Sunday, September 13, 2015

This Quintessence of Dust, by Oliver Buckram

Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2015; 1,605 words
Rating: 3, Good, ordinary, story

Having lost her human partner, a robot investigates some deaths.

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Reminiscent of "There Will Come Soft Rains," by Ray Bradbury.

This is a "comic book AI" story, where the robots are essentially human beings in drag who occasionally drop phrases like "algorithm," "subroutine," or "neural net." However, if you're going to do it, you might as well do it big: the narrator feels jealousy, melancholy, foolish, etc. and ends up feeling "good to be needed." To that extent, it works fine as a story. It's somewhat ironic that the robots are having all that empathy stuff removed, now that there are no people to appreciate it. The detail that the other robots can appreciate each other isn't taken up.

Unfortunately, making the robots so human destroys the poignancy that Bradbury's story had. 

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