Review: Robots vs. Fairies anthology
by Alyssa Wong, Annalee Newitz, Catherynne M. Valente, Dominik Parisien, Jeffrey Ford, Jim C. Hines, John Scalzi, Jonathan Maberry, Kat Howard, Ken Liu, Lavie Tidhar, Lila Bowen, Madeline Ashby, Maria Dahvana Headley, Mary Robinette Kowal, Max Gladstone, Navah Wolfe, Sarah Gailey, Seanan McGuire, Tim Pratt
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
A unique anthology of all-new stories that challenges authors to throw down the gauntlet in an epic genre battle and demands an answer to the age-old question: Who is more awesome—robots or fairies?
Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!
People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.
On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?
There can only be one…or can there?
Rather than a bunch of stories pitting the title characters against each other, most of the stories are either Team Fairy or Team Robot. I haven’t read most of these authors before, and since I usually read anthologies to find new authors, I’m pretty pleased with the large selection of authors. Here’s a few quick mini-reviews for each of the 18 (!!) stories, some with quotes if any particular lines jumped out at me.
“We’re free now. Independent. We have health insurance.”
“Build Me a Wonderland” – Seanan McGuire – ★★★★★. I picked up this anthology because there was a Seanan McGuire story in it. While this story is Team Fairy, there’s also robots in it, though they’re highly inferior to the fairies, of course. As always, Ms. McGuire blends humor with wonder in her own brand of inventiveness. It doesn’t hurt that this story is set at a Disneyland-like amusement park that’s hiding some secrets under its magical exterior. My favorite story of the bunch!
“The credo of the Valley is that all the world’s problems can be solved by a really smart geek with a keyboard and a soldering iron.”
“Quality Time” – Ken Liu – ★★★★. The Star Trek: The Next Generation jokes were eyerollingly silly. A liberal arts major joins a Silicon Valley tech company as a PM. Exploration of the things that can be solved with technology.
“You have good taste in books, librarian.”
“Murmured Under the Moon” – Tim Pratt – ★★★★. A mortal librarian has to save her fairy library. Her Girlfriend is a magical shapeshifting book. Do I really need to say more? I will definitely be looking up this author.
“Did you ever consider that there is more than one Uprising?”
“The Blue Fairy’s Manifesto” – Annalee Newitz – ★★. This is a retelling of Pinocchio, but both the blue fairy and Pinocchio are robots. It’s a weird bit of a thought experiment, but it seemed more of a rant than an actual story.
“I am perhaps dishonest.”
“Bread and Milk and Salt” – Sarah Gailey – ★★★. Dark, but interesting. Technology vs fairy, and guess who wins? Eerie as all get out, and very atmospheric.
“Every single one of them machines wants to work. They want to work all day and night.”
“Ironheart” – Jonathan Maberry – ★★★. Powerful and heart wrenching, but I didn’t care for the ending.
“Just Another Love Song” – Kat Howard – ★★★. Cute, but predictable. Now I want 50-layer cake, and a Brownie roommate.
“Sound and Fury” – Mary Robinette Kowal -★★★. I’ve read several of Ms. Kowal’s books before, but a scifi one with a matriarchal society? Pretty darn cool idea. The story itself, though, didn’t really grab me.
“The Bookcase Expedition” – Jeffrey Ford – ★. An elderly writer recounting an expedition of tiny fairies on his bookshelves. I didn’t care for the writing or the story.
“Word Shadow / Shadow Work” – Madeline Ashby – ★★★★. I liked this one a lot, since it had both robots and fairies in it. In some ways, less fanciful or outlandish as the other stories, and in some ways, more.
“Second to the Left, and Straight On” – Jim C. Hines – ★★★. Not a fan of Peter Pan, though this is an interesting twist on the story.
“The shape of stories is difficult for us. We understand them as patterns, what you’d call a formula. We tell the story of Oli’s childhood in a way designed to be optimal, yet there are always deviations, margins of error that can creep in.”
“The Buried Giant” – Lavie Tidhar – ★★★★. A sort of reverse Pinocchio, with a boy who wants to become a robot. It’s also a story about stories and childhood, and it was just lovely.
“K-VRC: How was that for you?
Xbox 4000: Anticlimactic.
K-VRC: Yeah, well, welcome to humans.”
“Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time” – John Scalzi – ★★★. I have read and enjoyed Scalzi’s work before, so I’m used to his sort of humor. This is definitely more lighthearted than the others in the bunch (I’m looking at you, freaking Blue Fairy robot thing). I snorted out loud at “catbagged.”
“Fairies are many things: pretty, powerful, dark, dangerous, and foppish as peacocks. But what they mainly are is assholes.”
“Ostentation of Peacocks” – Delilah S. Dawson writing as Lila Bowen – ★★★★. A series of fairy challenges, but told as a western. I don’t care much for westerns, but I love people outwitting fairies, so this was lot of fun.
“All the Time We’ve Left to Spend” – Alyssa Wong – ★★★★★. Absolutely heartwrenching. I figured out the “twists” pretty much right away, but it was still lovely to watch the story unfold.
“Adriftica” – Maria Dahvana Headley – ★★. Cool idea – a modern retelling of Oberon and Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but I didn’t care for the writing. Not my cup of tea.
“To a Cloven Pine” – Max Gladstone – ★★★. More Shakespearean robots? OK, why not? This one is a retelling of The Tempest. I’ll admit I’m not as familiar with that play, so I’m pretty sure I missed a ton, but this was confusing.
“ROBOTS VERSUS FAIRIES, MAGIC VERSUS MICROCHIP, THE AGRARIAN VERSUS THE AUTOMATON, SEELIE VERSUS SOLID STATE, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE VERSUS INTELLIGENT ARTIFICE!”
“A Fall Counts Anywhere” – Catherynne M. Valente – ★★★★★. Take a seat at the All Souls’ Cleave as robots and fairies fight each other (EMP devices and iron are banned, natch). Excellent, and a fun twist!
61 out of a possible 90 stars, which would average out to 3.5 stars. However, several of the stories were so good, I’m bumping this up to a 4-star read. Overall, if you enjoy stories about fairies, robots, or unholy mixes of the two, you really can’t go wrong with this anthology.