MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN is an anthology that focuses on
primarily on androids and their perception over the past
twenty years. Given the technological advances during that
period, I think it was a wise choice from Mr. Clarke. The
introduction consists of a brief history and definitions of
robots, androids, cyborgs, and various humanoids and their
differences. I am not a habitual reader of sci-fi, although
I enjoy stories of "mechanical men" because of their
relevance to our humanity, and possibly their presence in
our future. I chose to give a brief glimpse of my favorites
and why I enjoyed the stories, this in order of preference.
WE, ROBOTS by Sue Lange
The narrator is Avey, an affordable android, whose purpose
in this family is to act mostly as babysitter and bodyguard
for Angelina, whose parents are employed as human domestics
to the wealthy. Avey is rather snarky, the voice is fabulous
and the android's observations on humans are often very
funny and has a look at ourselves a bit more closely. The
author's vocabulary is extremely creative, and there are
several species of humanoids mentioned. WE, ROBOTS is the
world as "opticalized" by a very insightful and engaging
android. I thought it was positively riveting, very
entertaining, and I loved it so much that I will look
further at Sue Lange's literary production; excellent!
BRISK MONEY by Adam Christopher
This is fantastic! The narrator is Ray, an android PI, who
is kidnapped at gunpoint. Set in 1962, it has a certain noir
vibe and a twist I had never read before. I love the
creativity at work with regards to technology, it's an
angle I had never thought of. I really liked that the author
took into account that it is set in the 1960s, the twist is
simply brilliant. Fans of Philip K. Dick will love this one!
TODAY I AM PAUL by Martin L. Shoemaker
Again, the narrator is the android, a medical attendant for
Mildred, who suffers from Alzheimer. "I" has is programmed
to emulate Mildred's family members, and it is a perfectly
lovely story. "I" might be an android, but there is much to
learn from this story as humans, and the ending could not
have been better.
ACT OF FAITH by Fadzlishah Johanabas
Daud has an advanced household android that he calls
Sallehuddin. Daud is a practicing Muslim and teaches
Sallehuddin the Quran. An excellent story on tolerance, and
probably not what you might be expecting.
DOLLY by Elizabeth Bear
Dolly is a sex toy and a maid who has a new look whenever
necessary, and one day she is found beside the body of
billionaire Clive Steele? Did she kill him, if so, how
should Dolly be dealt with? As a human or not? DOLLY pulled
me right in, I really loved this world and the murder
mystery. I would have liked more, as it is really short; it
is well written and very entertaining.
THE DJINN'S WIFE by Ian McDonald
This a longish novella with terrific visuals and a stream of
consciousness feel to the writing. Set in Delhi, it recalls
Bollywood movies; it is fun, colorful, and imaginative.
AND THE ENDS OF THE EARTH FOR THY POSSESSION by Robert B.
This novella is built on the premise of an alternate
post-WWII world, and a New Europe; it is a very intriguing
world. Rabbi Albert Makal and Officer Danel make a
compelling pair. Danel is an automaton and I loved how he
evaluated his status in the universe with faultless logic.
This is a very well-written story, in spite of the haphazard
French, which I hope will be corrected upon final editing. I
really liked this one.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES AND THE GASOLINE TREES by John Barnes
Stephanie, a reporter, and her much older husband Lars, an
oceanographer, are investigating the Southern Ocean, along
with Lars' former wife, Nicole -- a humaniform. Nicole is a
superstar, forever gorgeous, she and Lars were married ten
years for very interesting reasons, and Stephanie is a bit
jealous. And I thought this story was just great!
Fast-paced, very well written, with very engaging
characters; and Nicole is totally awesome, as she would say!
There are a few recurring themes: the enhanced or mechanical
soldier, which doesn't seem very far-fetched, but also the
caretaker; both I feel reflect some of our current -- and
maybe pressing -- preoccupations. I loved the international
flavor to the MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN, not only because of the
writers' nationalities but also for the various settings
apart from the United States: India, China, and Canada, and
also that some stories take place in the future, in
alternate realities, but also traditional lore. I had never
thought about it, but I found I prefer when the android is
the narrator; more intriguing maybe? MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN
has stories of every length and every type; everyone is sure
to find several that will appeal to their particular taste.
Clarkesworld publisher Neil Clarke collects a
reprint anthology of artificial human-themed short fiction.
The idea of creating an artificial human is an old one. One
of the earliest science-fictional novels,
Frankenstein, concerned itself primarily with the
hubris of creation, and one’s relationship to one’s creator.
Later versions of this “artificial human” story (and indeed
later adaptations of Frankenstein) changed the focus
to more modernist questions… What is the nature of humanity?
What does it mean to be human?
These stories continued through the golden age of science
fiction with Isaac Asimov’s I Robot story cycle, and then
through post-modern iterations from new wave writers like
Philip K. Dick. Today, this compelling science fiction trope
persists in mass media narratives like Westworld and
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, as well as twenty-first
century science fiction novels like Charles Stross’s
Saturn's Children and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The
The short stories in More Human than Human
demonstrate the depth and breadth of artificial humanity in
contemporary science fiction. Issues of passing . . . of
what it is to be human . . . of autonomy and slavery and
oppression, and yes, the hubris of creation; these ideas
have fascinated us for at least two hundred years, and this
selection of stories demonstrates why it is such an alluring
and recurring conceit.