Book blurb: “The story follows the life cycle of a Ratha, a sentient future supertank that dutifully fights Man’s battles on dozens of alien worlds. But will the massive creature still be grateful to its creators when it discovers it has a conscience? And how long will an intelligent war machine with enough firepower to flatten a city be content to remain Man’s obedient slave?”
Despite the title, the Ratha AI Magnolia identifies as female, with a fondness for flowers. The life cycle isn’t presented chronologically, but rather starts with Magnolia’s last action, and consists of flashbacks through her significant memories while a salvage operation “decommissions” her. The blurb doesn’t warn you, but I will: this is a sad tale.
Since other people’s reviews are better than mine, have a couple from Amazon:
(Sad Puppies 3 nominations slate.)
As for how it stacks up against the other novellas in the category, I would say that it compares favorably in quality with One Bright Star To Guide Them, John Wright’s nominated novella. While that work is definitely fantasy, Big Boys Don’t Cry is a sci-fi work, thus illustrating the annoyance of having one award for what is actually two different genres. If they both end up on the final ballot – and they’re definitely high-enough quality stories to qualify – we’ll actually have to choose! Well, all that’s in the future, and who knows what will make it to the final ballot. I haven’t picked up my holds from the library yet – the local system has a subscription to Analog and I’d already placed the hold, so I didn’t bother the author to get a free copy of “Flow.”