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Machine Learning: New and Collected Stories Hardcover – October 3, 2017
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"Each story is followed by insightful author's notes. A thoroughly engaging collection with a dark sense of humor but its finger always on the pulse of genuine human concerns."--Kirkus
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Top customer reviews
My personal favorite, “Second Suicide”, is unique to my own sci-fi reading experience, and is absolutely unforgettable. Following each story is an “Afterword” by Howey that explains the idea behind the story, and how it came to be written. This is terrific material for new, aspiring science fiction writers--it's like attending a writers’ workshop--and it adds depth to the science fiction fan reader’s enjoyment.
The stories in this collection (some new, many published elsewhere) are as follows :
The Walk up Nameless Ridge
Nothing Goes to Waste
Deep Blood Kettle
In the Air (a Silo story)
In the Mountain (a Silo story)
In the Woods (a Silo story)
Hell from the East
The Black Beast
The Good God
The Automated Ones
Promises of London
Peace in Amber
From start to finish the work is thought provoking, completely engrossing and yet fun and easy to read. The groupings of the stories into six sections (Aliens and Alien Worlds, Artificial Intelligences, Silo Stories, Fantasy, Algorithms of Love and Hate, Virtual Worlds, and Lost and Found) gives you an indication that this book covers and incredibly wide range of topics. So much of this is new ground and when Howey delves into trope themes (like alien invasions) the stories are completely fresh. "Good" collections of short stories typically have some filler. This book is solid throughout. The stories on Artificial Intelligences are utterly brilliant but everything is worth reading. The one story that felt out of place (Hell from the East) is still fascinating and memorable.
While there are three stories from Howey's Silo world, don't be afraid to pick this up if you have not read Wool. The silo stories form a nicely self contained block.
Because they frequently ruin the immersion for me, I hate it when anthologies have forwards that tell you what the authors were thinking or dealing with as they wrote the stories. Here Howey opted to have many "afterwards" that give you a back story. They are uniformly interesting and frequently intimate.
I have been reading sci-fi for 35+ years and this is easily one of the best things I have ever read.
The key to Howey’s work is inventiveness. The Forward, written by a personal friend of Howey’s, emphasizes this. I found the promise to be fulfilled in the body of the work. The author does take a different approach to his stories and, from what I can tell, the whole of his work and life for that matter. As I write this, he’s off or soon to be off sailing around the world on his own boat. I spent eight years at sea on my own boats so felt a bit of kinship with him right there.
No collection will satisfy all people in all its parts and this one isn’t an exception. I found two stories truly outstanding for different reasons. One concerns itself with emergent sentience. What would the first thing your Roomba would do if it could suddenly have a sense of self and care about its own welfare? The author supplies the answer by quoting another and then illustrates why that’s true in the story itself. In his afterward, he poses an intriguing thought worth mulling for those who ponder Skynet.
By far my favorite story was Select Character which centers around what appears to be a simple video game (like a primitive Warcraft) but which is much more. In an afterward, the author gloats at the triumph of a philosophical position he greatly favors not realizing that his own story proves his favored side could not have triumphed had it not been for the side he despises. There is no Yin if not for Yang too.
I think many will enjoy this series. There’s a little bit of something for most if not all here. I have to smile at seeing how an author, so wedded to some idea, can’t see that his own creation negates that idea, though.