Thursday, 17 February 2011
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Having read and hated Asimov's 'Foundation' I was hesitant to give 'I, Robot' a go, I was cynical and felt I was bound to be disappointed. I told myself that if I didn't like this book it would be the last Asimov book that ever darkened by TBR list.
I am thankful to say that I absolutely loved this book from start to finish!
I, Robot is a collection of short stories, all featuring the same characters, beginning with the first primitive robots available to the public and ending with machines controlling every aspect of everyday life on earth.
Asimov's visions of the future are not only interesting and exciting but, in my view, quite plausible. His depiction of robots are absolutely wonderful and the robots who feature in the book are never in the background nor are they dull. You can see where Asimov influenced future sci-fi writers both in books and the silver screen. The human characters are also brilliant especially the hapless Powell and Donovan, two US Robots and Mechanical Men engineers who are assigned the thankless, and often dangerous, task of field testing new robots. The two are always finding themselves in trouble and often had me creasing up with the predicaments they get into. A conversation between the two is one of my favourite parts in the book:
"'Your job,' said Powell, evenly, 'for the last five years has been to test new robots under actual working conditions for US Robots. Because you and I have been so injudicious as to display proficiency at the task, we've been rewarded with the dirtiest jobs. That,' he jabbed holes in the air with his finger in Donovan's direction, 'is your work. You've been griping about it, from personal memory, since about five minutes after US Robots signed you up. Why don't you resign?'
'Well I'll tell you...there's a certain principal involved. After all, as a trouble shooter, I've played a part in the development of new robots. There's the principal of aiding scientific advance. But don't get me wrong. It's not the principle that keeps me going; it's the money they pay us. Greg!"
With the Three Laws of Robotics in place most readers would think it impossible for anything to go wrong however Asimov has come up with numerous scenarios which prove even the most watertight of laws are not foolproof and soon things are going wrong with the robots as they struggle to come to practical terms with the Laws they are programmed to obey. Usually the unfortunate Donovan and Powell are on the receiving end as robots disobey the rules or just go insane because of conflicting information.
The best, and most profound, story of all of the collection in my opinion is 'Robbie' a powerful and emotional story which reminded me in some ways of the children's book 'The Snowman' by Raymond Briggs. I would go as far as to say this book is a must read not just for fans of science fiction.
Overall rating 5/5