Review: Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson
Rating: 4/5 robots with missing legs, arms, or eyes
Recommended if you like: Robots, post-apocalyptic fiction, stories about humanity and its beauty and flaws
First Line: “The general consensus was that the apocalypse had made everything considerably quieter.”
Published: August 11, 2013 by CCLaP Publishing
I was browsing CCLaP Publishing’s website to look for a book to review, and was fairly stricken at the adorable robot on the front cover of Sad Robot Stories. (Cover-judging, I know.) The premise, too, sounded very interesting, so I decided to give it a try.
The narrator begins telling the story after the apocalypse has occurred (complete with fire and brimstone), and there are no more humans left on Earth. Most of the robots are overjoyed at no longer being slaves to humans and are glad for their demise–except for one, who is simply referred to as Robot.
Robot is different from the rest. He is curious about humans and their feelings. He’s the only robot to ever ask for a different job because he got bored with the one he had. He is the only one who ever goes to a bar frequented by humans simply to observe and listen to them talk about their job and families.
One night while he’s in the bar, he meets Mike. Mike sticks up for Robot when a man in the bar starts berating him for being in the bar with them, and they become friends, complete with Robot visiting Mike and his wife and kids for dinner at night. He spends a lot of time with them, even helping Mike’s wife Sally with her project to create a more human-like AI.
The apocalypse happens, and Robot goes on a journey to find a purpose after he’s lost the people he cared about, and discovers many things about himself and the other surviving robots in the world.
There’s not a lot more I can say about what happens without spoiling it, but I immensely enjoyed how this story looks at humanity through the lens of a society of robots, providing an understandable look at issues in society that some people still have trouble with. Robot falls in love with Mike, different from how he loves Sally or their kids, but doesn’t know what Mike would think of it, even though gender or sex isn’t a “real” thing with robots. On his journey, he meets a robot that is in transition between male and female body parts – and the way she describes how she felt before she began salvaging female parts for herself was so poignant. In other instances, it’s clear how robotic Robot really is – the cold decisions he has to make, and the literal things he sees that he draws robotic conclusions about, but then has human feelings that follow those conclusions.
Read this novella if you like stories that show humanity more than sometimes humans can. Read it if you like robot protagonists (like Wall-E. Not that I’m biased). Read if you need a short break between your regularly scheduled reading, and need something to make you think and warm your heart.