The Nitty Gritty: A Remotely Intellectual Review of Asimov’s I, Robot

I, Robot. It’s about adverbs & adjectives. I mean, it’s about robots. It’s sci-fi with interesting ethical dilemmas. After you get through the adjectives.

Recently, a friendly stranger proffered boxes of sci-fi and fantasy books to fuel my used bookstore dreams. I know enough to admit what I don’t know. And I don’t, at all, know sci-fi. I told my super-rad benefactor this. “No experience with sci-fi at all?” he asked, quizzically. “Well, I did love Battlestar Gallactica… the TV series,” I offered sheepishly. “Oh,” he responded with relief. “You’ll be fine then. Start with Asimov.”

So I did.

I picked I, Robot for the most basic of reasons: it sounded familiar. My copy (a 1983 edition) features a little girl & a pretty dang benign looking robot on the cover. Cool. I’m fascinated by the concept of robots actually developing feelings—evolving into them. Because can they be feelings, if they’re programmed “experiences”? And how the hell is the robot supposed to know what’s up?

I’m sure there are technical, sci-fi-y ways to describe this conundrum. Of course, I don’t know them.

But I do knowthat I could barely FIND the robots in the book for all the adjectives and adverbs Asimov through at me continuously. So many, many words to describe, well, not too much.

The book took me weeks to complete. Weeeeeeeks. But I learned the 3 Laws of Robotics, which tie the stories about nanny robots, mind reading robots, self-righteous robots, playful & clever robots, and machines together. And, ultimately, I was left with some weighty ethical & philosophical questions about free-will versus the greater good.

But it took so very many adjectives to get there.

Author: Kendra Lee

I am smitten with Atlanta. I believe Black Lives Matter. I care deeply about housing justice, education, and transportation. I am a huge MARTA fan. I've got the most adorable second grader, an incorrigible Boxer named Delilah, and a pretty amazing husband named Simon. I've been sober for 9+ years. I heart coffee. On any given day I may write about all--or none--of those things.

4 thoughts on “The Nitty Gritty: A Remotely Intellectual Review of Asimov’s I, Robot”

  1. I also have limited sci-fi reading experience (watched plenty of Star Trek though!). I read I, Robot because the 3 laws of robotics is way cool & because I like the movie with Will Smith. Surprise! The movie & book basically share the same title and that’s about it. (Do NOT select this book for a report & then watch the movie instead. You will fail.) Add the fact that I, Robot (the book) is a set of (not connected or barely connected) short stories and I was a very confused reader for over half the book.

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    1. Ha! I bet! I don’t really remember the movie… but I can’t imagine anything quite as disjoined as the book even making SENSE to an audience!

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      1. Asimov is a favourite for movie adaptations that have barely anything to do with the story he wrote and instead extrapolate on the ethical conundrums he introduced (see also Phillip K. Dick). It’s my favourite thing sci-fi is supposed to do: put us in a distant, but recognizable future and ask us if this goes to its conclusion, what will happen to our humanity? I’m glad you went for it, even if it took you weeks 🙂

        Tangentially, the Will Smith movie might actually have been more about the trolley problem in the algorithms of automated cars than just the free will of robots.

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      2. I’m glad I did, too. I mean, I liked it… in a low-key sort of way. 😉 For real, though, I got excited about the book when I started discussing it with Simon. I kinda wish I’d read it in one of my lit classes.

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