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Silicon Dreams
edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff
DAW Books, 320 pages

Silicon Dreams
Martin H. Greenberg
Martin H. Greenberg is the most prolific anthologist in publishing history. He has won the Milford Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction Editing and was Editor Guest of Honour at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention. He lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

ISFDB Bibliography
Martin H. Greenberg anthologies - 1st of 4 pages

Larry Segriff
Larry Segriff is the editor of a number of anthologies and the author of The Four Magics and Spacer Dreams.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Past Imperfect
SF Site Review: Far Frontiers
SF Site Review: Battle Magic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Silicon Dreams is a theme original anthology on the subject of Artificial Intelligences, in this case, AIs inhabiting robots. Larry Segriff's introduction suggests that "robots are the heart of science fiction," in essence because intelligent robots would be, in a sense, our "children." While arguing that that makes robots the "heart" of science fiction seems wrong to me, it's certainly true that the theme, or, to put it another way, the question of what responsibility we will bear for the AIs we create, is indeed an important SF theme, and it is indeed one explored by many of the stories included here. Unfortunately, too many of the stories here are routine and unoriginal, not really worth attention. But there are a few exceptions.

The book starts slowly with an uncharacteristically weak effort from Kristine Kathryn Rusch -- its positioning as the lead story simply puzzles me. Indeed, the first half of the book in general is quite disappointing. Exceptions would be Robin Wayne Bailey's "Keepers of Earth," which does examine the theme set forth above quite interestingly, as the robots who have restored Earth to habitability after a disaster prepare for the return of humans; and Laura Resnick's "Freddy Nearby," which has great fun telling of a robot hairdresser/hitman. There is one other successfully funny story, "Left Foot on a Blind Man" by Julie E. Czerneda, which tells of an AI used to control various prostheses, beginning with the title device, and which accidentally develops self-awareness, with unfortunate results.

Two of the best stories in the last anthology I reviewed by these two editors were by James P. Hogan and by Gary Braunbeck. This book also features a story each by those fellows, and they are again enjoyable works. Hogan's "Take Two" begins more or less where Frederik Pohl's classic "The Midas Plague" left off, with robots acting as consumers to maintain growth in the economy. But Hogan adds an heroic scientist who has developed a truly wise AI, and lets this AI take his concern for the place of robots in society to its logical extension. It is fast moving and fun, though Hogan does let his wise robot give mouth to a few of his hobby-horses. Braunbeck's "Fallen Faces by the Wayside" is a bit too full of wish-fulfillment to be wholly successful, but it is an enjoyable read. It tells of an amateur comic, whose specialty is impressions, who suddenly gets noticed and hired by a very rich man -- but for what purpose? And why does this man know so much about his past, and his murdered sister? The solution is emotionally satisfying, if, on logical grounds, a bit implausible. (Oddly, almost every character in the story has a last name beginning with B? I wonder if that was on purpose?)

The best story in the book might be the last and longest, "Power Play" by William H. Keith, Jr.  It is a story that reads very much like an Analog story, complete with entrepreneur/engineer hero, technical details of a mission to Uranus, and space boosterism. Charles Whittaker has formed the Helios Corporation to send AI spaceships to Uranus, there to harvest Helium-3 for use in inexpensive fusion plants. Just as he is on the brink of success, the evil entrenched corporations, using their puppet (the U.S. Government), come storming in to sabotage the mission. Is all hope lost? Well, the spaceships are AIs... It's a bit over the top, but it's a fast moving and fun action story, with a nice coda that fits the basic theme Segriff mentions in his introduction very well.

This isn't a great anthology, and it doesn't have any stories that I would call award candidates. About half the book is pretty enjoyable, with a few stories that say something interesting about AI, and a few stories that are mainly just fun, but rewarding enough in their way. The other half of the book is completely forgettable, which I suppose is not unusual for an anthology.

Copyright © 2002 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at http://www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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