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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 54/100: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

This is a collection of short stories set up as if a reporter is interviewing a woman who has had a long career as a robot psychologist. It was nice to see a woman in a lead role in sci fi written in the 50s, since so much "old" science fiction can envision vastly different world but draws the line at blurring gender roles. Unfortunately, Dr. Susan was rather "tokenized" -- the first story featuring her was all about her mooning over a male coworker, and throughout the book was woven this implication that she never had a relationship because she had a career. Sigh. The other women, only briefly glimpsed, are nagging wives or vacuous blond girlfriends.

Gender critique aside, it is fascinating that Asimov could envision space travel, flying cars, and robot nannies by the year 1998 (and beyond), but that no one has personal computers, they read newspapers and paperback mysteries, and need to get "motion picture" footage "developed" before they can use it. A strange alternative world where ALL our technology resources went to robots and space travel, I guess (and I don't mind that alternative version of reality as long as women's roles and rights progressed at least as steadily as robots').

The stories revolve around the three famous "rules of robotics" (1. Robots cannot harm humans; 2. Robots must follow orders; 3. Robots must self-preserve), usually exploring conundrums that arise when rules conflict or are misinterpreted by the robot brain. It's a book worth reading purely for the ideas, as the writing and the characterization are both pretty flat. As such, I'm glad it was short stories rather than a novel, because if I daydreamed and lost the thread of one story (seriously, I could NOT stay focused on the last story at all and have only a vague awareness of what it was about), I could "reset" with the next one. I guess I'm glad to have one more "classic" science fiction book under my belt, but man am I glad we now have the likes of Margaret Atwood and Sheri S. Tepper.