Superficial threading of mixed bag of robo-stories (3/5)
Foundation (1951). Some could interpret this
as a distaste for Asimov himself or for 1940s-1950s science fiction...
but they would be wrong. I like Asimov's short stories in collections
such as Nightfall and Other Stories
(1969) but I think it prose is usually flat. Asimov's popularity rests
on his inventiveness rather than his use of the English language,
something which tends to drag down even the best of his stories.
Lyrically flat but infused with creativity, Asimov is a must read (even I
admit that) but it's not the most enjoyable reading in science fiction. However, the most irksome quality springs up in Asimov's dialog. Foundation had some terrible ejaculations with "Oh, space!" and "Great
galloping galaxies!" dotting the conversations; I, Robot isn't as annoying but it still shows Asimov's juvenile use of English: "Sizzling Saturn!", "Jumping Jupiter", and "Great Galaxy!" being among the cheesiest.
reading some may say... I would agree. I, Robot is collection of
stories that first places robots at the moralistic center of society
(even though the robots are later displaced from Earth, their
interaction with humanity persists). The three laws are inseparable from
the positronic brains of the robots, a dogmatic template which is a
danger to the robots as much as it is a savior for humans. A dilemma
between the laws can destroy the robot, which the company sees as an
occasional necessity. Some of the robots exhibit personality and
passion, dedication and cleverness, but the staff of the U.S. Robots
company never see themselves in a dilemma--spare the robot death or
drive it mad. Are the dogmatic morality and secret reasoning of the
robots more favorable than the overt indifference and freedom inhibiting
of the humans?
Robbie (shortstory, 1940) -
4/5 - When a little girl's heart is broken, stemming from the loss of
her nursemaid robot Robbie, a dog is simply not a replacement for the
non-vocal are Robbie once showered upon the growing girl. 19 pages -----
A cute, fairly juvenile start to the collection, one which doesn't rely
on any of the three laws, but highlights the intrinsic humanity the
robot Robbie is endowed with.
Runaround (novelette, 1942) - 5/5 -
Gregory and Mike need selenium for their Mercury-based laboratory's
cooling system, but their only errand running robot, Speedy (S.P.D. 13),
seems to be running circles so they must go to rescue him before time
and life elapse. 19 pages ----- Ping-ponging between the second and
third laws, Speedy is caught in a conundrum which reveals a hazard for
Reason (shortstory, 1941) - 5/5 - The field
engineers are supervising a new, more intelligent robot (QT-1) which
will one day single-handedly run the solar energy transmitter, but the
robot starts to contemplate his own existence and that of his maker. 19
pages ----- Though Gregory and Mike are the experts in robotics, Cutie
the robot seems to violate the second law but they must have faith in
Catch the Rabbit (shortstory, 1944) - 2/5 - The mining
robot (DV-5) is in charge of six subordinate robots, but the squabbling
field engineers can't figure out why the team lapses into a field march
every time they're without human supervision. 20 pages ----- Dave is
more complicated than Cutie and the engineers are even more stumped with
seven times the number of robots violating the second law.
(shortstory, 1941) - 3/5 - The thought reading one-of-a-kind robot
RB-34 is a whiz at mathematics but loves to read fiction, yet the robot
is being uncooperative on the math problems but remains oddly congenial
when it comes to the heart-to-heart. 18 pages ----- Breaking no laws but
simply wanting to please the humans, RB-34 dangerously plays with
confines of the first law.
Little Lost Robot (novelette, 1947) -
3/5 - When robot NS-10 of the Nester branch takes a "get lost" command
too literally, robotists Susan Calvin and Peter Bogert must concoct
elaborate tests to sniff out the rouge robot out of the sixty-three. 27
pages ----- Wishing to obey opposing commands, NS-10 confuses the duo
but the couple prove to be too clever for the limitations of an amended
set of laws.
Escape! (shortstory, 1945) - 3/5 - The U.S. Robots'
competitor Consolidated Robots seeks assistance with the calculation for
a hyper-atomic drive, something which crashed their "Super-Thinker" but
are still hopeful of U.S. Robots' "Brain" and the two field engineers.
22 pages ----- The three laws are expanded from robotic bodies to the
supercomputers which govern the success of each company.
(novelette, 1946) 4/5 - Francis Quinn has it in his mind that the
district attorney and mayor-hopeful Stephen Byerley is a non-sleeping,
non-eating, non-drinking, and non-violent robot and sets out to prove it
to the entire electorate. 24 pages ----- Aiming to frame the man as a
robot, Quinn proves that a polite robot is just as good as decent human.
Evitable Conflict (novelette, 1950) - 3/5 - Discrepancies in production
in the solar system and within the world's four super nations are
denied by the same nations' Machines, but Susan and Stephen think the
ignored errors are part of something bigger. 24 pages ----- The
mega-minds' seemingly secret scheming raises questions which only
thorough investigation of the laws and data can cover.
of these stories are perfect with clear inventiveness, purpose,
execution, and conclusion. But scattered through the collection are a
few stories which are afterthoughts, additions based on a simple idea
without the reflective complexity that the others are embedded with. The
thread binding the stories (that umbrella story of interviewing Susan
Calvin) is superficial at best, with a hearty introduction and paragraph
or two between dedicated to the stories' suturing.