I wanted to read Isaac Asimov’s books for some time now but always prioritized something else instead. Looking for a new writer to read recently, though, I finally decided to give Asimov a try. I knew that he was a prolific writer and produced a lot of work during his life. The “Foundation” series are considered to be one of his best publications. I wasn’t sure, however, in what order should I read the series. As I was searching, I came across this recommended order for reading Asimov’s books (suggested by Asimov himself). The list encourages starting from “I, Robot” followed by several other books before getting even close to the “Foundation” series. Couple of other quick searches revealed the same recommendations. Without further hesitation, I set my mind on “I, Robot”.
At the same time, I also decided to try a new format for consuming books – audio. This will allow me to “follow” two books at the same time: one by reading as I usually do in the mornings and evenings and one by listening when I am cooking or running errands. The prospect of it sounded exciting to me. I decided to give it a try starting with “I, Robot”.
I did not know that “I, Robot” was a collection of nine short stories before I started to read the book. I expected it to be a novel that follows the events of one storyline. The short stories that the book consists of, however, are connected. They are a recollection of futuristic robot accounts by Susan Calvin who is a Robot Phycologist at the “US Robots” corporation. The series represent the evolution of the use of robots throughout the life of humans.
Each story has the Three Laws of Robotics at the center of the conflict:
- First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Each story is about the case where it seems like the robots don’t obey the Three Laws of Robotics. However, the robots do what they are told to do. The main characters are on the quest to figure out what went wrong in the robot’s prearrange or robot’s interpretation of the Three Laws.
The collection is very heavy on science, robotics and programming logic. At times, it feels like an academic paper. However, while this is not an adventure type of book, it is still entertaining. Each story touches on the intricacies of robots being integrated into human life and what affect it may/will have on us.
As far as I know, the Three Laws of Robotics are fundamental for the rest of the Asimov’s books which is why it is recommended to read the “I, Robot” first.
I think “I, Robot” definitely deserves its spot among the sci-fi classics. I give this collection of short stories Five Stars and recommend any sci-fi lover to read them.
In closing, I’d like to add that after I finished listening to this book, I decided to watch the eponymous movie. It was disappointing to learn that the creators of the movie took only the name of the book as well as the reference to the Three Laws of Robotics. The film they created has nothing to do with the content and context of Asimov’s work. If you’ve only seen the movie but never read the book, I recommend you forget what you’ve seen and read the stories instead.