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Word Puppets

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  341 ratings  ·  93 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, 336 pages
Published November 19th 2015 by Prime Books
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  341 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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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!
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a completely delightful collection of short stories and I recommend it without reservation.
Javier Muñoz
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: anthologies
Esta es una compilación de relatos muy irregular, no termino de encontrarle la gracia, me he atascado en varias historias, quizás porque esperaba encontrarme relatos de ciencia ficción y esto me parece más orientado a la fantasía. Una cosa que si me parece interesante del libro es que los relatos están ordenados en el mismo orden en que se escribieron, lo que permite apreciar la evolución de la autora

ninguna de las historias me parece especialmente buena, algunas parten de ideas bastante buenas,
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
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a wonderful collection of stories! Mary Robinette Kowal has wonderful imagination, comes up with fascinating ideas, and she also has the talent and skill to build a fascinating world on just a few pages. Her stories are very human, very relatable, and yet full of these great fantasy and science fiction ideas.

Often when I read short stories, I end up feeling underwhelmed and dissatisfied by their resolutions... that's not the case with this book. I truly enjoyed the tales in this collection.
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
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
Dec 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, sf, fantasy
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.
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.
Dec 02, 2015 added it
Has got to be one of the best introductions I've ever read.
Will Mcvicker
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.
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.
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.
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.
Magda Żmijan
Why, oh why did I wait so long to read this? These stories are fantastic! I loved the ideas, the worlds, the characters. And the introduction by Patrick Rothfuss too :D (I can't believe I haven't read his books yet... will fix it soon, I hope.).

First a few words about each of the stories, about the things I liked about them.

The Bound Man - The stories are supposed to be set chronologically as they were written, so the first stories were the oldest. I loved this one! Well, I do like Asian culture
I really like Mary Robinette Kowal as a short fiction writer. She writes really diverse stories that don’t feel same-y. You don’t read the story and say “oh, it’s a Mary Robinette Kowal”, you read the story and say “That was good, who wrote it – oh! Mary Robinette Kowal. No wonder it was good.” It’s weird praise, but some writers have really distinctive styles and tones and types of stories they write, themes they can’t get away from. Not so here, Kowal just writes good stories and they’re so va ...more
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
Janna Craig
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Who knew Mary Robinette Kowal was a master at sci-fi/fantasy short stories?? Not me. I knew her from her Glamourist novels (Jane Austen meets Diana Wynne Jones) and figured, what the heck, let's check out her short stories. And lo and behold, they're amazing. Just the sheer breadth of what she writes is stunning. I would call most of these stories science-fiction, but there's definitely a few that are straight fantasy, and at least one that's basically a fairy tale. There's even one that feature ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, sf, short-stories
I never thought I would ever say this, but I love sf short stories. Here we have 19 little gems that truly deserve attention. You never know what you get with this short stories but they never fail to surprise you. Most of them are feel good stories of a kind that put a smile on your face at the end but some are utterly sad.

Another nice thing about this collection is that the stories are more or less in a chronological order, so you can experience the evolution of Kowals writting skills as you p
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the first collection of short stories where I truly enjoyed each entry. The author explored some interesting concepts and moral questions in ways I had never considered. Many of the stories dealt with space travel and artificial intelligence, but since these are short stories you only get a small bite of the world. Despite that, I was not confused by flipping between stories with vastly different worlds, which shows a fine level of story crafting IMO.

I think in a full length novel I mig
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pretty mixed bag. The stories are more-or-less ordered by written date and it unfortunately shows. Worth it for reading stuff like "Evil Robot Monkey", "The Lady Astronaut of Mars", "For Solo Cello, op. 12", For Want of a Nail", and "Waiting for Rain." Others like "The Bound Man", "Rampion", and "The Shocking Affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland" feel like pointless additions at best. Some other stuff is worth having in there at least in terms of variety of themes, but it's tough when some of ...more
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Mary Robinette Kowal was the 2008 recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and her short story "For Want of a Nail" won the 2011 Hugo. Her stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and several Year's Best anthologies. She is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass (Tor 2012).

Mary, a professional puppeteer and voice actor, has performed for LazyTown (CB
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