Thursday, August 8, 2013

i, Robot Book Review

Rawr Reader,

  I really hope I'm not overloading on sci-fi, but I'm just in a science ficitony mood. Whether I want it to or not, though this may be my last sci-fi for a while. So I will embrace it as if it were my last forever! :0)
 I watched the movie two months ago or so and I find it absolutely fantastic, I knew I needed to read the book. This is i, Robot by Isaac Asimov, and I needed to type the synopsis from the back of the book again because I didn't like the Goodreads one:

They mustn't harm a human being, they must obey human orders, and they must protect their own existence... but only so long as that doesn't violate rules one and two. With these Three Laws of Robotics, humanity embarked on a bold new era of evolution that would open up enormous possibilities—and unforseen risks. For the scientists who invented the earliest robots were content that their creations should remain programmed helpers, companions, and semisentient worker-machines. And soon the robots themselves, aware of their own intelligence, power, and humanity, aren't either.
As humans and robots struggle to survive together—and sometimes against each other—on earth and in space, the future of bot hangs in the balance. Here human men and women confront robots gone mad, telepathic robots, robot politicians, and vast robotic intelligences that may already secretly control the world. And both are asking the same questions: What is human? And is humanity obsolete?

   The movie, I'll have to say.

(unsafe for those who haven't read this book yet, so does contain spoilers)
   After the first little prologue where it was established that this was going to be nothing like the movie, I was a little disheartened, I'll admit. I was really excited to read about the mystery and suspense I see in the movie, and was really excited to read more on Sonny since he was probably my favorite character in the movie. However, how Isaac Asimov structured this book just tore down my expectations of disappointment and substituted them with a tower of amazingness. I love how Asimov showed the progress of robots parallel to the timeline of Dr. Susan Calvin, and then had her recollect the memories in an interview. Genius.

   The three laws of robotics:
Law 1: No robot may harm a human, or allow a human to come to harm
Law 2: A robot must obey every command given to him, as long as such command does not conflict with the First Law
Law 3: A robot must protect its existence, as long as it does not conflict with the First of Second Laws

   Okay, when reading or hearing these laws for the first time, you're like sure, okay. Am I wrong? I know I did. It's hard to put what they words mean in a simple phrase but I'll try, these three laws really create the fundamental blocks of our present day society's conventional standards of moral ethics. Sorry didn't meant to sound ostentatious but that's just the quick version of what Asimov was going for. Obviously he says it more tersely in the book, but that's basically what the goals are aiming for. Drawing the line for man to question, what dictates man vs. machine. I could go on and on about how much I love what Asimov does with this, but I'd rather you read it yourself to discover how amazing it is. 
   Each chapter sort of felt like a short story but they all connected for the overall aspect of the development of robots. While this isn't my first robot book, I guess Cinder would be, it is definitely a new favorite. I've really been liking my sci-fi selections lately.
   Okay, what stood out most to me is how much I connected to these robots, not the people. While the predominantly "main" protagonists are Dr. Susan Calvin, Dr. Alfred Lannister, Mike Donovan, Gregory Powell, and our unnamed reporter, each chapter alternates in who's POV we see the story through. However, how Asimov characterized these seemingly "soulless" robots was breathtaking. From the first robot mentioned-- Robbie, to the last, the possible political candidate Stephen Byerley, I connected with each of them, and that was because of the fact that he humanized them. While some were a little less nurturing (QT-1, aka, Cutie) than others (the mute robot, Robbie), in some way or another, the robot possessed the three laws of robotics and in some form or manner try to uphold the greater good in obeying them. This can particularly be seen in the chapters Liar! and Little Lost Robot, which were some of my favorite chapters. (Actually, I liked them all but Catch that Rabbit and the final chapter.)
   So this development we see with the robots over the course of the novel (about 60 years) is staggering-- even in this fictional futuristic world. (I'll break it down by robot, which is almost every chapter though I won't be able to do some.)
              We start off with Robbie (I initially put Sonny, hehe) a mute robot who's function is to be the nursemaid for a family. He is the first inkling we have of a robot possessing something of a glimpse into the realm of curiosity vs. plain old obedience. Robbie likes stories, and this pure innocence of a characteristic already was a step into humanizing him. And then his devotion to Gloria was another step into not just obeying the Three Laws, but I argue that he actually cared for his little friend. (Can be seen when right after saving her, his arms are described as: "wound about the little girl gently and lovingly"). Robbie's story I argue is the allegory of the First Law. 
              We then proceed to SPD 13 (aka Speedy), who is what I argue the allegory of the Second Law. Which is tested when Powell forces Speedy to fall out of his loop of obeying the Second and Third Laws. 
              Next we meet Robot QT-1 (aka Cutie), who is probably the scariest of the robots we meet. He is pure logic, in no manner associated with the emotional sector that Robbie felt or even Speedy at least hinted at, however associated with preservation of the "Master" who honestly I don't really know who it is. My first guess would be the command center where Powell and Donovan get their commands from. Cutie never physically harmed them or even tried to harm them, but his authoritative manner when he took control over Powell and Donovan was scary. I was waiting for him to starve them or suck them out to space or something. But when they left at the end of the chapter, I understood that that wasn't what Asimov was aiming for. (Plus my guess was it was too early in the novel to make the robots become so evil it was hopeless.)
              I don't really have much to say about the Catch That Rabbit chapter since I wasn't really a fan of it. So moving on to:
              Liar! (A favorite), is the first chapter we see that returns to Dr. Calvin and where she is directly involved in the events (well she was mentioned in Robbie but it was a very short appearance). Robot RB-34 (aka Herbie) is another step into arguing machine vs man. We witness Herbie go "insane" after Calvin humiliates him after lying to her, and it was honestly the saddest moment in the book because it began to show that maybe there was more to them. They had been constructed and built together yes, but what makes them different from man? They obey and protect human just as any respectable law-abiding human does in modern society, yet more primitive man is considered more human than robots. Now don't take me for someone who thinks all machines have souls (though I do protect my electronics with delicacy and love ;D hehe), but that's what's so great about this book. It's getting you to think and care for these robots. Not even real robots! Fictional robots that won't exist anytime soon! I haven't had a book make me think like this since Cloud Atlas. (1984 just made me scared.) Because what does make us human, how we treat other people, or how we treat machines (albeit highly intelligent machines)? Like I said, this is just discussion in context relating to the book-- but if you want to go existential, be my guest. ^^
            Little Lost Robot was another favorite of mine purely because of the mystery behind it. And the suspense. My two favorite things in novels. I think this chapter is probably the closest we get to the movie, because in this cross-examination chapter I kept imagining scenes in the movie that were similar. Although it is in space, and Detective Spooner isn't there, and there are 63 NS-2s and not 1001 NS-5s as the movie depicts it. Still, the premise is the same— Find that robot! It was great. Basically what differs this robot from the rest is that it is one of a handful of robots that is slightly rewired to have a different interpretation of the First Law, which is: It may not harm a human. That's it though, it doesn't have to save one. This correlates to the rest of the chapter, read it to see why! :D
              Escape! The second scariest chapter. This one sort of deals with the movie's interpretation of VIKI, only this one is referred to as the "The Brain." However "The Brain" thought it'd be funny to ship off two men into space with the only sustainable substance of beans and milk and no facilities to groom or bathe themselves. Need I say more? Talk about a sense of humor!
               The chapter Evidence was another favorite and purely because of how far robots had gone by this time. Now it was the next stage of robot "evolution" in which now they were being designed to resemble humans. Francis Quinn, a political candidate running for Mayor however accused his opponent Stephen Byerley of being a robot. The chapter explores the possibilities and "evidence" as to why, howeverwell, let's just say the ending to this chapter was perfect. 
             I read through the last chapter so fast I don't really remember what it was about, but I didn't find 90% of the chapter relevant. My fault, but I still didn't see how it was important to the rest of the story. They talk about The Machine, that's all I know. 
     So yeah, that was just a recap/my comments I had to make on the chapters (at least the ones I felt were important) and I'm curious if anyone thinks me wrong in something. I read this in a day and I think I read it too fast, next time I'll read it a bit slower. However I still found it a fantastic read and yes, still love the book and movie separately (but seriously—they're SO different!).
    And this is a little random-- but in each sci-fi book I've read in the past week, they've each mentioned Times magazine. Is this mandatory?

I give this book 5/5 stars. A favorite.

Author's Quote:
"And Herbie Screamed!
It was like the whistling of a piccolo many times magnified—shrill and shriller till it keened with the terror of a lost soul and filled the room with the piercingness of itself."
—Isaac Asimov, i, Robot

My Goodreads:

Next To Read:
The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Until Next Time,
Nicole Ciel

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