“Fifty years,” I hackneyed, “is a long time.”
“Not when you’re looking back at them,” she said. “You wonder how they vanished so quickly.”
Normally it’s the other way around, but in this case I saw the movie version of I, Robot before reading the novel. The movie definitely gave me the wrong idea of what to expect of this classic collection of robot stories by Isaac Asimov. I guess the movie is only loosely based on the original novel, and in a way it’s a good thing. Isaac Asimov is able to show the evolution in the robot industry through a series of short stories and memories of Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist with the company U.S. Robots. Although I didn’t enjoy every story in the same way and the last one especially was a bit slow-paced, the prose in general is interesting and the stories make you wonder what it would be like if such robots really would exist. The fact that Asimov wrote I, Robot in 1950 makes this novel even more interesting; he shows us how he saw the future and the cultural changes that come with it. The fact that the 2007 of his novel doesn’t compare with reality didn’t bother me, nor did the fact that I don’t see the world developing into the one he describes in the years between 2015 and 2057. I guess that’s merely the consequence of the common believes in older sci-fi novels that technology would advance with a great speed. All in all an interesting bunch of robot stories that are quite easy to read.
“A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.”
The Three Laws every robot has to obey are sacred and supposedly never fail… But retired robopsychologist Susan Calvin can tell some anecdotes of things that didn’t go according to the plans during the past decades. A journalist in 2057 decides to interview the woman to get a human interest angle for his article, and Susan starts telling him about the evolution of the robots and their technology with a series of short stories. They start with a story set all the way back in 1998, where a robot called Robbie became a little girl’s best friend even though his model didn’t speak. Her mother decides to get rid of the robot because she finds the relationship her daughter shares with him unnatural, but the little girl doesn’t rest until she has her Robbie back. And Robbie feels the same, answering the question of the existence of robot emotions… We also travel to space with Greg Powell and Mike Donovan. The two are robot experts and are sent to various space stations or planets to investigate robots that don’t act the way they are supposed to. From a ‘drunk’ robot to a mind-reading robot and one that decides to take over the space ship… The different stories have it all. There is even one where a human politician is being accused of being a robot… A lot of stories have the same characters, but each one is unique in its own way.
I, Robot is actually a bunch of short robot stories that connect together because they mostly have the same main characters and/or are memories of the robopsychologist Susan Calvin. They are quite easy to read and entertaining, except maybe the last one (The Evitable Conflict) that did have a slower pace… Isaac Asimov was able to write an interesting sci-fi novel that even has some humor hidden away between the lines. Don’t make the same mistake as I did and think that this novel has anything to do with the movie I, Robot! That one is only loosely based on some of the facts in this classic, and the novel is without doubt way more interesting.