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Word Puppets

(Lady Astronaut #0.5; 4.4 & 4.5)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  423 ratings  ·  112 reviews
A new short story collection from Hugo Award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, with an introduction by Patrick Rothfuss.

Table of Contents
* "The Bound Man"
* "Chrysalis"
* "Rampion"
* "At the Edge of Dying"
* "Clockwork Chickadee"
* "Body Language"
* "Waiting for Rain"
* "First Flight"
* "Evil Robot Monkey"
* "The Consciousness Problem"
* "For Solo Cello, op. 12"
* "For Want of a N
Paperback, 319 pages
Published November 19th 2015 by Prime Books
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Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  423 ratings  ·  112 reviews

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Olga Godim
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
I received this short story collection through NetGalley

I love this author’s novels and I couldn’t pass up her short story collection when I saw it on NetGalley. The intro says that the stories are arranged in chronological order, and it’s fascinating to read them in that order, to witness the author’s writing maturing from story to story. There are 19 stories in the collection, and not all of them were to my taste, but overall it was an impressive read. All the stories have at least one specula
Read all my reviews on

I've written down my thoughts as I was reading this short story collection. Now that I'm finished I'm looking back at a great collection of short stories. There wasn't really a story I hated, most were good to very good and some really stood out. I don't usually read collections of short stories, but this has been a very nice surprise. I was already planning on reading more books by Mary Robinette Kowal, but now I will definitely do so!
Lisa Wolf
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Talk about a fascinating author! Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Hugo-winning novel The Calculating Stars (one of my all-time faves) as well as other works. She's also a highly gifted audiobook narrator (narrating, among other books, the October Daye series and other works by Seanan McGuire). And on top of all that, she's a professional puppeteer! Yes, a puppeteer. So yeah, given her eclectic talents and interests, I'm not at all surprised that this collection of short stories is v ...more
This is a superb collection.

According to publishers and authors, I am that rarest breed of readers, the kind who buys short story collections. I loves me some short story action. Even though many of these stories are available for free at Kowal's website ( and I had read a couple of them before, I still wanted to have this collection on my shelves. Both to support the author and to enjoy after the apocalypse. (Trump wants to use nukes everywhere and they
Received to review via Netgalley

Word Puppets is a collection of short stories written by Mary Robinette Kowal, arranged — if we can trust the alleged Patrick Rothfuss’ introduction — in the order they were written. I always think that’s a fascinating way to read an author’s work, because you get to watch their skills develop, their interests change, etc. This particular collection comes with an introduction written by Pat Rothfuss… which is a little suspect because in a little game they had on t
The Bound Man ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Chrysalis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rampion ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
At the Edge of Dying ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Clockwork Chickadee ⭐️⭐️
Body Language ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Waiting for Rain ⭐️⭐️⭐️
First Flight ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Evil Robot Monkey ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
The Consciousness Problem ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
For Solo Cello, op. 12 ⭐️⭐️⭐️
For Want of a Nail ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Salt of the Earth ⭐️⭐️⭐️
American Changeling ⭐️⭐️.5
The White Phoenix Feather ⭐️⭐️
We Interrupt This Broadcast ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rockets Red ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Lady Astronaut
I'd read some of these stories before, but its good to have them all in one place. I really enjoyed First Flight and the Hugo-winning Lady Astronaut of Mars the first time I read them, and liked revisiting them - plus they got me in the mood to follow up this collection with Hidden Figures .

Of the new ones, there were some delights, like the tale of gastronomy and ninjas, and the story about the motion capture puppet sent to deliver a ransom. The third- and second- last stories then make up a s
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Nice collection of short stories. The variation is very good, there is everything from fantasy, historical fiction to sci-fi. The prose is very good and captivates the reader. I'm pleasantly surprised with Mary Robinette Kowal and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books. ...more
Word Puppets is a collection of short stories put together in chronologic order. This allowed me to observe how the author evolved as a writer over time. The pieces are of a variety of fantasy and sci-fi sub-genres. Kowal pulls no punches and many of her stories are striking.

Let me write a few words on every story, since I believe each and every one deserves some attention.

The Bound Man. It's a very interesting take on fate, where a warrior from the past gets ripped from her time to fulfill the
Melissa Bennett
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lovely little concoction of short stories. This is my first Kowal book and it won't be my last. Short stories tend not to be my favorite but if she can write them like these, then I can't wait to read a novel by her. ...more
Fantasy Literature
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Word Puppets is a collection of Mary Robinette Kowal’s short fictions. Fans of her GLAMOURISTS series will find not a single one in its pages, and many of these tales are science fiction, with several stories set on Mars. Patrick Rothfuss provides a humorous introduction, and tells us that these nineteen works are in chronological order. This gives the reader a chance to see Kowal’s development as a story-teller.

I am not going to review all nineteen. I will discuss the stories I liked best or fo
Joanna Chaplin
Nov 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
A number of the short stories I had read elsewhere, but there were also several I hadn't read. Like the famous "Evil Robot Monkey" story, which was decidedly less silly than I expected. It's really quite solemn. There were also two more stories in the same universe as "The Lady Astronaut of Mars". It's neat to see the full scope of her capacity, which doesn't come out when you're only looking at the novels. ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’ve been chipping away at this collection, picking up a story here and there when I have a few minutes. When there are so many stories, it’s inevitable that some will stand out more than others, but what stood out the most to me is the incredible imagination and versatility of this author. The stories are all so very different from each other, even the last three that are loosely connected. There’s a lot of thought and emotion in these stories, and I’m glad to have gotten such a thorough sampli ...more
Michael E Thom
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Let me start by saying I'm a big fan of short fiction because as a writer, I started out on short fiction in the early '90s and got a few of mine published in small literary magazines. This is why when I saw an interview with Mary Robinette Kowel and Brandon Sanderson, I immediately knew there was a good chance I would like her short stories. So I headed over to amazon and order a hard copy of this book. I was so happy I did. Her short stories are exactly everything I love about short fiction. H ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Okay, one good thing that happens when you spend the day in bed with a cold - you get to read an entire book of short stories by Mary Robinette Kowal. I was really going after the three "Lady Astronaut" short stories, but there were some lovely ones in this collection - lots of variety and oddness. ...more
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a completely delightful collection of short stories and I recommend it without reservation.
Villain E
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm not generally a fan of short stories. It takes time for me to get emotionally invested. And that was pretty much the case here. Most of these stories, I came away thinking, "Meh, that was okay." I did like the two Hugo Winners, "For Want of a Nail," and "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" (which is why I picked this up in the first place), and I liked "Rockets Red", the story original to this volume. But the other 16 stories in the book just didn't grab me.

One thing though: The introduction by Patr
Steve Tetreault
What it’s about: This is a collection of short stories that bounce around between fantasy and sci fi. They provide some interesting twists and turns to some of the more conventional story tropes one might be used to in these genres.

What I thought: Honestly, I picked this up because it was either free or really cheap for my Kindle. It's probably been on my reader for a year or two, and I never got around to it. When I finally made my way to it, I was excited to see that the foreword was by Patri
Back on her birthday, I posted on Facebook, "Dear MRK- In honor of your birthday, I got your most recent book. I figured that was a good present for an author/friend."

Now, in May (not because I'm a slow reader, but because I don't often read on my e-reader), I've just finished wrapping the gift she gave me in the stories of Word Puppets. I started it at JordanCon, (which, back in 2012 is where I met the author), and have picked it up here and there, between other books to finish it off. Some of
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think the Glamorist novels are fantastic, but I really like Mary Robinette Kowal's short fiction. As Patrick Rothfuss says in the introduction, the chronological nature of the collection lets you observe how her writing has deepened and blossomed as her career has progressed. My two favorite stories were "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" which still makes me cry when I read it, and "Body Language" which is full of great characters as well as giving a behind-the-scenes look at the world of puppetry, ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
I got this as part of a book bundle from Humble Bundle and read it as an ebook. Although I spent about a month reading it, this more reflects that ebooks are usually only used if I find myself out and about without a book to read. Except that after a break of about a dozen physical books, when I picked this up again, I found I couldn't stop. I've read a couple of her novels, but this collection of short stories was very different. And really gripping. I think several of these stories will really ...more
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good collection, with many strong (and some less, but still enjoyable) pieces that showcase Kowal's evolution as a short fiction writer. Most of these I had read before, either on the author's website or on different magazines, but they didn't lose anything on a second read.

The last three stories of the volume, including Rockets Red, original to this book, share the same universe as the extremely touching The Lady Astronaut of Mars, delving in both the past and future of this alternate history
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, fantasy, short-stories
The biggest problem with this collection is the same problem I have with ALL of MRK's work: I wanted there to be more. More stories, but more importantly, more of EACH story. Kowal has an absolute gift for world building and I could have spent days immersed in each creation in this book, far more than the meager time I had with the individual stories. Powerful and deft, Kowal is a master of the craft. ...more
Abigail Pankau
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-fiction
Loved, loved, loved these. So wonderfully crafted, each of them. If you long for the fabulous short stories of Asimov or Heinlein or Bradbury - read these.

Update Aug 2018: Re-read, and they are still a really excellent set of short stores. Love them.
Sarah S
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've read several of these stories individually, but there were many new to me. It was interesting to see how the ways she explored related themes over time and settings. ...more
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Evil Robot Monkey on its own is worth 5 stars. Add First Flight and Lady Astronaut of Mars, and you've got an amazing set of stories. ...more
Dec 02, 2015 added it
Has got to be one of the best introductions I've ever read. ...more
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
She admits the earlier stuff is not as graceful as the later. The stories towards the end gather some real power, though.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I just finished this collection tonight. While there were some stories that I really enjoyed, on the whole, they seemed hit or miss to me.
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fun collection of stand-alone fantasy and sci-fi stories.
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Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series and historical fantasy novels: The Glamourist Histories series and Ghost Talkers . She’s the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Stories have a ...more

Other books in the series

Lady Astronaut (4 books)
  • The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)
  • The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut, #2)
  • The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3)
  • The Martian Contingency (Lady Astronaut, #4)

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“That sort of thing drives me crazy, too. So . . . ” Mary said. “For my Regency novels, I made a Jane Austen spellcheck dictionary from her complete works. If one of my novels uses a word that isn’t in that dictionary, it gets flagged and I look it up to see if it was in use in Regency England.” She cocked her head slightly. “Did you know they apparently didn’t have wastebaskets?” That’s the point at which I thought to myself, I need to spend more time with this woman. She is my kind of crazy.” 0 likes
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