Book Review: I, Robot

I finished reading I, Robot yesterday. I’ve known about Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics for years (what geek could exist without knowing about these laws?), and the book has lived on my shelf for years unread and unloved. It was about time to discover the origin of these laws.

The book is actually a collection of nine short stories detailing the history of robots and their interaction with humans. While each one can be treated as a separate story, several characters appear in multiple stories. Most notable of these characters is Susan Calvin, the robopsychologist whose appearance links the stories together. In the stories the robots grew from comparatively primitive and nonspeaking beings to mind-reading robots to computers that control large parts of the world. If you read the stories in order, you can feel the tension the robots are creating.

My favorite stories in the set were the first and the eighth ones, “Robbie” and “Evidence”, possibly because they showed some character development in a plot-driven story. I wish “Robbie” were linked to the other stories in more ways than Susan Calvin showing up in it. And of course, the big question in “Evidence” remains unanswered. I think he is.

His writing style is concise, clear, and more plot-driven than character-driven. I like plot-driven writing, so that doesn’t bother me. I do, however, have one major gripe about Asimov’s writing. He loves his commas and dashes, and he uses them often and needlessly. I’m an advocate of cutting all needless punctuation, so part of me wants to take a red pen to the book and mark away. Then I remember that Asimov’s dead and therefore won’t care.

I enjoyed this collection (and I don’t reach much scifi), but I’m not sure if I’m going to read the rest of Asimov’s books. I definitely won’t right away; my to-read list on GoodReads could keep me occupied for the next three years if I stuck to reading them alone, and that’s not including other things I pick up along the way. We’ll see. As for you, definitely pick it up and read the whole thing if you’re into scifi or robots. If all you want to know is the origin of the Three Laws of Robotics, read “Runaround”. The previous stories hint at the rules, but this story spells them out. Otherwise, read a story or two and do an interest check, which is easy enough to do with a short story collection.

Next up in the reading queue is Deep Down Things, which is about particle physics. There may or may not be a review of this, mostly depending on how much I’ve absorbed from the book.

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