Book Review: Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson

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Sad Robot Stories by Mason Johnson    “Robot is one of millions of androids on an Earth that recently saw the extinction of human life. While Robot’s mechanical brothers and sisters seem happy, Robot finds himself lost and missing the only friend he had, a human named Mike whose family accepted Robot as a piece of their personal puzzle. Without both the mistakes and the capacity for miracles that define human civilization, is civilization even worth having? Explore this question in the hilarious yet heartbreaking full-length debut of popular Chicago performer Mason Johnson. A Kurt Vonnegut for the 21st century, his answers are simultaneously droll, surprising and touching, and will make you rethink the limits of what a storyteller can accomplish within science fiction.” – To be released August 12th by CCLaP Publishing

I didn’t know what to expect when I started Johnson’s novella, but I’m always up for reading a new author, I like science fiction and so I volunteered to read and review the ebook. Wow, am I happy I did! Not since R. Daneel Olivaw, first introduced in Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, have I fallen in love with a robot, and Johnson’s main character, Robot, is easy to love. In a world where there is no organic life, Robot misses humans, animals, trees and grass, everything that most of the robots are happy to be rid of.

The story starts after the unnamed catasrophic event that wiped out all life on earth and then flashes back to Robot’s beginnings and his life in the factory.  One of my favourite parts right near the beginning was when I fell in love with Robot.  He is working in the factory, but, unlike the other robots, he is not happy with doing the same job day in and day out forever and ever and so he manages to be assigned different jobs because it amuses the factory manager that this robot keeps asking for a new job.  In one of these reassignments, he is given the job of feeding the cats.  And, at first, the cats were afraid of Robot. However, “Eventually, the cats stopped running away from Robot. They’d look up expectantly at him as he poured the brown food into a bowl and placed a water dish down for them. Then, one day, they started rubbing against his hard edges. Arching their back as their sides dug into his legs. Pushed their teeth up against his feet. A few days later, he woke up from being asleep—not quite shut down, just charging—with one of the cats on his shoulder. The next day, he woke up with a cat on each shoulder…I could tell you that this was his favorite part of the day, but you probably know that already.”  How could you not fall in love with Robot? The story is a brilliantly quick read, I couldn’t put it down and read it over two evenings.

The story continues through Robot’s friendship with Mike and his family and you feel his sadness as he copes with the loneliness of a world without humans. Eventually he finds other robots and befriends one of them, sharing with her the stories that his friend Mike had shared with him.

Do yourself a favour and head over to Chicago Center for Literature & Publishing and order this brilliant little book.