Diabolical Plots #10, December 2015
Reviewed by David Wesley Hill
I bought my girlfriend a Roomba a decade ago and we fell in love with the robot. Not only did it sweep the apartment clean for us without human intervention but we enjoyed watching the little machine at work. It crisscrossed the floor in a complex pattern that eventually covered every inch of area, including the corners of the room and under furniture. Roomba was a quick study, too, and circumvented any obstacle in its path by using a process of trial and error that was so strikingly human that we couldn’t help but think of the robot as a person with an identity of its own. Thus I was immediately drawn to the premise of “St. Roomba’s Gospel” by Rachael K. Jones, in which a Roomba, while toiling in a Baptist church, becomes inspired by the pastor’s sermons and finds religion. Roomba, however, is not simply a believer. The robot is a prophet, too, and tries to spread its new gospel by writing its message “on the sanctuary floor in long, brown lines of vacuumed carpet … “The congregation, unfortunately, does not understand what the machine is trying to say. Even worse, the pastor places a “spiny green tree” in the church, a “twinkling abomination,” which sheds tarry needles that threaten to choke the life from the robot before it can share its revelation with the world…. A touchingly droll tale that you should enjoy even if you don’t own a Roomba!