Reviews

1053315_10204178388860287_2514837759123301643_o (1)“In this eclectic collection of reprints [Soulmates], all originally published between 1999 and 2011, veteran Resnick teams up with relative newcomer Robyn to deliver a handful of entertaining tales. Tone, style, and theme range all over the place: “The Close Shave” and “Making the Cut,” both set at a barbershop that specializes in after-hours service to the supernatural crowd, aim for a light, harmless sort of humor and feature a henpecked vampire, a pacifist medusa with bad-tempered snakes for hair, and a world-weary Wandering Jew, among others. “Shame” and “Soulmates” are much more thought-provoking, philosophical works, exploring free will, friendship, euthanasia, and taking responsibility for one’s mistakes. In “Benchwarmer,” the authors look at imaginary friends who have been forgotten by their creators, and “Report from the Field” examines humanity’s quirks through an alien lens; these are well-worn themes, but the skillful execution prevents them from feeling stale. The same can be said for “Anne-Droid of Green Gables,” which revisits L.M. Montgomery’s classic. The only solo Resnick story in the bunch is “Hunting the Snark,” in which a safari on an alien planet goes horribly awry. This is a satisfying sampler of solid stories from a team that rarely disappoints. Agent (for Resnick): Eleanor Wood, Spectrum Literary Agency. (Dec.)”—Publishers Weekly

“I last reviewed a Bryan Thomas Schmidt anthology back in July 2014, and it was a good one. For this second one, Schmidt did not disappoint with this exciting collection of adventure stories. While I haven’t heard of some of the authors, none of them disappointed me. Mission – Tomorrow is another strong anthology.

One of my favorite stories was ‘A Walkabout Amongst The Stars’ by Lezli Robyn. Tyrille is the first female Aboriginal astronaut, sent to discover why Voyager I had suddenly come back to life after being turned off for many years. She is smart and witty, and had to make some hard decisions by the end of the story. The way Robyn told the story included gut-wrenching realizations by Tyrille, as well as peaceful acceptance of things beyond her control.”—my-sf.com

“I think Analog readers as a whole want to see the human race expand into space. I think the vast majority of us hold NASA dear in our hearts, and truly wish it to succeed—but it’s fair to ask what the future of space exploration would look like without NASA. That’s what the 18 authors in Mission: Tomorrow have done…

There’s a lot of variety here. You won’t want to miss ‘A Walkabout Amongst the Stars’ by Lezli Robyn, in which Australian astronauts encounter Voyager I; Michael F. Flynn’s ‘In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon,’ a murder mystery set on Mars; and Brenda Cooper’s ‘Iron Pegasus,’ a tale of a rogue robot that echoes Isaac Asimov’s Powell and Donovan stories.”—AnalogSF

“Benchwarmer, a short story written by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn and available from 40K, is about imaginary friends from their point of view. In particular, the story follows Mr. Paloobi, a teddy-bear-like father figure wished into existence by a little boy who has long since grown up. For the past seventy years, in fact, Mr. Paloobi has been sitting on the sidelines enviously watching the other imaginary friends (like a fairy princess and a lion) as they are ‘called in’ to play with their owners.

Warming the bench gives Mr. Paloobi plenty of time to recall his days with his young friend. Through flashbacks we see how they bond, the sad reason why the boy wished for an imaginary friend, and how they grew apart as the boy aged. As you may guess, this makes for some poignant scenes. But the authors also do a superb job at making you care about the characters and their relationship because they show that it means something to each of them. The themes that pervade the story carry weight. It’s not just loneliness, but also a feeling of being loved and being needed. It helps that the story’s straightforward prose whisks the story along. All of this conspires to give Benchwarmer an emotional strength that, while reminiscent of the Toy Story films, stands quite well on its own merits.”—SFSignal

“‘A Walkabout Amongst the Stars’ by Lezli Robyn features the world’s first female Australian aboriginal astronaut investigating why aliens have refueled and repaired the NASA spacecraft Voyager 1. This features a believable AI character and an interesting first contact.”—SFRevu

“Mike Resnick has—according to the story’s introduction—won more awards than any other writer of short fiction. In ‘Soulmates,’ written in collaboration with Lezli Robyn, an alcoholic widower close to losing his job as a night-watchman encounters a trouble-shooting robot. Resnick and his collaborator provide an unfussy, deceptively simple story that provokes thought with almost every question the robot asks. It will probably feature on the 2010 Hugo ballot, and that wouldn’t be an injustice. Highly Recommended.”—Suite 101

“Soul Mates by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn on the other hand was just an outstanding story about a friendship between a human an a robotic AI which touches on a lot of issues about what it is to be alive. I’d be surprised, and disappointed if it doesn’t do well in awards the coming year…”—MWB World

“Mike Resnick is the all-time short fiction award winner and here he is paired with newcomer, Lezli Robyn for the novelette ‘Soulmates’. One thing I always find in Resnick’s stories is Heart and this one has plenty of it. Gary is a man racked with guilt. His wife, Kathy, had been badly injured in a car accident and was brain dead. On the advice of doctors, he had turned off the machines keeping her breathing. He feels that he killed her. He has begun to drink, heavily, and is in danger of losing his job as a night watchman where he keeps an eye on sixty pre-programmed robots. He starts drinking early in his shift one night and falls down. He is helped by a robot called MOZ-512 and leans on it to complete his shift. He starts talking to the robot and calls him Moze. They have an effect on each other and therein lies a wonderful tale. That’s the second story that will be considered by me for next year’s Hugos; this one in the Novelette category.”—SFRevu

“The authors weave themes of loss and friendship together well in this poignant tale [Soulmates] about a man who has lost his wife and finds himself spending time discussing serious issues with a maintenance robot. The story uses dialogue very effectively to advance both plot and characterisation.”—Aurealis Award 2009 Judges

“The next level of intrusion is shown in Lezli Robyn’s ‘Anne-droid of Green Gables.’ Robyn actually reconfigures the entire story as a Victorian Steampunk fantasy. Clockwork airships fill the skies and little orphan Anne is now an obsolete android deemed too childlike to work in a factory. She earns the right to go to school with hard work, is falsely accused of breaking her father’s most cherished possession by her mother, and bravely risks being sent back to the factory to prove her innocence. The short story hits all the highlights of the novel without feeling like a gimmick. The plot is old but Robyn’s inclusion of Steampunk technology makes it feel fresh and new again. Imagery and symbols are substituted to better reflect the desires of a young android versus those of a young girl and key moments in Anne’s development play out with the wonder of fantasy technology. It’s simply a darling and uplifting story.”—The Sketchy Details

“The tough topic of euthanasia is explored in ‘Soulmates’ by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. A night watchman named Gary has trouble living with the guilt of pulling the plug on his wife Kathy, left brain dead after an auto accident. He’s on the verge of losing his job due to heavy drinking when he becomes acquainted with a troubleshooting robot he dubs Mose. This tale centers on those two characters’ conversations concerning Gary’s decision and Mose’s job of repairing or terminating broken robots. Resnick and Robyn utilize these discussions for both character development and plot advancement for maximum effect. The man’s raw emotions contrasting with the robot’s logic add poignancy and credibility to the novelette. Unfortunately, the lack of security cameras detracts from that same credibility. Set in a future of five billion women, a major company would have the ability to notice the changes in the robot Mose and the time he spent with Gary at work. However, the strong storytelling makes ‘Soulmates’ a fine and enjoyable read without becoming a sermon on morality.”—Tangent

“‘Benchwarmer’ by Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn: There’s no TZ twist here, but a touching story about where imaginary friends go after we’ve left them behind. Along the lines of the famous Kick the Can episode of TZ, ‘Benchwarmer’ is more about whimsy than terror.”—SfRevu

“Other standouts include…Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn’s beautifully sad ‘Benchwarmer,’ which takes us into the world of imaginary friends, and introduces us to one friend who simply can’t let go of the boy who created him.”—io9

“Lezli Robyn’s ‘Johnny So Long at the Fair’ is the story of Johnny Glover, a four-year-old boy who disappears from a train ride in a department store. No one can figure out what happened to him. Twenty years go by, and he reappears, twenty years older but still with memories of a four-year-old. What he does next makes for an enchanting story.”—SFRevu

“Unknown aliens have apparently retrieved that famous interplanetary NASA disc of cultural recordings known as the Golden Record, and when Aboriginal astronaut Tyrille Smith goes out in her craft to learn more, she finds herself poised on a great adventure. Such is the gist of Lezli Robyn’s “A Walkabout Amongst the Stars.”—Locus Magazine

“In this outstanding collection of stories [Mission: Tomorrow], the narratives begin at the outer edge of the solar system and move inward through the fascinating and difficult landscape of planets and moons and asteroids. This is a group of some of today’s best science fiction writers, imagining how humans might manage the exploration and even, in some cases, the development and monetization of space. In fact, the privatization of space exploration is a recurring theme in this anthology. All the stories are good, but a few stand out to this reader. Jack McDevitt’s ‘Excalibur’ is a terrific mystery with political overtones. Alex Shvartsman, in ‘The Race for Arcadia’, gave me goosebumps with its chilling tale of an approach to space travel I won’t describe so as not to spoil it. I don’t want to ruin your own chills! Aussie writer Lezli Robyn, in ‘A Walkabout Among the Stars’, gives us a startling and alarming first contact tale.”—Louise Marley

“Lezli Robyn’s compelling and memorable ‘The Dawn of Reason’ examines the complexities of mammoth hunting;”—Publishers Weekly

“Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn provide the only humorous tale of the bunch in ‘Report from the Field’ in which a field agent for an alien civilization watches humanity over the course of a few of his days (time being different for him) in which mankind evolves into the present day. Resnick and Robyn use the alien perspective to look from the outside in at the oddities of the human race, and explain just why we might be considered for and prevented from joining any galactic civilization. There are lots of funny moments in this story.”—Grasping for the Wind

“‘Report from the Field’ by Michael Resnick and Lezli Robyn plays with the idea of cultural relativity. It’s by no means the first time it’s been done in SF but this is a particularly good example and quite funny.”—Core Dump 2.0

“REPORT FROM THE FIELD by Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn. This is a very funny story. If you have ever wondered what our society looks like from an objective third party, this is your answer. Maybe this is why no one visits? Seeing our sports, entertainment, figures we admire (twiggy-like models), sexual habits, and integrating our movies figures as cultural icons; you can see by the end of the story why anyone might be a little hesitant to come by and say hello!”—Gralin Fox, Scifi Geeks

“Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn, ‘Report From the Field’ a very quirky tale done in field report style from an alien determining if Earth is ready for inclusion in Galactic Community.

This story had me chortling left and right like few other writer can do and the only funny story in the bunch. In many ways humor is more difficult to relay in written form than something dramatic or action oriented. Resnick and Robyn excel at the funny asides as well as the satirical while this particular alien sees us at an skewed angle from viewing our television, movies, and documentaries trying to make sense of what they selected. There are perfect examples of humanity’s absurd and violent side, which make me question our place in the cosmos and the fact that if there is life out there we’d probably just screw up first contact.”—Booktionary

“The best stories are those where aliens exist, but are hiding from us. The funniest is Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn’s ‘Report from the Field,’ in which an alien observer gathers information about humanity from our books, movies and TV shows. To say that the narrator is horrified is an understatement, and the story will make readers think harder about what we’re broadcasting for any passing alien to pick up.”—Owl Cat Mountain

“‘Report From the Field’ by Mike Resnick & Lezli Robyn is a series of observations made by aliens who are contemplating asking mankind to join the galactic civilized races. In a classic example of cognitive estrangement, we learn the absurdity of our own cultural norms as seen by those on the outside…effectively played to humorous effect.”—SFSignal

“Robyn’s ‘Anne-droid of Green Gables’ stands out from the rest, because of its heartwarming tribute to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s children book. Matthew Cuthbert realizes life is still challenging as the parent of a robot girl. Even though his sister wants to send the android back to the factory, Matthew believes Anne is uniquely special. He decides to keep Anne and teach her how to interact with society. Montgomery’s endearing message about family and sacrifice is emphasized in Robyn’s revision.”—Fangoria

“Benchwarmer by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn is the story of where our imaginary friends, or ‘playmates,’ as they’re called, go when we no longer need them. We first meet Mr. Paloobi, a teddy bear-like creature who befriends a young boy whose parents are rarely around. Mr. Paloobi teaches the boy to play chess, and together, the two have a wonderful time. But eventually, as all children do, the boy outgrows Mr. Paloobi, and he is pulled back to the ‘here and somewhere,’ also known as the limbo where he will stay until he’s given a new charge.

Although Mr. Paloobi has had other charges since the boy who created him, they have not had the same kind of relationship that he shared with the first boy, and Mr. Paloobi often reminisces about their time together nearly seventy years earlier. Finally, he and the boy—who is now an old man with a fading memory—are reunited, and they’re able to pick up their relationship exactly where they left off.

The authors do a fantastic job of showing that even as people grow older, they’re never really alone. Not only is this story wonderful because it addresses the common fears of loneliness that come with age, but also because it shows that true friendship, no matter the distance or time that separates the companions, can last a lifetime.”—Eulana

“Anne-Droid of Green Gables: I adored this story. Steampunk ain’t really my cup of tea and I’ve never read the Anne of Green Gables stories, but this story crackled with warmth and charm. There’s a tendency in genre fiction to tell big, bombastic stories of violence and lust and death, but this story of a family coming together and embracing a curious little robot absolutely charmed me.”—Creature Cast

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