Thursday, April 13, 2017

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance, by Tobias S. Buckell

★★★★★ Captivating and Thought-Provoking

(Space Opera) After its side won the space battle, an indentured robot with an uploaded intelligence finds an important refugee who makes a dangerous offer it can’t refuse. (6,289 words; Time: 20m)

Recommended By: GDozois+2 RHorton+1 NClarke+2 JStrahan+2

"," by (edited by John Joseph Adams), appeared in (RSR review), published on by .

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

Pro: The twist at the end is precious for several reasons.

First, we knew about the time-dilation risks in the neighborhood of the black hole.

Second, it satisfies the requirements of the first and second laws (assuming it’s Asimov’s laws we’re talking about.).

Third, the trope is backwards from the usual human/robot story: here the robots are trying to do the right thing despite the laws of robotics getting in their way.

Fourth, you’d expect the hero to be making the galaxy safe for “normal” human beings, but here it’s the normal humans who are the big threat.

Nothing is wasted here. Even the mention of the narrator’s illicit collection bears fruit.

It’s delightful to watch the way the nameless narrator navigates a highly-controlled world where it and its companions don’t even have free will and yet still manage to slip things past the authorities.

There are some nice little touches. There’s a mention of transferring “zebibytes” of data. This is a real (very large) unit of information, not just a made-up word, and it rewards the educated SF reader.

Con: One wonders how the former CEO has much in the way of resources to transfer after having lost the war.

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2 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. This was highly enjoyable, particularly the way the Asimov-like laws had to be circumvented.

  2. I agree with the 5-star rating and the comments.

    This is an awesome story with a lot of imagination put into it. I can understand why it got so many recommendations - it deserves them.

    It is also told from the point of view of a maintenance robot, who was once human.