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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Way back in the mid-1970s director Stanley Kubrick was looking for a new project and ran across Brian Aldiss' short story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', in which a childless couple create their own android son, who tries to understand if he is real or not. Kubrick was moved by the story and started trying to mould it into a film with Aldiss' help. Their work on the project went on for more than a decade (including the full gestation periods for Kubrick's movies The Shining and Full Metal Jacket) before Aldiss eventually left, exhausted by Kubrick's demanding work schedule and his insistence on drawing parallels to Pinocchio that Aldiss had never intended. Kubrick died in 1999 and Stephen Spielberg picked up the project, released it as the moderately successful A.I. in 2001. Aldiss sold several additional ideas to Spielberg which made it into the movie, and expanded these ideas into two sequels to the original short story.

The short story collection Supertoys Last All Summer Long and Other Tales of Future Time was released in 2001 to tie in with the film's release. As well as the original 1969 short story, it features the two sequels: 'Supertoys When Winter Comes' and 'Supertoys in Other Seasons'. These very short stories (each is 2,000 words or less) depict the story of David, an android who is created for a childless couple, but whose quest for self-identity proves problematic and he eventually leaves to wander the city. These stories are masterfully economical, transmitting much of the same story and concepts as the movie with Spielberg's sugar-coated schmaltz and Kubrick's worrying Blue Fairy fixation removed in a very small number of pages. You can read all three in considerably less than a single lunch break, as compared to the movie's sometimes bum-numbing two-hour running time.

Obviously, 6,000 words do not make a full collection, so an additional sixteen stories are included. They are united by the themes of dislocation and loneliness, which are approached from different angles. Many of the stories are ambiguous and few have any solid resolution. Aldiss' goal here is to raise issues and questions and see what the reader makes of them, not provide pat answers. Interestingly many of the stories are prototypes or condensed versions of other stories he has written: the lengthy seasonal cycle of 'Apogee Again' feels like Aldiss' epic Helliconia Trilogy on extreme fast-forward, whilst 'A Whiter Mars' is a direct tie-in to his stand-alone SF novel, White Mars. Some of the stories are obvious - 'III' is a simple commentary on humanity's fixation of exploiting natural resources, whilst 'Dark Society's twist ending will likely be spotted by experienced genre readers but remains haunting nonetheless - but others are more inventive, such as the Lord of Light-esque 'Becoming the Full Butterfly' and the judgmental 'Galaxy Zee'.

This is a fine collection of stories reflecting Aldiss' impressive writing range. There is a feeling of distance and coldness in many of the works - possibly an attraction for the likewise non-sentimental Kubrick (Blue Fairy obsession aside) - which may be offputting for some, but overall this is an intelligent and thought-provoking book and well worth seeking out.

Supertoys Last All Summer Long (***½) is published in the UK by Orbit (out of print but copies seem available on Amazon) and by St. Martin's Griffin in the USA.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2001
This is an absolutely brilliant collection and shows Aldiss at the top of his form. The title story is of course, the 1969 classic, that inspired Kubrick's un-finished project AI, but taken up by Stephen Speilberg. The story, has a young buy, who despite all his efforts can't get his "mummy" to love him. The boy doesn't know that he is a machine, an android. But even when he does, he feels, so he pleads that he is human. This story and the next Supertoy story reduced me to tears and moved me in very profound ways. I read it over and over. One of the 5 best stories I have ever read anywhere, anytime. The rest of the stories in this collection are all above average. Add this to your collection.
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on 26 July 2012
The best science fiction places us in extraordinary situations, or adopts clever if unlikely conceits, with which to test our humanity. Brian Aldis's collection of short stories achieves this in almost every instance. Three stories at the start develop Aldis's previously published `Supertoys last all summer long', about the robot boy who seeks a human mother's love but is forced to confront his true nature. Aspects of this were worked into the Kubrick-Spielberg film `AI', but Aldis's original deviates significantly from the trajectory of the movie. The short stories' conclusion is equally haunting if less saccharin. In contrast to the film, these stories dwell on David's `parents', exploring the unpleasant side of humanity in a clever juxtaposition with their `supertoy'. Indeed, the remainder of the (individual) stories tend towards the melancholy and poignant. Common themes include religion, mythology, and environmentalism. `Becoming the full butterfly' draws on Rushdie's magical realism (it is even 'set' in India), `Dark Society' offers a quasi-Gnostic view of heaven and hell, `Nothing in life is ever enough' presents an interesting twist about love on a desert island, `Apogee' offers a great moral on unknown symbiosis, and `Steppenpferd' tests a monk's faith on a planet displaced to another galaxy by demonic aliens. In all, Aldis interrogates commonplace assumptions and warns us of their possible implications in `future time'.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2001
A fascinating tale of a machine trying to come in terms with its being by understanding the uniqueness of humans.
A smart young boy is puzzled by the fact that his mother doesn't love him; no matter how hard he tries he cannot get any affection back. This young boy is a machine, not a human, yet he doesn't know but has to find out, the hard way.
The complete trilogy of short chapters, that after a long time (starting with Kubrick) has made the big screen as a Spielberg production called A.I.
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on 29 December 2014
nice read
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2014
I bought this after the watching the film Artificial Intelligence. The film just takes the concept from the book, the writing is nothing like as complex as the film. I read a few stories and decided to send it to a charity shop. Maybe a 10 year old would like it, but it's far too simplistic for the adult reader.
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