REVIEW: “Red_Bati” by Dilman Dila

Review of Dilman Dila, “Red_Bati”, in Zelda Knight and Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, ed., Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction From Africa and the African Diaspora, (Aurelia Leo, 2020) — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

Red_Bati is a robot dog that Akili has programmed to be a companion for his grandmother. In Dila’s tale, we experience Red_Bati’s world and story through his eyes, feeling the constant tug between the reminders that Red_Bati is a mere collection of mechanical parts and the fact that those parts have all come together to create “a human trapped in a pet robot”. (At least, that’s what Red_Bati thinks. The ghost of Granny that keeps him company as his battery slowly dies thinks otherwise; Red_Bati cannot be human, he has no spirit.) But whether human or not, Red_Bati has a plan and the capacity to implement it. All through the story, right up until the very end, I held out hope that Red_Bati would, in the end, be a Good Dog. And was he? I’ll let you read it and determine for yourself.

This was a delicious story, full of humor and pathos and a steady reminder that we must always question who, and what, we ascribe humanity to — and why.