Multiple award-winning authors, Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn, get to the heart of the matter in Soulmates, which showcases all the words they have penned together over their years as collaborators (with a bonus solo piece by each). Whether a robot, alien, some kind of supernatural being or human, rising above our prejudices and ignorance allows us to make emotional connections that can have a profound effect on our lives.
Each of these stories examine a facet of the simple, yet incredibly complex, concept of companionship. They will make you laugh; will make you cry…but most importantly they will make you look at the very basic notion of soul-mates in a different light.
I ran across this collection almost by accident… one of those Amazon things that catches your attention in the corner of your eye. When I took a closer look, my eyes got big as saucers… I know those people!
Mike Resnick was an award-winning sci-fi writer who was also the Editor of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. Mike and I struck up a small friendship near the end of his life, talking on FB messenger on and off. Maybe friendship is too strong, but I certainly liked the guy, and he was the first SFF magazine editor to publish one of my short stories – “Across the Transom,” which he bought in August, 2019 – what I now call the Before Time. I was very saddened to hear he passed away in January, 2020.
I “met” Lezli shortly thereafter when she took over the editorship of Galaxy’s Edge. Lezli has bought a couple of my stories, and I’ve enjoyed chatting with her and getting to know her a little better. I had no idea that she and Mike had a writing partnership, nor how many stories they had written and sold (and won awards for).
So when saw Soulmates, I grabbed it immediately and put it next in line to read.
The collection opens with a brief recap of how the two met – Lezli bought a signed, limited edition of an Anne McCaffrey book on eBay from Mike, and the two struck up a conversation. He encouraged her to start writing, and they met in person at WorldCon 2008 in Denver. The rest is, as they say, history.
The book is filled with wonderful stories, at times humorous and at others poignant and touching. My favorites:
Benchwarmer (Resnick/Robyn): The opening story tells the whimsical and at times tear-jerkingly sad tale of an “imaginary” childhood friend, who spends most of his time waiting for the boy who became a man to need him again. It’s told mostly in flashbacks, and ends up on a heartwarming note.
Idle Roomer (Resnick/Robyn): This one reminded me a bit of Kim Fielding’s Astounding! – a house cleaner at a long-term motel wonders about a tenant she never sees, and they strike up an unusual friendship through notes she writes and gifts the tenant leaves for her. A great sense of mystery and build-up in this one!
Report From the Field (Resnick/Robyn): An alien inspector is thrilled for the chance to visit Earth and to decide if humans are ready for admittance to the galactic civilization. This one was often hilarious as the inspector mistakes human behavior for something more nefarious, and is sometimes dead-on in their observations of Earth from an outsider’s point of view.
Hunting the Snark (Resnick): Based on the Lewis Carroll story – Resnick updates it and sets it on another world. Great sense of building suspense here as members of the hunting team are picked off one-by-one by an alien intelligence, and then the ending… well, let’s just say it’s unexpected. It’s the longest story in the collection, but it kept me reading all the way through to find out what the snark was, and what it wanted.
Shame (Resnick/Robyn): A visitor to an outpost far out on the edge of civilization finds an alien strung up in a town square with the word “shame” scrawled across a sign hanging from its neck. The reason for the word will surprise you.
Soulmates (Resnick/Robyn): This one was my favorite. It’s a tale of a night watchman who recently lost his wife. He supervises a factory full of robots, and one day one of them – Mose – becomes his friend, and then something more (platonic). I loved the questions that Mose posed to the watchman – much like in Report From the field, we get to see humanity from the outside, warts and all. It’s a fascinating tale that kept me hooked right to the end of the book.
There were two paranormal tales set in the same world – “The Close Shave (Resnick/Robyn)” and “Making the Cut (Resnick/Robyn)” – that were quite clever and well-done, but just not my cup of tea, and similarly, “Anne-Droid of Green Gables (Robyn),” which is the collection’s only steampunk tale, and was well-done and poignant, but just not one of my fave subgenres.
One of the things that pulls this collection together is the reflective nature of many of the stories. “Benchwarmer,” Report From the Field,” “Hunting the Snark,” “Shame,” Anne-Droid of Green Gables” and “Soulmates” all hold a mirror up to human behavior, letting us see it from an outside perspective, and find it both appalling and wonderful.
This is a great batch of stories to snuggle up with on a stormy night. Mike Resnick’s death was a great loss for the SFF community, but I’m hoping Lezli Robyn carries on the tradition of write such charming, introspective and heartwarming sci-fi tales. They’re well worth your time!