Thursday, July 8, 2010

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov - Book Review #49

Thursday, July 8, 2010
I, Robot
by Isaac Asimov

"They mustn't harm a human being, they must obey human orders, and they must protect their own existence...but only so long as that doesn't violate rules one and two. With these Three Laws of Robotics, humanity embarked on perhaps its greatest adventure: the invention of the first positronic man. It was a bold new era of evolution that would open up enormous possibilities - and unforeseen risks. For the scientists who invented the earliest robots weren't content that their creations should remain programmed helpers, companions, and semisentient worker-machines. And soon the robots themselves, aware of their own intelligence, power, and humanity, aren't either." As humans and robots struggle to survive together - and sometimes against each other - on earth and in space, the future of both hangs in the balance. Human men and women confront robots gone mad, telepathic robots, robot politicians, and vast robotic intelligences that may already secretly control the world. And both are asking the same questions: What is human? And is humanity obsolete?

I, Robot is a collection of the short stories that deals with development of robots, in which Isaac Asimov formulated, now known to everybody, the Three Laws of Robotics. Since then these Laws were used by almost every since-fiction author that dealt with robots in their stories. I cannot start to wrap my mind around what a genius Asimov was to devise these Laws. As my husband said, Asimov should have been given a Nobel Prize for this.

Almost every story in this collection is a puzzle, mystery of why robots acting one way or another. The Three Laws or their manipulations are used to resolve these puzzles. Asimov wasn’t one of the greatest writers in a matter of writing style or composition. His style can sometimes reads as rusty or awkward. However, Asimov still managed to create entertaining and solid stories that despite being more than fifty years old, still read dated and with a great pleasure.

What caught my eye was how good Asimov was able to show the frustration of the humans, trying to deal with robots that for some reason don’t do what they are supposed to do. I even caught myself thinking: “Oh God, you read this and then you think twice before deciding if you need robots or not.” However, some moments of character’s frustration made me laugh out loud.

Another appealing factor about Isaac Asimov writing is that his stories don’t sound like physics, biology or chemistry textbook, unlike most other since-fiction writes from 1940th-1960th. He was actually able to fictionalize his scientific views. He is not talking down to the reader, not trying to teach the reader something. He is simply telling a story, which by itself is educational, but not in a blunt, straightforward way. Asimov doesn’t try to shove the knowledge into your throat; he is trying to entertain you.

Isaac Asimov’s stories are classics of the science-fiction classics. If you like sci-fi, you most definitely have read it. If you are not a sci-fi fan, I still advise you to try reading I, Robot, because it is not one of these pretend-to-be, trashy, god-knows-why-called sci-fi that repulsed so many readers from wonderful, unforgettable, dreamy and heroic, true since-fiction.


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