could see someone else loving. That's the mark of a good anthology. This collection is well-balanced and well-edited, and you should add it to your reading list.

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