Monday, March 8, 2010

I, Robot

I love Isaac Asimov. It's funny, because Asimov has a writing style that is not particularly conducive to being liked. It's not like he writes things in a way as to make them deliberately hard to understand, which seems to be en vogue these days. Instead he has a style of writing in which nothing actually happens. You usually have one or two scientist-types sitting in a room, or in a space ship, or in a robot factory, and they talk about something that has happened. Then, after they've debated things a while, the chapter ends. Then we skip ahead a bit, and find these two (or two other) scientist-types, who are now discussing something else that, again, has already happened. You would think that would be boring, but I don't find it to be so. I love Isaac Asimov.

I've read his Foundation trilogy, and his Elijah Baley robot books, but for some reason, I'd never read what is perhaps his most famous book, I, Robot. So, with some encouragement from Jason Sanford's Book Scouts Of The Galactic Rim, I set out to do so.

It was pure pleasure to me. As is my custom, for the most part, I listened to an audio version of the book. It was read by Scott Brick, who is an excellent reader. The book is actually a collection of Asimov short stories in his robot series. The stories included in it are, Robbie, Runaround, Reason, Catch that Rabbit, Liar!, Little Lost Robot, Escape!, Evidence, and The Evitable Conflict. These stories are no different than most Asimov tales. They involve some strange thing that has occurred to a robot that must be figured out by the scientist-types. Usually, they involve some sort of tug-of-war between the first law and the second or the second and the third. I tell you, though, they are fun stories. I wonder what it would take to get Asimov's estate to let us podcast a story. I know Steve Eley did it once, so it's possible.

I'm not going to go into detail about each story. I'm just going to say that I loved the book, and anyone who is trying to decide whether to read it or not should go for it. You won't be sorry.

I will talk momentarily about the 2004 movie with the same title as this book.A lot of people hated this film. I expected myself to be one of them. When I saw the commercials, which were filled with robots attacking people, I wanted to scream. This movie surely had nothing to do with Asimov's ideas, because after all, how could any robot be attacking a person when there was a first law to prevent that from being possible.

I watched the film, though, and I turned out to like it a lot more than I expected. Rish still ridicules me for that, but I stand by it. Rish one time wanted to do a podcast in which we discussed the movies that we liked that everyone else hates. This film would have been my choice.

Unlike what I expected, which was a wholesale throwing out of Asimov's concepts, instead the movie was a sort of homage to all that Asimov wrote about. Susan Calvin, Alfred Lanning, and Lawrence Robertson all make an appearance. The plot sort of mirrors that of The Little Lost Robot short story from I, Robot. Sure they action-filmed it up, but in the end, there was even a good reason for the robots to be attacking people. It was basically what we discover at the end of Foundation And Earth. Robots evolved to a point that they have gone beyond just helping each man as a separate individual, and they are now trying to help mankind as a whole to supersede their base nature. In Foundation And Earth it is done benignly with telepathy and the like, but in the I, Robot film, it is instead done with violence (but it was an action movie! A friggin' Will Smith movie even!) Asimov wasn't opposed to robots killing people; it happened on occasion. For proof, check out Sally (that one's kind of a bit creepy for an Asimov story).

So, yeah, in the end, since the ideas used in the script seemed to jibe with Asimov's own ideas, I was satisfied with the film. It was fun, and not the travesty that most others I've spoken with about the movie thought it was. At the very least, it was better than that crappy Robin Williams movie, The Bicentennial Man.

Of course, if I sat down and listened to someone who hated the film explain to me why they hated it, I might change my opinion. So, to keep my memories good, I will plug my ears, and chant, "La la la la," at the top of my voice whenever anyone tries.

So, next up for me, I've got to get a listenin' to this library copy I have of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys before I start getting charged late fees.


  1. I have read probably 90 percent of Asimov's fiction, and loved almost all of it. And, I, too, really enjoyed the movie.

  2. I feel like you will have a better appreciation for literature if you actually hold the book. Difference between getting laid and jerkin it.

  3. Hah! You must not be much of a fan of the show then though. That's all we're doing is jerkin it all the time...uh, metaphorically speaking that is.

  4. huge Asimov fan. I thought the movie was great.
    But, then again I also loved the original version of bladerunner