Author: Daniel H. Wilson.
This ARC was provided, in return for an unbiased review, by Netgalley.
In “All Kinds of Proof,” a down-and-out drunk makes the unlikeliest of friends when he is hired to train a mail-carrying robot; in “Blood Memory,” a mother confronts the dangerous reality that her daughter will never assimilate in this world after she was the first child born through a teleportation device; in “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever,” a physicist rushes home to be with his daughter after he hears reports of an atmospheric anomaly which he knows to be a sign of the end of the earth; in “Miss Gloria,” a robot comes back to life in many different forms in a quest to save a young girl. Guardian Angels and Other Monsters displays the depth and breadth of Daniel H. Wilson’s vision and examines how artificial intelligence both saves and destroys humanity.
You know how it is with any short-story collection – there are ups, downs, the “what the heck even??” stories. The over all tone of this futuristic sci-fi collection was fairly AI-themed and dark. Not surprising, given the title, but it started off with the lighter stories, and I got fooled before it shifted tone. Overall, I’m afraid I’d give the collection one star. Many of the stories were too crude for my taste. Some of the stories seemed needlessly obtuse; I’m all for mystery and mystique, but I’ve been trying lately to distinguish between well-written mystery and simply leaving story out. Helmet, for one, had some moving moments and some creepazoid moments, but overall would have been more powerful with a bit more explanation.
Stories I particularly liked: The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever, and Miss Gloria. They’re both family-focused and early in the anthology, which led me to think Wilson would be putting this new spin on the sci-fi scene throughout, but that turned out to be a red herring.
Miss Gloria is about a tycoon’s kidnapped child and her robotic guardian. It managed to convey both the ‘good side’ point of view, with Gloria’s terror and her trust in her guardian, and the ‘bad side’ ‘s point of view, creeping horror as the robotic mind leaps from device to device, ready to follow them across the earth. The concept was really neat (that seems a bit more important in science-fiction short stories that focus on a single new invention), and as said before I also really loved the juxtaposition of the futuristic AI and the simple fear of a stolen child. The ending was… quite odd, though.
The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever was simply touching. It’s sort of a pre-apocalypse story, about an astrophysicist who realizes the end of the world is coming (in the form of a moving black hole) too late to do anything about it, and rushes home to spend one last afternoon with his little girl.
Sexual Content: Fairly explicit adultery. A bit of fore-talking, and then the sexual intercourse is off screen. // “A few nights later, she left scratches on my back.” (Sorry if I’m wrong, I’m taking this as implication?) //
Language: 47 F-words, 32 scatological terms, 31 g*d***, 7 derogatory terms
Violence: The descriptory level of violence varies across the stories – some of it is brief and barely described, some of it is fairly gory. Sorry for the vagueness. If you don’t like death/some gore, I’d just say don’t. Robot near chokes a boy, then throws him across the room. One boy is choking another: robot punches one, literally denting his head. Robot throws three men across a room, and bones can be heard breaking. Character shoots a robot, apparently killing it, but it subsequently revives. POV moves past dead guard bodies. Riccocheting bullets go through a man’s leg, then a few seconds later through his head, killing him. One character is hanging from a cliff-edge; another character smashes his hands until he’s forced to let go. Girl is imprisoned in a robotic suit. She is forced, inside the suit, to attack and nearly strangle brother. At one point she sees a fellow prisoner who has chewed through her own mouth and tongue. Later, six of these robotic suits (with unknown people inside) are killed by flame. One character snaps another’s spine. Parasite digs into a man’s spine, takes control of him. Kitten put through a teleport comes out crazed and dying; later this happens to a man.