May 04 2007

I, Robot

Category: BooksChrisM @ 2:22 am

I, Robot – Isaac Asimov

OK, so I’ve temporarily skipped 4 of Dave Barry’s books. I’m not sure if you will have felt the same, but I was beginning to feel like a robot typing out similar reviews there.
Which leads us oh soooooo smoothly in to this review – I, Robot.
Sorry, I’ll try to keep tedious links like that down to a minimum in the future…

If you have ever seen a film or TV series that featured modern robots, there will almost have certainly been an implied, or in some cases, direct, reference to “Asimov’s Laws”. The idea that anything so powerful as a robot should be ‘morally’ constrained is a strong theme, and has been analysed and used in fiction repeatedly.
The ‘book’ is actually a collection of 9 or 10 short stories, with a basic framework woven around them (similar to the approach taken by Lois McMaster Bujold in her book ‘Borders Of Infinity’). Although this connecting back story can feel a little contrived at times, you soon forget it when you delve into the short stories themselves.
The idea that robots should have deep programming embedded in them, to ensure human safety, and the potential conflicts that can arise may not be seen as anything new by younger readers of I. Asimov’s novels. They would be wise to remember that not only did his work pre-date nearly 99% of similar works of fiction, but also that at the time, ‘robots’ as we think of them now did not even exist in reality.
There is an obvious link to the Will Smith film of the same name, and although the settings and fine details are worlds apart – quite literally, I personally feel that some of the questions bought up by Asimov in the book were similarly put in front of viewers of the film. At the end of the day, people who watch Will Smith films aren’t automatically likely to pick up an Asimov book without some reason, so any introductions to his literature, that the Hollywood film may have started, can be viewed as a positive effect, IMHO.

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