I, Robot is a science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov, which was published in 1950. It is a classic in the genre. It is the first book from Asimov’s Robot series, which was later integrated into the Foundation series.
It is a collection of nine different short stories, with one connecting link: Dr. Susan Calvin. She is a robopsychologist at U.S Robots, and the novel is in the form of stories that she is narrating to a reporter. Each of the stories revolves around the interaction between man and machine and the efforts made by men to make superior positronic robots. This is where the three revolutionary Laws of Robotics come into picture.
1) A robot may not injure a human being or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The rules ensure that none of the robots get out of human control, and change our complete outlook towards the robot-man relation. Most of the stories have the same basic plot; something is not right with a particular robot, and everytime they have to fix him by taking into consideration these three laws. The book shows the evolution of robotics, from the time when there were the primitive robots who couldn’t even talk, when the world wasn’t ready for them yet, till the time when robots were used to manage interplanetary affairs! It has everything right from a robot who can read minds to a religious one who refuses to believe that there was no force higher than mere humans involved in his creation! The book also gives an insight into human nature, specially with respect to our growing dependence on technology, something all of us can relate to!
While the book is amazing to read, it falls short on the literary front. It is written in simple language, and is easy to understand. That is great, but it is too simple at times, and it makes you feel like you are reading a text book instead of a novel. There are no vivid descriptions of anything, and a bit too much is left to the imagination. That is why, what were probably supposed to be cool, glossy, towering, futuristic-looking robots, looked like enlarged Wall-Es in my mind’s eye! A little more use of adjectives would have helped.
But that hardly matters compared to the rest of the book! The stories are just plain amazing. It is one of the most well thought out books I have ever read. While there is not much action, as such, the book is gripping and keeps you involved.