A top-notch selection of imaginative and thought-provoking stories about AI, reinventing old tropes and making us revisit...



Clarke, the publisher of Clarkesworld magazine, compiles 27 tales of artificial humans and what we see of ourselves in them.

Well-known SF authors grace this collection of androids and AI. Elizabeth Bear's “Dolly” kicks things off with a murder and a question: can an object—a sexbot—defend itself against rape? Asked another way, can it be guilty of a crime? The many conceivable roles for which we might create imitation humans are explored well: from Dolly's fantasy French maid to a perfect boyfriend (Naomi Kritzer's touching “Artifice”) or boyfriends (Sandra McDonald's “Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots,” a hilarious romp); soldiers to fight our wars (Karin Lowachee's poignant “A Good Home”); replacements for those we've lost (Rachel Swirsky's complex “Grande Jeté,” Genevieve Valentine's carefully painful “Small Medicine,” and Martin L. Shoemaker's “Today I Am Paul,” which is quietly sad); public relations (John Barnes' optimistic “The Birds and the Bees and the Gasoline Trees,” Robert Reed's philosophical steampunk “American Cheetah”); and, in several stories, our caregivers, tasked to aid the ones we don't have time for (Fadzlishah Johanabas' compelling “Act of Faith,” Ken Liu's sly “The Caretaker,” Sue Lange's “We, Robots,” which deftly swerves between wry and tragic; Brenda Cooper's intriguing “The Robot's Girl”). Our needs create these beings, but what are their needs? How do they relate to us, and themselves? How do creator and created make peace with each other? Religious allegories are inevitable, and three stories offer a Jewish perspective on these updated golems (Robert B. Finegold's “And the Ends of the Earth for Thy Possession,” Lavie Tidhar's “The Old Dispensation,” and “Grande Jeté”), while other faiths and cultures receive less, but well-executed, attention. Cory Doctorow, Catherynne M. Valente, Jeff Vandermeer, and many other gifted authors also feature; Clarke has collected consistently excellent stories.

A top-notch selection of imaginative and thought-provoking stories about AI, reinventing old tropes and making us revisit the eternal question of what it is to be human.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59780-914-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Night Shade

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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