AJ Stanton | 2021
The opening paragraph, the simple (but not simplistic) prose and the sardonic wisecrackery of the narrator can lull the reader into thinking that Sex Robots Must Die is a flimsy and lightweight affair.
And this would not be wholly incorrect, for, on the surface, one can read this novella as just that: an amusing yarn about a dispirited, drug-addicted and magnificently dejected sex worker existing in a Blade Runner-esque future, who is drawn into a fairly standard web of intrigue involving sex robots, rebels and others (some of whom may or may not be who they seem), as they attempt to topple a tyrannical government.
But, on the set of this Blade Runner-esque future, the advertising hoardings are malfunctioning, sputtering and sizzling away in psychotic blinks, and the streets are smeared with vomit, faeces and cum. It’s altogether darker than Scott’s cinematic take on Dick’s source novel, and a whole lot sleazier.
And, despite the narrator’s amusing and acerbic asides, there’s a consistently bleak undercurrent in Sex Robots Must Die, a throbbing yet controlled vein of righteous anger that’s occasionally reminiscent of John Brunner; a raging against the divine crapulousness of life, and against the sordid nightmare that capitalism has sold to a credulous and willing species.
If one chooses to descend a level or two from the surface, then this story (like all good fiction) examines some profound themes: the sanctity and dignity of life, human and non-human rights, and how to cope when you can’t afford your regular narcotic hit.
©Dan McNeil 2022