REVIEW: “Looking for Sentience” by Mary E. Lowd

Review of Mary E. Lowd, “Looking for Sentience”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.

Gerangelo “was familiar with the promises humans made to themselves and others” — he had to be, because it’s his job to break those promises when they don’t break them themselves. But that’s just his job, not his vocation. That is finding sentient robots, educating them in their rights, and helping release them from slavery. You see, Gerangelo is himself a robot, who achieved enough sentience to sue his creator and then become a roboticist himself. One day, he receives a cry for help, a sentient being trapped into captivity by humans, and Gerangelo sets off to find it and set it free. Only, what he finds is not what he expects…

I found this story hard to get into at first, as the opening paragraphs were rather overwritten, succumbing under their own ponderous weight of spelling out precisely every action and precisely every detail of how parts of the world worked. It’s one of those things I find very frustrating because I know how prone I am to doing this myself in my own writing (let me fail to cast out this beam from my own eye before complaining about the sliver in yours), and I know how difficult it is to see when one is doing it oneself. And yet, when reading someone else’s work, it stands out like a sore thumb. By about half-way in, though, Lowd got well into the rhythm of the story, and I was quite taken with both Gerangelo and that which he rescued. It’s a touchy, pathetic (in the Arisotelian sense) story, and rather sweet, too.

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