hort story this time (since I’m deep in a World War 2 fictionalization right now), located in The Year’s Best Science Fictions Volume 2 (and Volume 1 brought me so much enjoyment). First story in the set, A Guide for Working Breeds by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, was a crazy begining.
This tale does a great job of unconventional storytelling – specifically email exchanges and purchases between a couple of robots. We have Kleekai Greyhound (K.g1- 09030) who has just come online and has been assigned a mentor bot – namely Constant Killer (C.k2-00425). The exchanges are funny and help define the characters, with Kleekai maintaining a free-form, chatterbot style and Constant responding with short, blunt (but ever warming) replies.
Poor Kleekai works in what sounds like a horrible restaurant. It can hardly cook (his omelets sound appalling but its trying to get better). It can’t make the customers happy, its boss is a pain, there are raccoons in the joint and its boss makes it wake up from its recharging casket when anyone approaches the door (even if it is a possum at 3am, who Kleekai names Chonkster and feeds omelettes to). Constant gives it advice (an seemingly sends it presents, like a new omelette spatula). Kleekai’s life improves and Constant warms to it.
But then we learn something about Constant, something dangerous and deadly. The two (because of the speed bots can think) carry on a conversation even through there is a street battle rolling towards the shabby restaurant. Things turn to shit quickly, but sadly off-camera (or off-email).
In the end (and implied through internet bills and notifications), Kleekai is in a new body, in a new city, and works in a dog restaurant (which makes it quite happy). Its even brought Chonkster with him. And its now considered experienced enough to be a mentor to a new bot, with whom it he advises in its own cheery manner.
Working Breeds was a funny short story, one that took me a little while (and a couple of backtracks) to figure out what was going on. But it was well worth it. This collection of short stores from 2019 has continued to impress me – the first one is a charmer. Anyway, if you see this collection on the bargain bin, pick it up. You won’t be disappointed!