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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Robot Uprisings (Vintage), edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams

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Robots have been villains in fiction ever since the word was introduced in the 1921 play R.U.R.: Rossum’s Universal Robots. As the editors of this science-fiction story collection emphasize in their forward, devices most of us don’t fully understand increasingly run our lives. Why not more fiction on sentient machines turning on their makers? Several of the short stories in Robot Uprisings are excellent, including Charles Yu’s “Cycles,” which takes the POV of a robot who finds humans disgusting and insists that if it makes an error, it’s the fault of human programmers. Narrated by a disaffected teen hacker girl, “Lullaby” describes nano-robots, tiny as fine dust and “smarter and more dangerous than bugs,” tormenting a household. The stories in Robot Uprisings dramatize the danger of technology becoming the master, not the servant.