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"For Want of a Nail" [Kindle Edition]

Mary Robinette Kowal
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $0.99

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Book Description

"For Want of a Nail" is the 2011 Hugo-nominated story by award-winning author, Mary Robinette Kowal. This science-fiction short story explores the complex choices that an AI and her wrangler must make to solve a seemingly simple technical problem.

Also in this edition, is bonus material that includes author's notes as well as a look at the writing process. The original and unedited first draft of this story has a completely different plot. Read it and the brainstorming notes to get a peek into the creative process.

Product Details

  • File Size: 196 KB
  • Print Length: 36 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Mary Robinette Kowal (May 2, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004Z1MXBO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,215 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugo award winning story - 'For want of a nail' January 31, 2012
By ACFlory
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Winning a Hugo for best short story is probably recommendation enough but I am going to add my redundant praises anyway. "For Want of a Nail" by Mary Robinette Kowal was quite simply one of the best short stories I have ever read because it was so... interactive. And that effect was deliberate. Therein lies the mastery - the more you think about what she does not say the more 'ah hah' moments you get.

Am I going to tell you what my`ah hah' moments were?

Nope, sorry. Reading `For want of a nail' is an experience in the true sense of the word and spoilers would be criminal. I've probably said too much already. Just read it. Magic does happen.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...The Shoe Was Lost January 13, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Rava is a wrangler for Cordelia, the ship AI that records her family as it travels for generations through space. While trying to fix something, she discovers a secret... and we'll leave it at that.

This story is a great example of what good short speculative fiction should do. Well-defined characters hover around a single conflict within an interesting premise. There's no space for character arcs, so the story is driven by narrative alone. The themes that develop as the plot unravels (which I won't go into because it would spoil some surprises) really resonate, especially the questions that are left unanswered.

Fans of Kowal's longer fiction will recognize the regency touches on her sci-fi story. The premise is sketched just thickly enough to be believable with delving too far into the weeds. I loved Ludoviko--a secondary character who foiled nicely against the protagonist and her AI. And for a 35 page story, it had some wonderful head-scratching moments.

Note: The Kindle edition has some absolutely inessential bonus features, including an entire rough draft and some random notes. There may be an audience for those, but I am not it. But the story stands well enough on its own. Definitely worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting June 17, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An interesting take on the I, Robot kind of plot. Not too much time spent on setting up the scene or premise -- just plunges right in and things become more obvious as the story moves along. That's good for a single.
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4.0 out of 5 stars For Want of a Nail September 15, 2014
By H. P.
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For Want of a Nail is a Hugo award-winning short story by Kowal. The Kindle download also includes the original draft of the story she did as part of a writing exercise. For Want of a Nail is a science fiction story that takes place on a “generation ship,” where resources are very closely tracked and managed. Unsurprisingly, given the title, a small incident leads to major consequences. It’s difficult to say much more about the plot than that without giving anything away. The short story itself, as opposed to the draft, is action-light. It works nonetheless, though, with Kowal’s deft touch and the metaphorical weight of the story.

The draft is much, much weaker than the finished product and is probably only of interest to see how far a story can come from beginning to end.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting May 12, 2014
By Sanbai
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A lovely short story that really leaves a bit more to be desired. If you liked the ideas spelled out in this story, you'll be much more serviced by the short novella "Silently and Very Fast" - a much better iteration on this idea - left me breathless! A nice introduction, but leaves a bit to be desired.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very crisp and witty! April 24, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A clever little short story about a computer, it's wrangler, and a generation ship. I am beginning to really like Mary Robinette Kowal's style of writing. Very crisp and witty. In this edition, she offers the original story, pre-edited, showing you how the story had evolved to what it is now. Brilliant!
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More About the Author

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey (Tor 2010). In 2008 she won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2011, her short story "For Want of a Nail" won the Hugo Award for Short Story. Her work has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. Stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov's, and several Year's Best anthologies as well as in her collection Scenting the Dark and Other Stories from Subterranean.

Mary, a professional puppeteer and voice actor, has performed for LazyTown (CBS), the Center for Puppetry Arts, Jim Henson Pictures and founded Other Hand Productions. Her designs have garnered two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve. She also records fiction for authors such as Kage Baker, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi.

She is the Vice President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Mary lives in Portland, OR with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Visit

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