Short Story Title: The Omnibot Incident
Author: Ernest Cline
This Short Story Can Be Found In: the Robot Uprisings anthology
Editors: Daniel H. Wilson & John Joseph Adams
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
t’s Christmas 1986 and thirteen-year-old Wyatt runs downstairs to find the best gift ever under the Christmas tree: Tomy’s Omnibot 2000! It’s a top-of-the-line robot that costs $600, the gift that Wyatt has been wanting for the past three years.
He’s extra excited when he finds out that he got an artificially intelligent prototype that is interactive and even responds to voice commands. Happier than he’s been in a while, Wyatt is delighted to put the Omnibot through its paces. But when it displays some unusual and erratic behaviors, what will it do next?
This story appears in an anthology titled “Robot Uprisings”, so you might suspect that there’s something dark and threatening that might happen. The story innovatively goes in directions that I never expected. It then brings the story to an end that not only effectively explains the situation but also provides a satisfying surprise.
But it’s the character of Wyatt and his relationship with his father that really makes this story work. Wyatt’s grades have been sliding this year and he’s been depressed. This is the first Christmas he’s had since his mother died.
Wyatt’s loss of his mother was keenly felt throughout the entire story and that made his emotional bond with the Omnibot that much more poignant. His father’s hard work to afford something so expensive just to try to make his son smile also demonstrates how much he’s trying to reach his now emotionally distant son.
Given that I read this short story in December approaching the Christmas holiday, I felt extra nostalgic reading it. The author really set the mood well, it was very evocative and it brought back many pleasant memories for me. It also successfully captured the holiday spirit as well as accurately portraying a teen in need to resolve some emotional issues.
Go ahead and read this charming and wonderful short story. It has all the hallmarks of the author’s previous tales: 1980’s nostalgia, a compelling story, and a father/son relationship at its emotional core. It provides a great peek back to another decade and is an emotionally fulfilling tale. While you’re at it, check out the other stores in this anthology. I think you’ll like those as well.
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