Eighteen Songs by Debussy provides a series of fascinating snippets laid out in a connected montage. This is a world inhabited by robots and mechanical beings, a world so futuristic that it feels like a fantasy. The writing style is wonderfully whimsical, taking on an Alice in Wonderland feel throughout. We see the mating rituals of robots, ranging from romantic to mildly disturbing. Love is the connecting theme, starting off simple enough and advancing to a point of confusion brought on by their body-swapping lifestyles. We see them trade bodies for fun, to feel love and sex through another’s form, and it creates a fascinating jumble of interactions. This is also a nearly human-free world akin to The Matrix, where babies are kept in a virtual world for most of the day. It’s a slight mention in the greater scheme of the story, but it’s still an intriguing detail.
Overall, Eighteen Songs by Debussy feels like a ballet or opera of sorts, filled as it is with converging love stories, lost romances and broken hearts. There is plenty of futuristic technology and settings, including one rather tragic mechanical heart and the concept of a room set aside purely to experience the gloominess of a rainy day. It’s infinitely original and I’m impressed by the author’s ability to connect these pieces into a strangely mesmerizing set of stories.
Eighteen Songs by Debussy
Written by Michael Swanwick
Asimov’s Science Fiction