REVIEW: “The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer

Review of Suzanne Palmer, “The Secret Life of Bots”, Clarkesworld 132: Read online. Reviewed by Kerstin Hall.

Bot 9 has been in storage for a while. It’s a dated model with a reputation for instability, but when the ship runs into a crisis, even temperamental old multibots are called to assist. 9 is to deal with a pest problem –something is chewing through the walls– and while it would prefer a more important job, it dutifully sets about hunting down vermin.

This story is warm and funny and endearing. The narrative is well-constructed, and balances humour and tension throughout. The narrative voice is especially appealing when 9 is the focaliser. The newer bots and the ship are dismissive of 9’s limited functionality, so there’s something thoroughly charming about our hero’s gung-ho attitude. It might not have access to the newfangled ‘botnet’, but it never doubts its ability to get the job done.

The situation onboard the ship escalates. In between fighting off the pest (which is a bit like a bug, and a bit like a rat, or perhaps more like a “Snake-Earwig-Weasel”), 9 decides to fix the humans’ rather more life-threatening problems too.

If you are looking for something amusing, satisfying and easily digestible, “The Secret Life of Bots” won’t disappoint.

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