Tobias S. Buckell. Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance. (Cosmic Powers, ed Adams, Saga 2017)

Read in : The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume Three. (ed Neil Clarke, Nightshade Books 2018)

The preceding story in Clarke’s take on the Year’s Best was Suzanne Palmer’s ‘The Secret Life of Bots’, featuring a repair bot battling on a spaceship to save humanity. This story is sufficiently close to Palmer’s not to be placed directly after it IMHO.

The protagonist isn’t a bot in the same sense, as the protagonist repair bot is powered by a human intelligence – the human in question has foresworn the limited life in a human body, to a much, much longer life in a robot, and a chance to travel the universe.

However, after a battle, the robot is faced with a challenge as a human from the enemy lands on the ship’s hull and asks, nay, demands assistance, and the protocols that are in place mean that the robot has no option but to help. However, with a bit of a nod to Asimov’s Three Laws stories, protocols can always be interpreted and worked with, if not around…

A clever story to end Clarke’s volume.

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