“‘Big boy here won’t cry.’ Two lies in a single sentence. I am not a boy. And I will cry…”
Big Boys Don’t Cry is a far-future military SF told from the perspective of an AI-tank. A 14,000 ton hover-tank run by a fusion reactor. (By way of comparison, a German Panzer tank of the sort that shows up in the training simulation ran 25 tons. The proposed German Landkreuzer P. 1000 “Ratte” super-heavy tank was only supposed to be 1,000 tons.) The story concerns itself with the tank, Maggie, coming to grips with war and her role in it.
AI of the sort is a popular topic, although it’s usually a spaceship that’s sapient. Kratman introduces a few twists. There is no Asimov’s First Law of Robotics (why would we ever want that?). The tanks are designed as individuals because it makes them more suited to combat. Other programming makes less sense. The tanks can think and question and, most interestingly, feel pain, but can’t disobey.
Maggie is disabled early on in the novella, which robs the many (good) later battle scenes of tension. The military brass is evil to mustache-twirling levels. I see what Kratman is trying to do—raise questions of the implications of replacing an all-volunteer military with (pliant) AI—and he does that effectively, but the narrative doesn’t quite work.