Thursday, December 06, 2012

Random thoughts on Asimov’s I, Robot

2012-12-06. 01.

From Goodreads, where I gave it four out of five stars…

Goodreads | Aaron Litt's review of I, Robot:

So, as I run through my reading list, I'll be writing a few words in the reviews. These are probably less reviews than just a few notes on the books I've been reading, more of a book blog for my own use rather than anything else...

First of all, this is a classic, and that status adds a star. Also, I did read, this time, the version with the unfortunate cover. I bought this at Powell's and they had countless copies of this version and one with one of the older covers, and they were asking a lot for that one. So I ended up with one of the cheap ones with the movie cover.

Asimov is a fun writer, more about ideas and concepts, than a master of prose. But his ideas, and the robot books in particular, have defined certain Sci Fi concepts for ever after. Not quite the same effect as Tolkien had on fantasy, but it would be hard to read about a robot after Asimov, or watch one in a movie, that didn't owe some debt to Asimov.

Of course, I am reading this and the rest of the robot novels by Asimov right now because I am working on a novel about robots myself. Need to check in with the master as I move ahead with that project. In many ways my robots are very different than Asimov's, in other ways they are very similar, and I am sure that, if I trace back the ideas in my book, even the idea of writing a book featuring robots as central characters, I owe quite a debt to Asimov myself.

As for this book, this is the second time I’ve read it. The first time, when I was a kid, I read it after the Bailey/Olivaw novels and was not a big fan of it. It felt like a short story collection slapped together with a feeble framework to turn it into a novel, and that is what it is in many regards. Reading it again as an adult, with far too many literature classes under my belt, I can see that it is more of a novel than a collection, now. It is not Bradbury's
The Illustrated Man, for instance, which is definitely a short story collection masquerading itself as a novel (The Illustrated Man is brilliant, don't get me wrong, it is just not a novel), and I, Robot does hang together better than that as an episodic "history" of robots.  The first episode is the only one that seems to be a little out of place here, though it is one of the stronger episodes and the strongest single short story of the novel.

When I first read this book as a kid, it was disappointing because it was not a more traditional novel, like the Bailey/Olivaw books. Now, though, I do appreciate it much more and I understand more that this is where Asimov developed the ideas that made those later novels possible. In the history of Science Fiction, it is a must read and, probably, if one were to only read one of the robot novels,
I, Robot should be the one read for this reason.  Still, it is not quite as fun of a read as the later human/robot detective stories, which belong in the Science Fiction canon as well, no doubt, but this is the higher ranking, important, and critical book on that list.

Yes. While reading this, I finally broke down and watched the movie "suggested" by the book. No. Don't do that. I talked myself into it, despite the previews, telling myself that maybe it was just another story set in this universe and that I should give it a chance, but no. It does not hold up like that. It doesn't utterly break with that possibility, but no. It pretty much does. Avoid it.

Related Posts

No comments: