Thursday, March 15, 2012

I, Robot

I'm halfway to my goal for Adam's Magical March, finishing my fourth book up today! My goal is 8 books, although I'm hoping to hit 10 since I've read a few young adult books. Even though they count, it feels a little like cheating. I read my first book by Isaac Asimov - I, Robot.
I wish I could have experienced this book back in 1950. The idea of AI and humanoid robots is commonplace today, but must have sounded crazy back then. Because we have so many books and movies with the same ideas and themes about AI robots or machines being more human than humans or taking over the world, I know the book didn't make the same impression on me that it would have to someone encountering those ideas for the first time.
As a result, I thought the book was a bit lacking. It didn't really have anything to get me hooked and stay engaged. I also thought it was disjointed, but I later learned it is actually nine short stories formed into a novel, not a novel in of itself. I wish I had realized that going in, because I kept expecting the story to be more about Susan Calvin, the unifying presence of the stories, and for the stories to have more of a connection. Instead, they just seemed like random stories about robots and humanity, which is what they actually are supposed to be. I guess this is one instance where not reading about the work beforehand failed me.
I, Robot did make me want to rewatch Battlestar Gallatica though, since it has so much focus on the machines having human-like emotions and responses, and being better than humans because they don't have the same weaknesses humans have, and also has a case of not being able to tell if someone is human or robot. Hello Cylons! Again, if I hadn't watched Battlestar Gallatica and developed a sympathy for toasters, I would probably have been more surprised by the story where you aren't sure if one of the characters is human or robot. How strange must that have seemed in 1950 though?
The other odd thing in the book was that Susan Calvin was born one year after me, in this future world where we have robot nannies by the time I would have graduated from high school. That makes me feel old! He was imagining this crazy future that's now in my past. His future had highly intelligent robots that you could trust your child with, but not personal computers or smart phones, which is kind of funny.
Overall, I'm glad I read this since it's the foundation of modern science fiction, but I'm not sure that it convinced me to read any of Asimov's other works, although I have heard good things about his Foundation trilogy, so we'll see.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm... despite the lackluster review, your comparisons with BSG just might get this one on my reading list for Magical March! Maybe I'll like it more knowing beforehand that it's nine separate stories!