Review: Isaac Asimov – I, Robot

I, Robot (Robot, #0.1)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In my long-past and inadequately misspent youth, I would often – around the age of eleven – debate the relative merits of Asimov and Clarke. He was for Asimov. I was for Clarke.

Having recently read Clarke’s ‘Childhood’s End’ – my then-favourite work – and found it wanting, I approached Asimov with some trepidation. It turns out the trepidation was warranted; my childhood friend was probably right.

That is not to say Asimov hasn’t aged badly on my personal timeline. I could wish for half-stars so I could have given this three-and-a-half, but I felt generous. The fact is, though, while an enjoyable read, characterisation was too frequently wanting, (would you really abandon a space ship capable of frazzling the earth in the claws of a deranged robot on the grounds the derangement seems to be working out nicely, and fail to mention the fact of the derangement to the next shift because you find the person taking over vaguely irritating? There was something else as well, similarly striking, but it escapes me now).

Where Asimov wins out is in the interesting conundrums he presents in terms of logic and philosophy – and, perhaps, psychology – as the robots evolve and become increasingly complex in their sentience. I can’t always agree with the solutions he comes to in the problems he sets himself, but they’re interesting problems nonetheless.

I still like Clarke for the human-based nature of his work, but that makes shallow characterisation on his part a somewhat greater flaw than in Asimov’s. It’s that additional ingredient in Asimov’s work – the logical, philosophical conundrum – that gives him the edge.

An enjoyable enough read overall, then, but perhaps I’ll let my youth remain in the past for a while, now.

8 thoughts on “Review: Isaac Asimov – I, Robot

  1. This post caught my attention. I used to read a lot of Asimov in my youth. When I was at school I read the Foundation Trilogy and then I went on to read the further instalments, including the ones he tied in with the Robot and Elijah Bailey Series through the evolution of the one almost immortal orbit who had been Bailey’s aid, and friend, R. Daneel Olivaw. I only read one book of his out that series. But like a lot of others I found a strong fascination and pull into the ideas of the Foundation series, to a large degree through the elements you refer to of philosophy and psychology. If you want to try another Asimov sometime try the first of the foundation series. It’s an easy read. I haven’t read it in decades myself, but if all I had was time in my life I would probably read it again.

    I once tried reading a Carke book, in my youth. It didn’t sufficiently take hold of me in its first few pages and that was me and Clarke done.

  2. Did you know Asimov published the Foundation series in a magazine and then forgot about it for years and years until his agent asked him ls. about it. The agent was mortified to know he wasn’t exercising his rights over it properly and collected it up and published the novels. Just some Asimov trivia there. :).

    The Foundation series had a new trilogy write after his death by chosen sic-fi writers. I was very much a fan of the entire series Asimov wrote, and his later Robot books which became part of that universe, but I could never quite bring myself to read that later trilogy written by others.

    • Agreed, I’m never a fan of derivatives of that nature. I don’t know why. I think the idea that something is someone’s singular creation lends it a coherency, and when others intrude – however well they do it – you’re left feeling it’s somehow not ‘real’.

      I don’t know if that makes any sense…

  3. I think compared to making sense of my typing — which I blame on my iPad disrupting the muscle memory in my hands and fingers when I’m at my keyboard — most anything makes sense :). But, yes, it does.

    • I’m quite chuffed I managed to type the longer of the responses up there on a keyboard about an inch-and-a-half by two inches on my android phone while in bed last night. I woke up this morning expecting it to read “Bibble me hurlies, dumplings! Twice thrice and then some, onward!” given all the problems other people have with their wee gadgets.

      I think the trick is to turn off predictive typing.

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