Fun fact: According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as of 2010 there were 8.6 million robots in the world. Fun scenario: They’re all out to kill us.
Forget Asimov’s laws of robotics; think of Schwarzenegger’s Terminator instead, or maybe that friendly-voiced if unblinking fellow in 2001. As editors Wilson and Adams observe, robots are scary because they're real, and the possibility of them rising up against us is—well, highly likely, since “[w]e live in a world teeming with monsters made real.” This anthology neatly explores that possibility, its contributors offering widely varying takes that share only the perspective that things don’t end well for Homo sapiens. The longest story, at a little more than 50 pages, is by Cory Doctorow, who matter-of-factly sets up a terrifying future: “Two hundred and fifteen years after Mary Shelley first started humanity’s hands wringing over the possibility that we would create a machine as smart as us but out of our control, Dr. Shannon did it, and it turned out to be incredibly, utterly boring.” Not so the story that follows. Julianna Baggott, fresh from her latest post-apocalyptic fantasy, turns in a vision of a golden hour to come, “called the Golden Hour because the revolt was so massive and well-orchestrated that it is said that the humans fell within an hour.” (Interestingly, she offers the thought that robots can have parents.) The late John McCarthy—who died in 2011 of natural causes, not of robot agency, and who is considered the father of artificial intelligence—spins a tale that helps explain why robots should be ticked at us: “[R]obots were made somewhat fragile on the outside, so that if you kicked one, some parts would fall off.” The concept of the anthology is just right, and each of the 17 pieces addresses it well; extra points for greater diversity of all kinds than is evidenced by many other sci-fi collections, though it wouldn’t hurt to have a few better-known, more battle-tested authors (Eileen Gunn, say, or Samuel R. Delany) in the mix.
Philip K. Dick would be proud, in any event. You’ll never look at your Roomba the same way again.