"Public Library and Other Stories" gets a star simply for the title. And, the other two are for the inter-story commentary or quotes about the importa"Public Library and Other Stories" gets a star simply for the title. And, the other two are for the inter-story commentary or quotes about the importance of the library in each person's life or the services that the public library system provides to the community. These interspersed vignettes are marvelous and I wish that Ali Smith had made the entire book a love letter to libraries.
Honestly, the short stories were really odd. I couldn't get into any of them, nor did they really say much about libraries. Maybe I'm just missing the boat on the author's style, which I found disjointed, a bit stream of consciousness, and not enlightening. ...more
Dang, Ron Rash can write! These hard scrabble stories are filled with people facing hardships and bad vs. worse choices in a land not filled with plenDang, Ron Rash can write! These hard scrabble stories are filled with people facing hardships and bad vs. worse choices in a land not filled with plenty, but American as all get out.
Short stories are difficult, in my opinion. The author must economize, must build suspense and weave tapestries in a handful of pages, leaving you with an incomplete arc that somehow leaves your belly full. At around 200 pages, this collection does just that.
One hallmark of a great writer is an ear for how people speak, and Mr. Rash does an excellent job of that. For ten years, I lived about an hour from Asheville in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the pages of "Burning Bright" contained voices I've heard.
All of the stories are worth a gander, but my favorites are "Hard Times" (a real doozy), "The Corpse Bird" (I found superstition far more rampant in the South than in Yankeekland), "Lincolnites," and the superlative "The Woman Who Believed in Jaguars." I hate to say too much about each one because you ought to just read it. ...more
**spoiler alert** Why have I not read Asimov before?! Overall, I found "I, Robot" to be fresh, well-written, truly enjoyable and am very happy my Grea**spoiler alert** Why have I not read Asimov before?! Overall, I found "I, Robot" to be fresh, well-written, truly enjoyable and am very happy my Great Books book club chose this selection.
Unlike some science fiction series, the world building didn't get in the way of the story. In fact, the stories were much more about ethics, psychology, and sociology.
One of the biggest surprises is that very little seemed dated. Certainly, there were moments or phrases, but what Asimov got right is humanity and its seeming unwillingness to change (despite thinking it's changing) even when change may bring about a better future.
Another surprise, which I only learned by reading other Goodreads reviews after finishing the novel, is that the book is actually a collection of short stories published individually, then later woven together with the Susan Calvin interviews. Frankly, the technique was so effective that it didn't even occur to me, but other folks at the meeting noticed it right away.
One of the most interesting discussions we had today was around whether robots and humans have free will in the book's world. If humans have created robots who can create a smoother future, but robots must factor in human error (intentional and unintentional), then how much room is there for free will?
Several other books await, but I plan to return to the next installment in the Robot series and then follow to the Foundation Series.
Below are the discussion questions that our leader write for today's meeting.
Discussion Questions for I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
I, Robot began as a series of short stories written by Asimov for publication in various science fiction magazines. He later assembled the stories into a novel which used the Chinese box technique of having a reporter interview Doctor Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist at U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men. The book marks the first appearance of Asimov’s three laws of robotics, which are: 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. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. The three laws have become generally accepted throughout the world of science fiction, as well as in the real world, as behavioral models for robots. The book shares a few common elements with the movie I, Robot which appeared in 2004, starring Will Smith. Questions: 1. Did you like the framing technique of the reporter interviewing Dr. Susan Calvin? Why or why not? 2. Which short story, if any, did you like best? Why? 3. Can the three laws be circumvented? How? Does Asimov demonstrate this in the novel? 4. How are the three laws circumvented in the movie, I, Robot? 5. In later novels, Asimov explores the notion that robots can act to protect humans from themselves. He explores this in “Little Lost Robot.” How does this address the question of free will? 6. Some of the figures Asimov used for the cost of robots, space exploration, etc. seem vastly understated in the novel. Why do you think his costs for construction (as an example NS2 robots in “Little Lost Robot” cost $30,000 each) were so low? What do these costs say about the advance of inflation since the time the stories were written? 7. How does the U.S Robotics and Mechanical Men Corporation get around the first law in “Little Lost Robot” and the movie I, Robot? Do you think this programming would work? 8. Do you think that Steven Byerely is a man or a robot in the short story “Evidence”? What evidence do you have to support your conclusion? 9. In the movie I, Robot, Dr. Lanning was seen as a pleasant, kind individual. In the book, he is seen as being somewhat domineering, obsessive individual. Which portrayal do you like better? 10. In the final story, “The Evitable Conflict,” Asimov postulates that the machines (i.e. robots) will someday make all decisions regarding large scale human interactions. Once again, this seems to invalidate free will, or does it? How does this story form the basis of such movies as the Terminator series, Mad Max, etc.? Asimov also uses this assumption as the premise for his Foundation series of novels. Does such a scenario seem believable? Why or why not?...more
First, I should explain that I received a free copy of this book from the author. However, I would have read the book anyway as it was in my to-read lFirst, I should explain that I received a free copy of this book from the author. However, I would have read the book anyway as it was in my to-read list and feel that my opinion wasn't prejudiced.
Jacob Appel has a talent for fleshing out characters and situations quickly and with what feels effortless. Unlike some reviewers, I enjoy short stories, but particularly when the material is so well-crafted. I cannot point out any stories as my favorite and enjoyed each of them for their own merits. These stories stuck to my ribs yet left me hungry to read more of the author's material. ...more