Saturday, September 24, 2011

Book Review: I, Robot: To Protect

I, Robot: To Protect, by Mickey Zucker Reichert, is a prequel of sorts to Asimov’s Robots series. The book was commissioned by the Asimov Estate, as apparently are other upcoming prequels to I, Robot.

This particular prequel introduces us to Susan Calvin as she is in medical school and starting her residency in a psychiatric department. She has several patients, each with a different disability. The first few she quickly and expertly solves. In the back corridors of the hospital, she meets a robot that looks just a man and quickly befriends him. She also becomes part of an experimental program to use nano-robots to analyze brain chemistry and diagnose problems that normal medicine can't diagnose.

For the most part I enjoyed this book as a stand-alone story, but it seems to contradict later Robot novels. The presence of a fully human-looking positronic robot in the mid-21st century is just way wrong. R. Daneel and R. Jander were supposedly the first humaniform robots capable of completely imitating humanity - that's more than 2000 years from now. Sure, with all the advances actually taking place in our reality, authors might be tempted to play with the timeline a bit - but this just seems to completely blow to shreds the validity of this story within the Asimovian Canon. Susan Calvin also seemed to me to be too perfect. She always seemed to have the right answer and know just what to do.

There was ocassional mention of a politcal group against robots, and then about three-quarters of the way through the book - their actions become the primary the plot. Before that, the main point of the book is showing the reader how great a psychiatrist Susan Calvin is. In the future, Susan Calvin is a famed robot-psychologist. Here, she's just a really impressive normal psychiatrist.

I'm interested to see where additional I, Robot novels take place, and hope they fit-in to continuity better that this. Other Robot/Foundation novels not written by Asimov have run the gamut from good (The New Robot Novels quadrilogy and the Caliban trilogy) to average (the 2nd Foundation trilogy).

I, Robot: To Protect was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley. It's due out in hardcover on November 1, 2011.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out 5. I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn't really that good in the grand scheme of Asimov's universe.

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