Dorothea's Reviews > I, Robot

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
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May 28, 12

Read in May, 2012

I always enjoy the memory of I, Robot more than actually reading it.

In my memory, I, Robot is hard science fiction. Each story is an exploration of the implications of the three laws of robotics: a thought adventure in logic, philosophy, and a bit of psychology.

I think that this is what I, Robot is supposed to be, but it's hindered by bad writing. I feel so bad typing that! Isaac Asimov was supposed to be one of the great early science fiction authors... but yes, the writing here is disappointing. I think the single worst flaw is the neverending exposition through dialogue. This is supposed to make the necessary explanations more dramatic and less didactic, but instead it makes all of the characters (who are supposed to be experts) seem ill-prepared and slow of thought. And so much of the dialogue is dedicated to exposition that there's almost nothing left for personality; characters have strong emotions in reaction to the situations created by the plot, but I don't feel along with them. My interest remains purely intellectual.

In my memory, Susan Calvin is one of my favorite fictional characters. She's dangerously intelligent, possessed of superior self-control, and completely focused on her life's work. She's found a profession in which her disdain for most of humanity is an asset. She's the more stable, fulfilled aunt of James Tiptree, Jr.'s Cold Pig, even if Cold Pig was happier in the end.

When I'm actually reading I, Robot, I'm less sure what to make of Susan Calvin, or of Asimov's treatment of her. I'm tempted to explain her by ascribing to Asimov the idea that women can only be intellectuals by suppressing or lacking emotions or any "feminine" attributes. But I don't know what Asimov really thought about women. Does Susan Calvin belong to a recognizable type in Golden-Age science fiction? I don't know, because I haven't read very much of it -- partly because I don't expect much literary value if I, Robot is representative; partly because I fear I'm right about its attitudes to women.
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