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Robots Beyond

1 rating: 4.0
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1 review about Robots Beyond

A thinking man's exploration of robotic behaviour

  • Dec 22, 2009
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Rating:
+4
"Robots Beyond" is an apt title for this clever anthology of short stories. Editor Lane Adamson has gathered a series of stories that use Asimov's Laws of Robotics and the codification of "appropriate" robotic behaviour as a jumping off point for an exploration of robotic physics, meta-physics and philosophy that is more mixed, more futuristic and definitely more provocative than Asimov imagined when he first created R Daneel Olivaw.

Do robots have sentience? Do robots have intelligence? Do robots have self-determination? Do robots have emotional lives? Are robots capable of self-determination and government? Could a robot believe in a Supreme Being? Can robots live with humanity and with each other? Can robots become addicted to suitably devised robotic vices?

It would be exciting to say that every story was a hit but, sadly, even if one can say that the plot-lines, themes and story-lines are uniformly creative and thought-provoking, the quality of the writing, the presentation of the ideas and their ultimate resolution is mixed.

For example, Tinman, is a very touching story about WW II comrades in arms, one of whom turns out to be robotic. But, I would suggest that, even though Tinman goes above and beyond the call of duty in protecting the fellow soldiers in his platoon, the story is far too cavalier in allowing Tinman to ignore the First Law and fails to discuss the almost overwhelming internal logic issues that Tinman would have to resolve before he could outright kill an opposing soldier.

How Coyote Made Robot is an amusing little tale that reworks an old native legend.

Crocus is a moving story of a little boy and his robot dog. I agree with another reviewer's thought that the ending was somewhat predictable but it's a fact that if robots ever enter reality, then another reality will be the tragic results of software and hardware failures and breakdowns.

The authors included in Robots Beyond skillfully blend lots of other genres with the basic sci-fi format of the anthology as well - horror, fantasy, spy thriller and alternate history, for example. For me, one of the high points of the anthology was a powerful and very creepy little ditty entitled The Cure, that was much more horror than sci-fi. Editor Lane Adamson characterized the story perfectly when he described it as "a deliciously gory story about what happens when the cure is worse than the disease" - robotic nano-technology that is capable of communicating with the host into which it is injected.

Even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool fan of sci-fi robot fiction, you won't like them all but you'll definitely think some of them are terrific. Even with mixed reviews, Robots Beyond is an enjoyable read that deserves your time and your thought.

Recommended.

Paul Weiss

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