FeatherPenClipArtHere’s another review of a Hugo nominated novella published by Castalia House.

Maggie is a Ratha armored fighting vehicle (tank), and she is reminiscing about when she had a human crew that she loved instead of drones. She prays for them, but silently so no one will notice and send her for a radical debugging. Her experiences on the battlefield are interspersed with passages from a military history text. After an ambush, Maggie is severely damaged and feels agonizing pain. A human salvage crew arrives to dismantle her, and officials bicker about the sale of parts. Maggie’s memories expose graft, cruelty and corruption in the humans she has served, and at the end of the story, she responds to this.

This is a long piece, and full of battle details that slow the reading for me. On the positive side, the author has spent some effort in world-building, and the historical information includes politics, economics and strategy that give it extra dimension. This is two SF war stories in a row where an AI has exhibited human-like perspectives and emotions. In this case the builders use pain to implement operant conditioning in the training of the war machines. Although the central memory core is sealed off, Maggie accesses it at the end. The capacity for pain and emotion is what gives the story a sentimental kick, but I’m not sure this is supportable for building and programming an AI. Still, I like the results. Three and a half stars.

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