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The Cyberiad and Mortal Engines: Stanislaw Lem's collection of humorous robot folk tales

The Cyberiad would be a fan favorite of Dustin, Will, Mike, Lucas, and Max from Stranger Things despite the lack of hard science, so get the audio version to play in the car as you haul the kids to the Science Olympiad.

Mortal Engines (1964) and The Cyberiad (1965) are two scifi book collections of Stanislaw Lem’s humorous, fanciful stories about robots. The stories in Mortal Engines, which is hard to find, are fractured fairy tales, with robots battling robot dragons and such. The stories in The Cyberiad are fantasy versions of scientific tall tales, where two robotics engineers, or constructionists, Trurl and Klapaucius, compete with each other to build the best robot. The Cyberiad has a bit of the flavor of Arthur C. Clarke's Tales from the White Hart (1957) anthology. But whereas Clarke never strayed from hard science in his humorous tall tales, Lem's stories are quite different from the hard science novels that he is famous for. The stories emulate folk tales for children but the humor will be over their head; unfortunately the silliness of the stories may be too annoying for adults. The stories seem well-suited for younger teenagers who like robots because it is a spoof of the pablum they’ve been spoon-fed for a decade but at the same time the teenagers are not discerning enough to be put off by the lack of scientific grounding. Older adults might find the format and the lack of science to be tiresome. Despite the lack of hard science, get the audio version to play in the car as you haul the kids to the Science Olympiad or other STEM event.

If you like The Cyberiad, you may enjoy Becky Chamber's A Psalm for the Wild-Built and other fantasy recommendations.

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