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Saturday, January 30, 2016

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

From Goodreads:

The three laws of Robotics:

1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders givein to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

With these three, simple directives, Isaac Asimov changed our perception of robots forever when he formulated the laws governing their behavior. In I, Robot, Asimov chronicles the development of the robot through a series of interlinked stories: from its primitive origins in the present to its ultimate perfection in the not-so-distant future--a future in which humanity itself may be rendered obsolete.

Here are stories of robots gone mad, of mind-read robots, and robots with a sense of humor. Of robot politicians, and robots who secretly run the world--all told with the dramatic blend of science fact and science fiction that has become Asmiov's trademark.

Finally! I have read I, Robot, as well as it being my first book by Asimov! I had a hard time deciding what image to use above, as the one I listened to from the library was of course the newest cover from the movie starring Will Smith.  Here is another cover that I found on Wikipedia that says it is the first edition from 1950.

The book is very different from the movie, in fact the movie itself comes entirely, and with a lot of artistic license and expansion from only one of the short stories in the collection, Little Lost Robot.

Asimov is a giant in the science fiction genre, and while I've been aware of him most of my reading life, from at least junior high on, I've felt I should read some, but also steered away, fearing it would be too dry and not interesting to me.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The collection of stories are set up as reminiscences by Dr. Susan Calvin, Chief Robopsychologist, as she is getting ready to retire from U.S. Robotics and Mechanical Men, and are all centered around times that robots have "gone wrong" or not behaved as expected.  Almost every time it comes down to a dilemma over how to interpret the first rule of robotics: 1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.  Often the robot's interpretation is different from our own, or extends farther than we intended because they are being logical and are not able to make distinctions in levels of harm, considering them all the same, which causes some very difficult situations.

Far from being dry however, there is plenty of humor and emotion in the stories, even the robots seem to exhibit feelings on occasion that we would not normally attribute to them.  There is also the fear that what we have created will take over, and sometimes they did.  A couple of recurring characters, Powell and Donovan, always get into tough spots as field testers.  One of my favorites was the robot that didn't believe they had put him together, and went on to form his own pseudo-religious order at the base, even after they showed him how they had put him together, he came up with explanations for it.  It's not unlike some of our own current dilemmas.

I enjoyed this collection very much, it's insightful and thoughtful, at the same time as being entertaining and I at least really felt for Susan Calvin, as we travel with her through her life and how it has been shaped by the robots, in one instance very painfully, and again because of an unforseen interpretation of the first law.  There is another book, I, Robot: To Protect by


  1. Glad you enjoyed it! I haven't read very many sci-fi book and none of the classics. This sounds like an interesting read.

    1. Thanks! I did, more than I expected to, it was actually not as dry as I feared it would be. Not that I can't get through that, but I was glad to find it more engaging! It could be because I listened to it rather than actually read myself, and by a narrator I already liked, but that still counts, right? ;)

  2. So glad you enjoyed this book. I would bet it was better than the movie, I heard it wasn't a good movie :) Great Review!

    1. I actually remember liking the movie, because I like Wil Smith anyway, but yes, it was interesting that they crafted the entire movie around one of the short stories, and even then there was a lot of liberties taken.

  3. That's surprising the movie and book are so different. It sounds like a good read and interesting with how it deals with the robots and different interpertations of that rule. I hope you'll enjoy the other books as well! Great review!

    1. Thank you! Yes, I'll definitely get to the other ones eventually, they all sounded interesting to me, but glad I finally have an Asimov under my belt! I'm a legit Sci-Fi reader now! ;)


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