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Isaac Asimov may not be a name many people outside of sci-fi fields are familiar with, but if were to pick up The Complete Robot on a whim you I can guarantee there’s a lot in it you’d like.
The Complete Robot
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Remember the 2004 film I, Robot? Good. Now forget everything about it apart from Robots and the Three Laws in the film’s first frame. That’s the core of the original Robot stories, and this is what’s been captured in the Russian born author’s definitive collection. Is it a good book? For science fiction fans, it’s a bible. For the casual reader, it’s a collection that holds comedy, scientifically grounded visions of the future and oddly moving moments, questioning everything from what it means to be human to what our future holds for us.
The collection holds 31 short stories, neatly organised by the author into groups of similar stories, each with a preface by Asimov. The book is almost a collection of other books; Some Non-human Robots; Some Immobile Robots; Some Metallic Robots; Some Humanoid Robots; Powell and Donovan; Susan Calvin; and Two Climaxes.
Anyone who has read anything by Philip K. Dick (whose novels have become Blade Runner, Total Recall and more) will be in familiar territory, but the Grandfather of Sci-Fi chooses to focus on the people in the world he creates rather than the sweeping vista itself. Notable stories include the yellow brick road style quest of The Bicentennial Man to be, finally, accepted as human; Reason, in which the Robots replace mankind with their own faith in gods and rule out human command, echoed loosely in I, Robot’s action plot; Lenny, featuring Asimov’s famously robotic doctor Susan Calvin pushing the boundaries of what it is to love; and The Tercentenary Incident, a favourite of mine because it questions the chilling idea of creating mechanical copies of yourself to live through parts of your life for you.
Labelling itself the definitive collection is probably a better judge of The Complete Robot than its title is, but six missing stories aside this collection definitely holds the key to understanding human nature versus logic, difference, and what is best for us. Forward thinking and written with impressive scientific grounding severely absent in modern sci-fi, The Complete Robot is intriguing, heart-warming and will have you wondering for years to come.