Sara Tenbrook intended to shake down her family tree. She was proud of her distinguished ancestors...and besides there was a matter of a lost fortune waiting somewhere among the centuries past. So she rented a time machine and invited her boy friend along.
The time machine was a robot. It could climb down to any branch of the old Tenbrook family tree and take them with it. But it could also talk, and take on disguises, and had an ego bigger than all creation!
That family tree my have borne some golden apples—but the more that walkie-talkie time robot explored, the more assorted nuts it turned up!
Ron Goulart is a cultural historian and novelist. Besides writing extensively about pulp fiction—including the seminal Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of Pulp Magazines (1972)—Goulart has written for the pulps since 1952, when the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction published his first story, a sci-fi parody of letters to the editor. Since then he has written dozens of novels and countless short stories, spanning genres and using a variety of pennames, including Kenneth Robeson, Joseph Silva, and Con Steffanson. In the 1990s, he became the ghostwriter for William Shatner’s popular TekWar novels. Goulart’s After Things Fell Apart (1970) is the only science-fiction novel to ever win an Edgar Award.
In the 1970s Goulart wrote novels starring series characters like Flash Gordon and the Phantom, and in 1980 he published Hail Hibbler, a comic sci-fi novel that began the Odd Jobs, Inc. series. Goulart has also written several comic mystery series, including six books starring Groucho Marx. Having written for comic books, Goulart produced several histories of the art form, including the Comic Book Encyclopedia (2004).
The Robot in the Closet isn't a part of any of Goulart's series, but shares many of the same tropes and gags as one might find on Murdstone or in the offices of Odd Jobs or Wild Talents. There's a perky young woman, her laconic boy friend, and a madcap malfunctioning machine, the titular robot... who also happens to be a time machine. It's a typical absurd romp by Goulart, no logic or realism but with lots of silly laughs along the way.
I bought this a few weeks ago in January, and then came home to learn that Ron Goulart had died that morning. Talk about weird timing. Short review version: It's a scream, and everyone who enjoys time travel stories, the works of Douglas Adams, or Monty Python should read it.
Goulart threw about every convention of these types of tales out the door and wrote something that should be known a lot more than it is. Roscoe (the title robot) is an experienced time travel device that seems part Jack Ryan, Jackie Chan, and Jackie Gleason. He's a walking, talking macguffin that Goulart uses to make the 160 pages fly by as quickly as the decades Roscoe, Sara and Tim zip through in the search of ... well, that would be a spoiler now wouldn't it.
This is an Intake of Reading Sci-fi for the 1st time. The Plot and the Scenes were slightly successful with an overall and accumulated combination of The Twilight Zone, Futurama, and ending with An 1:1 Ratio of Doctor Who and Quantum Leap with The Classic "Butterfly Effect" all wrapped up in a Bow has made My Time of Reading this Book... More Satisfying and Got Me out of a Reading Slump (which Dare I say It's "Easy to Consume" than Prunes with Digestive Biscuits of An Elderly Person's snack.). Overall, The Genre of the Book is Simple Sci-fi without being too complicated and overwhelmed. Just be Aware that Since This is Outdated over a long time, There are some Derogatory and Typical Inappropriate terms are included in some parts of the Book (So... ⚠️🚨Trigger and Content Warning is Advised!!!🚨⚠️).
review of Ron Goulart's The Robot in the Closet by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 7, 2015
I've been reading Melvin B. Tolson's "Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems since November of 2014. I have enormous respect for it but it's been slow going & I've been taking frequent breaks to read 'lighter' works that're quicker to read & easier to review. 6 so far, this being the 7th - w/ more to follow. When will I finally finish & review the Tolson?!
This is the 36th SF bk I've read by Goulart. One cd say that that's 35 too many given how similar they are to each other. Then again, one cd say that once you've eaten chocolate there's no good reason to repeat the experience - you know what it tastes like after one time. Goulart is my literary chocolate: I enjoy his SF every time (I've only read one of his mysteries & I didn't like it much). Everytime I read Goulart I'm reminded of how much I enjoy him, of how good he is at his schtick. He parodies just about everything, the 'war of the sexes' & college educations, eg:
""Oho!" she said, hands clenched into fists. "At last we reach the peanut inside the nutshell, Tim. You've never really wanted me to return to school to earn my AEP degree so I can be considered an Adequately Educated Person and make my—"" - p 7
The ongoing plasticizing of artifacts, eg: " Tim lowered himself into a floating neowood chair." (p 10) "Tim settled into a sewdocanvas chair". & there's usually a malfunctioning &/or smartass robot, in this case one that's also a time machine. Goulart loves playing w/ language & SF time-traveling & robots that aren't meant to be 'hard science' gives him the perfect opportunities. I quote an entire p to give you, dear reader, an idea:
""I never had an Aunt Tillie."
""Sure you did. I ran into her in nineteenth-century Cleveland only a few months back. Tillie Zackery, operated a house of ill repute that was always tottering on the brink of ruin because Tillie insisted on mixing sins of the flesh with a pioneering interest in vegetarianism. I told her you can't mix screwing with carrot cake and expect to—"
""Is TTOC aware of what you do?"
""Relax, henpecko. The Time Travel goons are as aware as I want 'em to be," Roscoe assured him. "Look, unless you take risks, you never pull free of the pack. First time I suggested to Hannibal he use elephants to cross the Alps he said to me, 'Man you tryin' to jive me? I got me a mind to go upside your head.' Hannibal was black, but you probably don't know that from being so nostalgic. I persisted, pointed out that elephants, while lacking the element of surprise, were—"
""I don't think Sara and I are going to go gallivanting through time, which is a nitwit notion at best, with the likes of you," Tim said firmly. "You're obviously a defective hunk of machinery. Probably need a tune-up."
""I'm the best time machine you've ever cast your peepers on, sirrah. Why, forsooth, I'm a crackerjack in my field."
""And how come you talk this way? Mingling slang from all different periods."
""What's the use of traveling in time unless you allow some of it to rub off on you, cuz?" Roscoe shook his coppery head pityingly. "Next time I drop in on Spinoza I'm going to try to convince him a little time-tripping with me'll open his—"" - p 14
Goulart exploits the full potential of having his characters be outlandish. In the world(s) of Goulart's SF novels it's to be expected that a highwayman, a profession in wch dangerous directness must be convincing, might stutter:
""Suh-suh-suh-suh-ta-ta-ta-stand an-an-an-and duh-duh-duh-duh-deliver!" shouted the larger of the two higwaymen.
""Ar," whispered Arends over his shoulder to the girl inside the carriage, "I suspect we're dealing with Stuttering Dick himself. One of the worst of the knights of the road." - p 125
Perhaps Goulart's language play deserves credit as a precursor to Jonathan Lethem's character(s) w/ Tourette Syndrome. & Goulart particularly loves wallowing in colorful historic detail:
"The Royal Suite consisted of three large rooms. The vast living room had a bay window which faced the San Francisco Bay. Stopping by it, Roscoe gazed out. "Someone ought to build a span across that."
""That's what Emperor Norton used to say, but they wrote him off as a loony.["]" - p 58
"Emperor Norton" being a famous San Francisco eccentric who achieved such pleasant notoriety for proclaiming himself Emperor that it's sd that restaurants served him for free. Did he really propose what eventually became the Golden Gate Bridge?
Again, Goulart's not concerned w/ 'hard science'. If it's not convenient to the plot he doesn't bother w/ details such as that a time traveler might be able to go into the past for 5 yrs & still return seconds after they left to what was their present tense. Instead, he has the amt of time they're in the past be equal to the amt of time they're gone from their time-of-origin:
""I'm sort of fond of Roscoe, but he does tend to exaggerate his capabilities," she said to herself while continuing in a direction she was nearly certain was south. "Swearing Brains Bohack was stranded in the Dark Ages of Cleveland in the 1950s or some similar low point in history. Brains obviously repaired his strapon time machine a darn lot quicker than Roscoe anticipated, then popped here to 1814 to catch us when we came to spy on Uncle Toby."" - pp 133-134
Regardless of whether this is Goulart's logic or just that of the character it doesn't make much sense: if Bohack were stranded for 100 yrs in Cleveland before he repaired his "strapon" he'd still be able to go back to whatever time he wanted to. SHEESH!!