I don’t read short stories all that often, but I just finished So You Want To Be A Robot: 21 Stories by Merc Rustad, and loved it. If you read science fiction and/or fantasy, do yourself a favor and read this!
Brief reviews of the included stories:
“This Is Not A Wardrobe Door”: I enjoyed the Monster’s Inc. / Narnia vibes getting twisted around and reimagined. The story was a little too pat overall for me.
My favorite story in the collection was “Tomorrow When We See The Sun.” I want 3 novels and a movie and I want to reread it until my eyeballs are bleeding. It is sad and hopeful and angry and happy and there is so much world-building and characterization and plot packed into it.
Another of my faves was “The Sorcerer’s Unattainable Gardens”: I loved the two intertwined stories, and this was my favorite use of 2nd person in this collection (yes there are several!).
“The Android’s Prehistoric Menagerie”: After the end of the world, there are dinos and robots and they make beautiful lives for themselves.
I didn’t like “For Want of a Heart,” but it did a beautiful job of slowly building up a nice solid Dread.
“Once I, Rose” was another one that seemed a little too pat, but the concept was fascinating!
“Where Monsters Dance” was another story that felt like it packed in an entire novel. I love everyone in this bar! Warning: includes monsters and dancing.
“A Survival Guide for When You’re Trapped in a Black Hole”: I hate dog stories, but Merc made this one a bit more palatable than usual.
“Thread”: When you’re enslaved by aliens made of light, darkness is suddenly very hopeful and cozy.
“Under Wine-Bright Seas”: This was the only one where I felt like the description dominated all other parts of the story so much that I don’t have an opinion on the story itself. But I like the world.
“Of Blessed Servitude”: Another favorite of mine that includes sun-demons, cyborgs, Wild-West-ish post-apocalyptic wasteland, sacrifice, etc!
“To The Knife-Cold Stars”: I’ve rarely read anything so desperately determined to grasp hope out of terrible circumstances. It’s also a sequel of sorts to “Of Blessed Servitude.”
“Finding Home” was a really cool contrast between those always escaping and those who stay.
“Winter Bride”: This story did NOT make me rethink my desire for all Fae to die in a trash fire.
“To The Monsters, With Love”: An ode to all the monsters, monster-lovers, and monster-makers out there.
“BATTERIES FOR YOUR DOOMBOT5000 ARE NOT INCLUDED”: It’s like a super-hero story, except about the super-heroes (and villains) after they’ve gotten out of the business and are still dealing with the aftermath.
“….Or Be Forever Fallen”: YIKES. This was Elizabeth-Bear-Level of heartrending and oh-no-oh-no realizations and grim decisions to keep going.
“Iron Aria”: Kyru can talk to metal, and the mountain full of iron is hurting. I LOVED the wordsmithing in this one.
“What Becomes of the Third-Hearted”: It’s good. I’m nervous that saying anything about it will spoil the effect.
“The Gentleman of Chaos”: This was possibly the Merc-i-est story in this collection. I love Merc stories because they’re so often about finding hope in places/situations where there is absolutely no hope at first (or second, or third) glance.
“So You Want To Be a Robot”: Partway through reading this, the story grabbed me and made me cry and wouldn’t let me go. But in a good way.
Overall, I loved this collection. It’s well-written, with lots of surprises both in the stories and in the word-choice – I LOVE the surprising ways Merc describes or shows things in the words they use. There are several stories that not only use second person but SUCCEED with it, although this both a praise and a quibble because a little second person goes a LONG way with me.