Homicide Machines


Machines That Kill, edited by Fred Saberhagen and Martin H. Greenberg (1984) including “Killdozer!” (1944) by Theodore Sturgeon, “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” (1961) by Cordwainer Smith, “Hunting Machine” (1957) by Carol Emshwiller, “Auto-da-Fe” (1967) by Roger Zelazny, “Second Variety” (1953) by Philip K. Dick, “Under the Hammer” (1974) by David Drake, “Lost Memory” (1952) by Peter Phillips, “Making the Connections” (1975) by Barry N. Malzberg, “Steel” (1956) by Richard Matheson, “The Iron Chancellor” (1958) by Robert Silverberg, “The Wabbler” (1942) by Murray Leinster, “The Cruel Equations (1971) by Robert Sheckley, “Combat Unit” (1960) by Keith Laumer, “Fondly Fahrenheit” (1954) by Alfred Bester, and “Goodlife” (1963) by Fred Saberhagen:

Generously overstuffed, tiny-print 1980’s paperback reprint anthology edited by Saberhagen, creator of the anti-life killer machines called Berserkers by the humans who have to fight them, and the ubiquitous anthologist Martin H. Greenberg.

The machines here aren’t always self-willed in their attempts to kill people or animals, or even malevolent when they do so, and the tone of the stories ranges from hard-edged military drama like that seen in David Drake’s “Under the Hammer” to the bleakly humourous and satiric “Hunting Machine”, “The Iron Chancellor”, “Auto-da-Fe” and “The Cruel Equations.” We visit the odd and oddly believeable world of humanity’s far future in “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” one of Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind stories, and the world of the now-past in Theodore Sturgeon’s then-contemporary WWII-era “Killdozer!”.

Some stories, like Cordwainer Smith’s, form part of larger story and novel cycles, such as “Goodlife” (the aforementioned Berserker stories), ” Combat Unit” (Laumer’s Bolo series), and Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers military/mercenary science-ficton universe (“Under the Hammer”). At least three of these stories have been adapted at least once for television or movies — “Steel” (as the Twilight Zone episode “Steel” and the 2011 movie Real Steel), “Killdozer!” (as a 1970’s TV movie of the same name) and “Second Variety” (as Screamers). All and all, a solid anthology with a nice mix of the often-anthologized and the overlooked. Recommended.

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