Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Good Home by Karin Lowachee

"A Good Home" by Karin Lowachee 
I read this story from the anthology "The Best Science Fiction of the Year Vol. 2" edited by Neil Clarke.
This story was a touching story of two war vets.  What made them slightly different is that one of them was an artificial intelligence.  The other was crippled from war and bound to a wheelchair.  With time,  patience, and a little understanding these two war vets came to grips with the horrors of war together. 
During the time the story took place wars were being fought by androids of sorts.  They were sentient beings, but created by humans.  They were programmed with everything needed for war, but were also given emotion.  For one android the horrors of war became too much for him. 
After the androids fought in the war they were brought home to be rehabilitated.  They were tested to see if their software was functioning properly and were fit to be around human society.  If all the software diagnostics checked out and the psychological testing proved acceptable then they were placed with a foster caregiver.  Someone to watch over them, help them readjust to life in a human society and give detailed reports to the government about their behavior and actions. 
Tawn decided to be one of those foster caregivers for an android.  He was given an android named Mark, but there was a catch to this particular android.  Mark didn't speak.  The experts and software engineers all said that there was nothing wrong with his programming or vocal functions.  It was a voluntary action on Marks part to not speak. 
So they spent the next weeks getting used to each other.  Tawn attempting to communicate with Mark and Mark just sitting by the window staring out at nothing, or so it seemed.  Eventually Tawn was able to introduce Mark to books and read to him on a consistent basis.  They also started to play the game scrabble.  This is when the magic happened. 
While playing a game of scrabble Mark started to communicate by spelling words.  They each spelled words to each other and this became their main mode of communication.  Every now and then Mark would take out the scrabble board.  Sometimes they would just play a game of scrabble, other times they would talk. 
Scrabble was the beginning of the bonding that these two war vets eventually came too.  There was patience required from Tawn that a lot of other people probably wouldn't of given him.  It took a war vet to know another war vet.  With time everything came together. 
This was a touching story.  It was a reminder of the horrors of war and the toll that it takes on the soldiers.  Not just the human ones, but even the robots that we create to keep humans from war.  The story was a deep look at how two war vets came to trust each other when they had little left to look forward to in life. 
I would definitely recommend reading this story.  It was a an interesting way to approach the subject of war and the costs of war on society.  Too many times I think people forget what happens to the vets that come back from war.  Scarred and broken.  They have seen and done things that most of us would never dream of and it affects them in profound ways.  This story was a perspective on that. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Quiet Bullets" by Christopher Golden

"Quiet Bullets" by Christopher Golden 

This story comes from the collection "Tell My Sorrows To The Stones" written by Christopher Golden. 

This was a story of a young boy named Teddy who lived in Tucson, Arizona.  He was your average young boy who went to school, walked home with his friends, Rachel and Sedesky, or Mikey as Rachel liked to call him.  Every now and then the bullies of the school, Artie and his gang, would bully Teddy and Sedesky.  They didn't like them walking home with the older girl Rachel. 

One day after walking home with Rachel and Sedesky they said their goodbyes and each headed to their home.  As Teddy approached his home he clearly saw a cowboy by his front gate.  There was something strange about this cowboy though. 

The cowboy was an honest to goodness cowboy.  Every cliché you could imagine.  Though what Teddy found peculiar is that the light went through the cowboy.  There wasn't any shadow.  The cowboy was more of a translucent figure than a real person.  Teddy guessed it must be a ghost of a cowboy. 

As Teddy followed the ghost into the house, he found his mom sleeping on the couch as always during that time.  She was a deep sleeper so Teddy wasn't worried about waking her up.  He also found the door to the closet under the stairs slightly opened.  Apparently there was something in there that the ghost wanted Teddy to look at or find. 

Inside the closet Teddy found a belt and holster for a gun.  He also found a wooden box that contained a gun.  It must have been the gun his dad used to fight in the war.  That's the only place Teddy could imagine the gun came from.  Since his dad had died in the war there was nobody else to ask except for his mom.  He didn't want to do that in case it was too painful to talk about his dad.  He knew that this was his gun though.  The cowboy wanted him to find the gun.  The cowboy had led him to the closet so he could find the gun. 

After Teddy put on the oversized belt with the holster he placed the gun inside.  Now he was a real cowboy with a real gun.  Just like he always wanted to be. 

When Teddy looked back to the door the cowboy ghost was there again.  Standing by the front door, beckoning him to follow.  Teddy left the gun in the holster, and kept the belt cinched up around his waist.  He walked out the front door and tried his best to keep up with the cowboy ghost as it started his way down the road. 

They ended up at the Hatton ranch which was just miles of field.  The cowboy then led him to the edge of the woods where empty pop and beer bottles lay all over the ground.  Then to Teddy amazement the ghost picked up the bottles from the ground and started to set them up on the fence.  Now Teddy had a better idea of what they were doing, but the gun didn't have any bullets.  So what was he going to do?  What was the ghost going to do?  Why lead him all the way out there in the middle of nowhere with a gun?  Maybe there was a lesson to be learned, maybe not? 

This story was a great ghost story.  I liked how the ghost was a cowboy and was a cliché version of everything that embodied masculinity during the era the story took place in.  Teddy turned out to be a smart little boy and put the puzzle together fairly quickly. 

He figured out why the cowboy arrived and why the cowboy took him to the woods and taught him how to shoot.  He figured it all out in the end of the story.  The end of the story which was also the darkest part of the story. 

Everything came together in the end.  There was a great action scene to end the story.  Who knew there were gunslinging ghosts.  And, oh, possibly some grim reaper cowboy that needed to be dealt with??...  Who know, you'll have to read to find out! 


All That Robot Shit by Rich Larson

"All That Robot Shit" by Rich Larson   All That Robot Shit was first published in Asimov Magazine, August 2016,  issue  ...