Allison's Book Bag

Unlocked Published by Robot Playground

Posted on: March 17, 2012

The preface of Unlocked reads: “Each key will open a door, some leading to new worlds, others hiding secrets better left forgotten, and still holding dreams to be shared.” After reading this anthology, you’ll never think about your keys in the same way again!

In one of my surprise favorite stories, Assassin by Jaimey Grant, the main female character Sable wears a key around her neck as her only connection to her murdered parents. The story is about a trained killer, which doesn’t make for my typical fare. I should detest Sable who ironically hates it when a killing goes smoothly, because it’s “like thumbing one’s nose at the devil, taunting him to do his worst”. Yet I don’t. After all, she knows the “devil’s worst and has since made it her goal to never go through that again”. Does that mean I like Sable? Not really. Nor do I particularly like Etienne, who was hired to clean up any mistakes Sable made. This is one of those rare stories where I can appreciate who the killers are without loving or hating them. I know this goes against the norm, because then who or what do we root for? I don’t particularly want either of them to die, but I also know that this would be right. This is a tough balance for an author to pull off, but Jaimey Grant does it.

In the rest of the stories in Unlocked, the main characters were basically good but for the most part no less intriguing. For example, another story which I really liked featured a female robot. In Symbiote by Rita Webb, RW1211 risks breaking company rules by sneaking out at night to watch the stars. The tale takes on a darker tone, when the models in her department are deemed obsolete and so are slated for early retirement—that is, recycling followed by incineration. Because of how skillfully this science fiction story is crafted, it reminded me of how genre stories can subtly present messages about societal problems. Yes, fantasy and science fiction can awe readers with cool creatures and powers and effects. They also can indirectly make a point about our world, which ultimately gives them their substance.

Most of the stories in Unlocked also rely on an unexpected revelation. For surprise twists to work, an author needs to effectively build up suspense and then produce a satisfying end. Some of the authors whose works are featured were less successful than others. For example, I knew how Crop Circles by Wendy Swore would end. And when the ending came, it read even sillier than I anticipated. While I wasn’t as prepared for the ending in Where They Belong by Paige Ray, it was the most disappointing. At the start, Claire receives a nasty letter from her former friends. Then when her mom takes her for a drive, Claire finds a key that changes her life. Already, I have two problems. First, there is no reason for her friends to suddenly turn so vile. Second, how she finds the key is convoluted: “She jumped out of the car as they parked and stumbled over the sidewalk. Her mom had parked close to the cliff’s edge, and Clara rolled, about to fall over the cliffs edge.” As she braces herself, she finds the key. Ugh! My last problem is that Clara’s problems are too conveniently solved. Beyond these two examples, the surprise twists worked better. For example, Shoshanna by teen writer K.G. Borland starts out as a romance between an angel and an earthling, but ends up creeping me out. Borland is working on his first novel, which sounds like good news to me. I’m hoping to hear more about fallen angel Gabe!

Unlike Transcendent Tales, also published by Robot Playground, Unlocked isn’t being advertised as containing stories from one genre. Instead, the back cover describes this anthology as a varied collection of fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and fanciful tales of school. While this is all true, I still felt chilled by the time I read the last page. Indeed, the best compliment I can give to Unlocked is that now I feel happy for night lights.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

3 Responses to "Unlocked Published by Robot Playground"

I’ve been feeling in the mood for some short stories recently since I seem to be experiencing a case of reader’s ADD and tend to skip fro one book to another. I think a collection of short stories would be perfect for the frame of mind I’m in right now. I think this sounds like a good read for just that purpose, so thank you for introducing me to this anthology.


It’s been a while since I read a collection of short stories, but this one sounds interesting!

Thanks for your post! Your name has been entered into the giveaway draw I’m offering as part of Rita’s World Celebration Blog Hop.

For anyone else who’s interested, details can be found at my Blog Hop Celebration post. The giveaway ends on March 31.

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