Overview (No Spoilers):
A coworker was shocked to learn that I hadn’t read I, Robot before despite being a fan of science fiction. With his encouragement, I promptly added this classic to my reading list and was especially excited to find out that my favorite audiobook narrator, Scott Brick was voicing this novel. I, Robot is a collection of short stories that Asimov published separately throughout the 1940s before having them combined into a book in 1950. These various stories share the common link of being told from the perspective of Dr. Susan Calvin as she reflects upon her long career as a robopsychologist and how robots have evolved as improvements were made in the positronic brain.
All robots are ruled by the Three Laws of Robotics and by the end of this book I found it frustrating that these laws were repeated every new story as if it was the first time we had heard of them. After finding out that these stories were initially individually published the deliberate reminders now make sense.
Asimov’s I, Robot proved to be both thought provoking and well ahead of its time. In each story, the predicaments that the humans found themselves in are resolved with elegant solutions that weren’t obvious to the reader, ultimately leaving their mind to worry at the problem alongside the protagonists. My favorite stories are the ones who involve the team of Powell and Donovan. Their personalities are quite distinct, but provide much amusement during the often dangerous situations they would find themselves in.
Alas, with five minutes left in this audiobook, my library hold lapsed, leaving me to wait over a month to find out what happens in the last minutes of this read.
Overall, I, Robot is a classic collection of short stories written in the 1940s that are still applicable 80 years later. Each story builds upon the last, evolving the role and sophistication of robots, while adding in suspense and danger that somehow resolves with delightfully elegant, yet unexpected solutions.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- The story of Robbie and Gloria was especially heartbreaking, with the robot prejudice seeming all too plausible. What happened to Robbie after robots were banned from earth?
- I had to laugh when Donovan and Powell didn’t tell the next crew about QT-1 and the cult it had formed. Did QT-1 cause any other issues or realize that the humans did create robots? What happens when it runs out of a part or materials it needs? Did QT-1’s ‘religion’ spread outside of space stations?
- Ugh, I still find myself pondering the short story ‘Liar’. Basically the mind reading robot was lying because it didn’t want to hurt the human’s feelings and causing chaos in the meantime. How did this robot malfunction in this way?
- Little Lost Robot was another thought provoking story that kept you puzzling out the solution right up until the very end. Surprisingly, this story had you actually feeling sympathy for the verbally abused robots.
- I think Escape! was my favorite story of the group, as it involved hyperspatial drive, though how did that change humanity having this new ability to travel beyond our solar system? Of course, it should be no surprise that it involves the duo of Powell and Donovan.
- How many other robots have infiltrated society like Byerley? Was he actually a robot? Again, this story has a surprising twist at the end that wasn’t expected but wraps the mystery up nicely.