This anthology published in 2023 is fairly true to its title by collecting 17 stories about robots from 1899 to the present day. Some would probably argue that not all stories are technically robot stories, some are on the fringe on that definition, but the stories also shows how the concept of a robot has changed throughout the years in the science fiction genre.

The stories are mostly chronological, with the exception of the first one which is a new story from 2023 and an original for this anthology. “Perfection” by Seanan McGuire is sort of modern fable that takes the concept of a robot into a more metaphorical sense and using it to tell a story about creating the “perfect” human specimen. It is bit of a bold choice to start off the anthology with something a bit different, but I think it does set the concept of showing an example what “robot” can mean in a 2023 story - before going back to 1899 for the second story. “A Night at Moxon’s” by Ambrose Bierce is more like a proto-robot story, but a decent little mystery type story about a chess automaton - which were a thing in the late 19th century.

The anthology has 10 stories from before 2000 and 7 after. I did find the older stories to be most worthwhile reading, with all time classics like “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson, “Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick and “For a Breath I Tarry” by Roger Zelazny.

“With Folded Hands” is a great story that is basically a depiction of the saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Also not overly dated and easily works as a metaphor for AI advancements today. Reminded me of the Nancy Kress story “Nano comes to Clifford Falls” where machines also takes all the joy out of humans.

“Second Variety” is a chilling story with an apocalyptic atmosphere that is very well made, especially when it evolves into a mix of The Terminator and The Thing paranoia - even to an extent into Battlestar Gallactica terrority where it is impossible to discern humans from robots.

“For a Breath I Tarry” is another story that has aged impressively well. It deals with a somewhat tired trope about robots wanting to “be” humans is, but here it is done using the methodology and logic of a machine, which I really appreciated. Also amazingly spot on in how current AI machine learning models work with basically processing endless amount of data on humans. Today more than ever, the philosophical question of whether human experience can be deduced to nothing but data processing is very much relevant. I could have lived without the sort of Adam and Eve like ending, but the quest for collecting human experiences through data collecting and expatriation with art (another concept that isn’t far off from current AI picture generators) was really enjoyable to read.

It is weird to have a robot anthology without a story by Asimov, but I don’t actually miss it. His robot stories are likely well known by most science fiction readers and have been reprinted countless times already. Asimov is present though, in the satirical story “Dilemma” by Connie Willis where Asimov himself serves as some sort of reluctant oracle on how to deal with real robots and their problems with the three laws. Reasonably funny.

I didn’t enjoy the more recent stories as much, with a couple of them feeling like they are part of a series. All in all it is still a good anthology that lives up to its title by present a variety of stories showing the evolution and changes of robots throughout more than a 100 years.