Leighgendary Shorts: Glitch by Hugh Howey

Welcome to the very first edition of Leighgendary Shorts.  I hope that you grow to enjoy this weekly segment and that you might find some new favorite stories or authors.

Today we will be looking at Glitch by Hugh Howey.

Glitch was first featured in The Robot Chronicles, which is a very great anthology.  I highly recommend you go buy it.

Hugh Howey then published it on his own.

When a robot defies his programming, is he broken? Or is he something else?

***Spoilers Below***

It is safe to say that Hugh Howey has been a major influence for most of the Indie Authors out there.  Many indie authors have written stories set in his world of Wool.  Hugh gets better and better with each story.  Glitch might only be 5,000 words but he really knows how to grab your attention and make you care for his characters.

The story follows Samantha (Sam), Peter, and Greenie.  Peter shows up at Samantha’s place letting her know that there is a glitch with their robot.  We find out that Samantha and Peter were once married and that they have been working/fighting robots for years and they are so close to winning a major tournament.  Their robot, Max, has been doing a great in the tournament and seems to be favored to win.

But as I said, there is a glitch.  What is the glitch?  The robot doesn’t want to fight.  Peter and Greenie have been up for hours trying to figure it what is wrong and they need Samantha to look at it, a fresh set of eyes always helps.  One of the first things they do is put Max’s arms/weapons on.  When Samantha tries to put them on Max moves his forearm so she can not attach the weapons to him.  They then power down Max and put the arms/weapons on.  Once they have done that they back up, Peter has told Samantha what will happen next.  When they power Max back up, he detaches the arms and then apologizes to Samantha and the team.

After a little bit, Samantha and the team come to the conclusion that Max has sentience.  Samantha realizes they are on to something big here, but there is one problem, the tournament.  They power down Max to try to figure out what to do.  They put Max’s arms/weapons back on him.

The robot that Max is supposed to fight is out in the ring fighting sparring robots.  Hinson, the guy who pays them, walks in and wants Max outside fighting sparring robots…now.  The army is going to be bidding on the robot they want, and Max is it.  Samantha and Peter try to convince Hinson to give them some time.  Greenie tells Hinson that they can download a backup from a previous fight and that that should fix the problem and they should still win.  Hinson tells them to do it.    After some arguing, Samantha surprises Peter and agrees to power Max up because you have to power him up in order to install a backup copy from the other day.  But something happens when she turns on the power:

A powerful tremor runs through the trailer, a slap of steel and a blur of motion.  The pincers and buzz saw remain in place, but every other part of Max is on the move.  A thunderclap, followed by another, long strides taking him past us, a flutter of wind in my hair, the four of us frozen as Max bolts from the trailer and out of sight, doing the opposite of what he was built for, choosing an action arrived at on his own.

THE END

This story, to me, is great.  Who doesn’t find themselves thinking about what if some piece of technology could really think on it’s own?  Who doesn’t wish their pets could really speak to them so they could understand them?

One thing I have come to love about short stories is how the authors leave it up to you on what happens to characters.  What happened to Max?  Where is he going?  Is he running from fighting or is he heading to the ring to destroy the other robot?  Does he really have sentience or is it a glitch?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t forget to vote for the next Leighgendary Shorts (you can vote every 12 hours).

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15 thoughts on “Leighgendary Shorts: Glitch by Hugh Howey

  1. Glitch is a great story, I really enjoyed it. I agree with you about the ending, I like stories that don’t wrap everything up into a neat little bow. It always makes me a little bit sad when I see reviews complaining that not everything is explained. Those tend to be the books (and films) I enjoy most.

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      1. I think he’s off to explore his new found freedom but to me there’s a touch of Frankenstein in the ending. I can imagine Max being feared by the outside world and people tend to destroy what they fear.

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      2. I like that. Max is off to discover his new life but people might start hunting him down. I assume that Samantha and Peter would be trying to find him to protect him.

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  2. I like to think that Sam and Peter broke up over the tension of creating and raising Max, but that they get back together while pursuing and protecting him. I think Max will choose to do whatever it takes to never harm another living (robotic or not) thing.

    So much of AI fiction deals with AI turning violent. The theme of GLITCH is one of chosen pacifism. Where it gets meta is that Max just wants to get away, and even some readers of the story can’t let him. They want to follow and watch. To know someone who doesn’t want to be known is a type of aggression, I think.

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    1. My initial thought was that Max did want to get away from the violence. I never really thought of what would happen to Sam and Peter. I guess I focused more on Max. I do like the idea of them getting back together to protect Max. Thanks for chiming in Hugh

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  3. This was one of my favorite Howey shorts. I even bought the 30 minute audiobook, which was awesome. I imagined Max running off to escape the fighting, and it becoming a worldwide manhunt for him basically. Sam and Peter eventually find him in secret places where he grew up, like where he took his first bipedal walk and things of that nature, and they learn that he’s really sentimental about his memories. And through this, Sam and Peter relive the memories too, and Max teaches them a thing or two about life and love along the way, and that’s how they end up back together.

    Going even further though, if this were to be fully fleshed out, I saw Max’s motivation as trying to find Sarah, Sam and Peter’s flesh and blood daughter, who’s only mentioned once I believe. Sarah hates Max, and hates her parents for putting all their focus and attention and love towards their metallic child. And so Max sets out to repair their relationship and reconcile with Sarah, healing old flesh and blood wounds between a family that was essentially divided by their dedication to him. That’s what I think of when I think deeply about this short, which I often do lol like I said, I loved this short!

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