Short stories are the gateway drugs of fiction, especially when it comes to unfamiliar authors. They allow you to safely dip your toe in without having to commit to a full length novel which might, or might not work for you. I’ve been meaning to explore the work of Adam Roberts for ages now, but never quite got round to it until the beautiful vintage-looking copy of Adam Robots landed in the post.
Adam Robots by Adam Roberts contains 24 short stories spanning the entire scope of the science fiction genre. Time-travel, alternate realities, robots, artificial intelligence, first contact – Adam Robots has it all. Roberts manages to put his own unique spin on each and every story and you never quite know what to expect.
Like any collection there were some stories that appealed to me more than others, but that’s not to say that the rest aren’t enjoyable. They are, and there are quite a few I can see myself re-reading countless times to delve deeper into the multitude of layers and themes that aren’t immediately apparent.
I can go on at length about each story, but that might end up devolving into an incoherent ramble that can hardly do them justice, instead I’ll focus on just a couple that really stood out.
Adam Robots, from which the collection gets its title, uses robots to explore the concept of free will and the consequences of obedience turning the biblical Adam and Eve story completely on its head.
Shall I Tell You the Problem With Time Travel gave me a sense of déjà vu until I realised that I had previously heard it in a StarShipSofa podcast. It’s a story about time travel, but it’s also a bit of time travel in itself. Tough to explain, but a completely engrossing read that goes to show that history might not be all that it seems.
A Prison Term of a Thousand Years: What terrible crime could justify such a harsh sentence? The story explores the impact of longevity on society and does so with beautiful and haunting prose.
“The wind is trying to mug me, to pick my pocket and shove me in the gutter.” (p35)
The Mary Anna: Written completely in rhyme this shares a father’s lament over the disappointment his son has become.
The World of the Wars: A retelling of The War of The Worlds from the perspective of the Martians with a surprising twist at the end.
The Cow: A well-known nursery rhyme gets a science fiction makeover.
Constellations: An entire society toils away trying to perfect God’s work by remaking the world according to His perfect design, but everything they know is based on a lie.
Anticopernicus: This was by far my favourite story in the collection. First contact gets an entirely new meaning with humanity being artfully returned to the special pedestal it once believed it occupied before Copernicus shattered that illusion. The story offers a brilliant and disconcerting solution to the Fermi paradox (if there is intelligent life out there why haven’t they contacted us?).
Adam Robots by Adam Roberts is a stunning collection of short stories that explores the sense of wonder, introspection and possibility the science fiction genre has to offer. Adam Roberts is at the top of his game and his talent shines through like a beacon in the night. This collection is a definite must for any science fiction fan or anyone remotely interested in the genre. Highly recommended!
The Rating: 8 (Great)
Thanks to Jonathan Weir from Gollancz for providing the review copy.