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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Robot Dreams and Robot Visions

My latest books were Robot Dreams and Robot Visions by Isaac Asimov.  The next books I'll be posting reviews for are Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, An American Tragedy, and Caves of Steel.

Having read the six Dune books written by Frank Herbert, I'm now moving on to Isaac Asimov.  My plan is to read the 16 books he wrote that deal with robots or are part of the Foundation series. I started off with Robot Dreams and Robot Visions, which are the latest of several compilations of Asimov's short stories.



I really enjoyed these books for the most part.  As the names imply, most, but not all, of the stories are about robots.  They do invariably involve advanced technologies.The writing of the stories took place over five decades, from 1940 to 1990 and they were fairly varied in length, taking ten to forty minutes to read.  Many of the stories are basically extended riddles, focused on determining how something happened, mainly based on Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics:
  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 the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
In Asimov's stories, as welll as many of the science fiction authors who have followed since, these laws are at the very foundation of every robot's programming.  It seems to me that most of the stories would have been rendered moot if a new first law was added before the others: A robot shall not lie.  Nonetheless, the stories were enjoyable.

The books also include essays by the none-too-modest Asimov about his writings, accomplishments, and views of technology.  In between his numerous boasts, you do get a fascinating look into the mindset of and experiences of a tremendously influential writer.  Asimov's viewpoint is especially interesting given that his subject matter, which would seem barely more realistic than magic when he started writing, became, in many aspects, a reality during his lifetime.  I did skim over some of his essays because they discussed books I'm still planning to read.

I would recommend these books to anyone who enjoys science fiction.  I'm already greatly enjoying my next book by Asimov, Caves of Steel.

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