Who wrote this book and when?
Isaac Asimov wrote these as a series of short stories between 1940 and 1950 for publication in science fiction magazines. They were published in book form in 1950.
Cover illustration by Ed Cartier.
Has there been a film version?
Kind of. There is a film based on the book although it departs from the source material. It was made in 2004 starring Will Smith and Alan Tudyk. There was a screen play coadapted from the original stories by Harlan Ellison and Asimov himself, but due to the necessary special effects, the studio opted not to make it. I wish they’d make it now…
Who are the important characters?
Dr. Susan Calvin – a robopsychologist for US Robots and Mechanical Men, she is being interviewed throughout the book about the evolution of Robots and Machines
Powell – one half of a field testing team for new robots
Donovan – the other half of USRMM’s field testing team
What’s it about?
This collection of short stories follows the evolution of robots with positronic brains to the Machines. It shows each of the large steps the robots make – always following the three rules of robotics: never to allow harm to come to a human or to injure them, to always obey the orders a human gives it unless they will break the first law, and to always protect its own existence unless it causes laws one or two to be broken. The robots find more and more ways to work around these rules to accomplish their own goals – sometimes through frightening ways and sometimes through humorous.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It was the first collection of stories with a set boundary for robots, it was the first set of stories to use the term “robotics,” and it explored many aspects of humanity becoming more dependent on robots.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes, it’s good and thought-provoking.
How did this book make your list?
Has it won any awards?
No, oddly enough.
“All right, and skip the sarcasm. We’ll save it for Earth, and preserve it in jars for future long, cold winters.” – p 91
“Dr. Lanning was silent a moment, chewing the cud of his thoughts.” – p 172
Asimov is a strange author for me. I always have a hard time finishing his books, not because they’re boring, but because I don’t understand a lot of what’s going on. But when I do finish them, I suddenly *get it* and I’m very glad that I’ve read whatever book I just completed.
This book was extremely thought provoking for me. Not only because I am a technologically illiterate person, but because I tend to be a bit paranoid about something without a soul making decisions for me. It’s funny to me just how much characters in books such as these rely on robots when people like to be in control so much. I doubt if humanity would ever really give up that much control of the planet and their lives to robots. I could be wrong, obviously. The control is lost so gradually in this book that it makes it quite plausible if we had the positronic brain technology. And I do have the privilege of seeing almost a hundred years of (fictional) robotic history in one book and then being able to form an opinion. But the stories did cause me to consider a little just how much faith we put into technology – even just by storing sensitive data on personal computers or how much of our lives we put up on display online.