Tuesday, June 30, 2009

118. I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

February 2008
History: This book first published by Gnome Press in 1950 in an edition of 5,000 copies. The stories originally appeared in the American magazines Super Science Stories and Astounding Science Fiction between 1940 and 1950. The stories are woven together as if Dr. Susan Calvin is telling them to a reporter (the narrator) in the 21st century. Though the stories can be read separately, they share a theme of the interaction of humans, robots and morality, and when combined they tell a larger story of Asimov's fictional history of robotics.
Plot: Several of the stories feature the character of Dr. Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc., the major manufacturer of robots. Upon their publication in this collection, Asimov wrote a framing sequence presenting the stories as Calvin's reminiscences during an interview with her about her life's work, chiefly concerned with aberrant behaviour of robots, and the use of "robopsychology" to sort them out. The book also contains the short story in which Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics first appear. Other characters that appear in these short stories are Powell and Donovan, a field-testing team which locates flaws in USRMM's prototype models.
Review: It is nice to have a book in which his robots and characters (including the immortal Susan Calvin) are allowed to take the stage all by themselves. It helps, I think, the suspension of disbelief not to be reminded over and over that this is, after all, just a collection of stories. Rather, like a novel, we plunge in at the beginning and it is not until we reach the end that we reemerge into dull reality.
Opening Line: “Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred!” Gloria withdrew her chubby little forearms from before her eyes and stood for a moment, wrinkling her nose and blinking in the sunlight.”
Closing Line: “And the fire behind the quartz went out and only a curl of smoke was left to indicate its place.”
Quotes: “You are so like children. We must save you from yourselves.”
Rating: Mediocre.

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