So You Want to Be a Robot includes twenty-one stories written by A. Merc Rustad. These stories range from classic fantasy or science fiction, to speculative, to more. Many stories feature queer characters.
Why this story?: I’ve been trying to get into reading more collections/anthologies lately. I’ve heard amazing things about A. Merc Rustad, so I figured they were the perfect place to start.
Before I begin with the review, I’ll let you all know how I plan to write my anthology/collection reviews. I find it weird to rate the whole thing as one, because there are many different stories and (sometimes) authors. Below you’ll find a short review for each story, as well as my rating for it. At the very bottom of this review, you’ll find an average rating (all stories added up and divided by the number of stories included). Enjoy!
“This is Not a Wardrobe Door” – ★★★★☆
I really enjoyed this one–I thought it was really cute and interesting. I liked the little nod to Narnia, with the wardrobe doors, but I also really loved how it connected to more people than just Ell. The ending was a little disappointing, mainly because it just seemed to easy. But it was still enjoyable!
“Tomorrow When We See the Sun” – ★★★☆☆
While I really enjoyed the lore behind this story, I feel like that’s all it had going for it. Mere was interesting too, but besides that this story was just meh. It was all over the place and difficult to follow because Mere was missing a lot of memories. I also just didn’t really find myself caring about Mere or Century–but I did want to know more about the Sun Gods.
“The Sorcerer’s Unattainable Gardens” – ★★★★★
This was so cute!! I loved how there were two stories being told at once, and how they were slowly merged into one. This is also one of the few stories, at the very end, written in second person, that I actually liked. It was so interesting and genius, I want more!!
“The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie” – ★★★★☆
While I thought this one was weird at first, it ended up being so cute and heartwarming. I loved how the EX-702 made itself a family when its old one was no longer, and how it basically adopted everything it found. I would definitely want to hear more from it.
“For Want of a Heart” – ★★★☆☆
I liked the idea behind this story, but overall it just felt like it was missing something. Personifying the seasons was really cool, especially “winter” being the nice one and “summer” being the evil one (it’s usually the other way around), but overall I just couldn’t care less about this story.
“Once I, Rose” – ★★★☆☆
This one was really short, really sweet. All I can really say is that it was okay. There wasn’t much about the characters or their background, just the current narrative. The story was overall okay–nothing special, in my opinion.
“Where Monsters Dance” – ★★★★☆
This one was really cute. I loved how the story focused on the characters and their relationship. It was also a really interesting story concept, where you believed monsters into creation. I would be interested in a full story in this world.
“A Survival Guide for When You’re Trapped in a Black Hole” – ★★★★☆
I was confused with this one. It didn’t make much sense at first, but as you read it started to make more sense. It was a haunting story, but also so sweet. It was nice to get to know the couple by understanding the relationship with the dog, instead of just defining the couple by talking about them.
“Thread” – ★★★☆☆
This one was weird. It didn’t make much sense, and unlike “Survival Guide”, it never really start making sense. I understood that the ‘thread’ was bad, and that everything was light, and that certain people were bad, but it just never came together for me. Overall, I just wish there were more to help you understand the world.
“Under Wine-Bright Seas” – ★★★★★
Do you know Studio Ghibli movies? This one reminded me so much of Ponyo and Howl’s Moving Castle for some reason. It was so magical and sweet, and I loved how queer it was. I related a lot with the main character, and I loved the world and how it was built. I wish there were more to this story.
“Of Blessed Servitude” – ★★★☆☆
Certain stories need background info before you can really get into them, and this is one of them. I felt like I was constantly one step behind the narrative, because I just didn’t understand certain aspects that weren’t explained until later. I feel like I would have enjoyed this more if I had more information.
“To the Knife-Cold Stars” – ★★★★☆
“Knife-Cold” is a direct sequel to “Blessed Servitude”. This was disappointing at first because I didn’t like the first, but I ended up enjoying this one a lot more. Because this was a sequel, I already had the information to stay caught up with the storyline. That made this one a lot more enjoyable.
“Finding Home” – ★★★☆☆
Another weirdly enjoyable story, something about it just didn’t click with me. There were a lot of timeskips that I didn’t enjoy, and while I enjoyed the relationships, they just weren’t well-developed. I liked the concept though.
“Winter Bride” – ★★☆☆☆
My least favorite story so far. Something about it just didn’t work for me, and I just didn’t want to read this story. When I finally did, I didn’t like it. The MC was bland, I didn’t get the romance with the sorceress, and Winter Lord just felt like any other evil lord. I saw nothing to like it.
“To the Monsters, with Love” – ★★★☆☆
Another really short story, I loved the concept but there wasn’t much development behind anything. I wish I had more information with this one, because I have a feeling I would have loved it if I knew more and if it were longer.
“BATTERIES FOR YOUR DOOMBOT5000 ARE NOT INCLUDED” – ★★★★★
This one was amazing. I loved the idea of retired superheroes and villains working together and being friends. That the hero/villain thing is just for show. It was cute, and when they got together to help Claire, I loved it. It reminded me subtly of Not Your Sidekick, but with less government corruption.
“…Or Be Forever Fallen” – ★★★☆☆
Similar to a few of the stories above, I feel like I would have enjoyed this one with more information. The concept was interesting and hauntingly beautiful, but I also just wished I knew more. Knowing the world would have made this story so much better. A full novel in this world would be legendary.
“Iron Aria” – ★★★★★
Wow. This one is so unique, and I just couldn’t stop reading. Kyru is a brilliant character, and I loved how his transness was brought up, and how he found someone like him to get him away from his toxic family. The unique story, with how Kyru could listen and talk to metals and the mountain, it was amazing. The story was also the perfect length.
“What Becomes of the Third-Hearted” – ★★★☆☆
I don’t know about this one. I wanted to like it, I loved the writing, but it just never clicked. I liked the concept and everything, but I don’t think I understood it how it was supposed to be understood. I liked the gender-talk though.
“The Gentleman of Chaos” – ★★★★★
Y’all. This story. THIS. STORY. Beautifully crafted, amazing characters, enthralling writing. I loved the gender dynamics, and how frank and blunt this story was. It was brutal yet beautiful and perfectly constructed. The length was just right, and I don’t think it needed to be longer. I’ll be rereading this one for a long time.
“How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” – ★★★★☆
This last one was slighty triggering, but it ended in a hopeful way. It was a very emotional story about depression and queerphobia, and how it effects people. I loved the story, but like I said–its a heavy story, and one that needs more than a few TWs. Especially for suicidal ideation.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
(Avg. Rating: 3.72)
I really enjoyed this collection. I wasn’t sure about some of the stories, but I found most of them extremely enjoyable, and even found a few gems. I loved the majority of the representation in this book, especially in “Iron Aria” and “The Gentleman of Chaos”.
Would I Recommend?
I would highly recommend this collection. Like I said, the representation in the stories was amazing, but I would especially recommend this if you enjoy SFF short stories. I found a few hard to get into or understand because they were SFF and SFF needs a lot of background, but they were still enjoyable.
Published: May 6th, 2017
Publisher: Lethe Press
Page Count: 246
Genre: Anthologies/Fantasy/Science Fiction
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Step one: forget the convention and disregard the binary. Gender? Sexuality? Old words unsuited for new consciousness. The twenty-one stories in this book challenge the imagination as only acclaimed author A. Merc Rustad can. Pages of robots and AIs constructing lives and exploring “humanity”; wasted worlds with monstrous cityhearts; assassins and the perils of enchanted labyrinths; and always the raw truths of love, loss, and devotion.
Step two: read these science-fiction and fantasy tales as if they are the only stories you will discover on your bookshelf this day.
Step three: dare to feel.
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