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I, robot

by Howard S. Smith

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589333,077 (3.23)12
A Japanese detective stumbles onto deployment of military robots.

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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This is an excellent story from a Canadian engineer. A well-written and intelligent story which updates predictions about the rise of the robots. Got my copy from the library, but thinking of buying a few as gifts and to support Dr. Smith. Kathy Harestad's illustrations are also excellent. ( )
  pmerriam | Aug 29, 2014 |
It took me a while to get into this book. It starts off interesting though, as it looks like something hit the fan and the world is going to doom. Although readers may tend to wonder what this all has to do with a Japanese police officer who has a terrible OCD issue, well you just have to read along to connect the dots. To simplify it, Haruto (the police officer) attempts to solve a case, but finds out it leads to a much bigger and badder fish that are out to cause a lot more chaos and havok than usual in the world.

It’s not easy to figure out. There’s lots of scientific terminology in the book and I did find it a bit hard to understand. (There are helpful illustrations though!) The concept of these robots being used as terrifying super soldiers is interesting, although the bloodbath they would create is naturally, horrible. There are a few subplots involved in this book, some that are related to the big storyline, a few aren’t. The plot might not entirely feel solid but the reading is tolerable and can be understood once everything is put into place and perspective.

Haruto as a character, is interesting, yet quirky because of his obsessive compulsive behavior, but his sense of honor and the strict adherence to the “rules” also show a side of naivete. He’s almost like an overgrown child in some sense. His OCD issue does get in the way of a lot of things, and it’s mentioned a lot throughout the book. It can get annoying - at least it did to me.

What I expected from this book, was more robots! there is only one scene where the robot talks to Haruto, but after that, there’s nothing else. I thought there was going to be more interaction between humans and robots besides just using them as soldiers.

There are quite a few characters in the novel, and although it’s easy to tell which ones are the main characters and which ones are supporting ones, some just seem to arrive at certain points of the novel, and then fall out of existence. It would have been nice to figure out what happens them in the long run. The ending of the book was alright, although a little cliche, but it was an alright book overall.

People look at the title, and think of the movie, it’s not about that at all, there is an author’s note about that as well. I’d rather wish he didn’t name it that title as the robots aren’t really what you think (as it was, in the movie for example). However, it was a good read overall, I’d say take it or leave it. The scientific lingo might scare some readers away, or bore them, but the action isn’t too bad. ( )
  sensitivemuse | Jun 11, 2013 |
I, robot is like a shortbread cookie. It might help you stop a craving, but it won’t satisfy the underlying hunger. You’ll still have to look elsewhere for real satisfaction. But if all you want is a way to kill time in an airport, this is a good choice. You can put it down and not worry whether or not you find your exact spot when you pick it back up. If you don’t pick it back up, you won’t spend the rest of your life wondering what happened to the characters; they won’t mean that much to you.

Read the full review. ( )
1 vote hermit_9 | Sep 8, 2008 |
There are three things I really don’t like in a review – a statement of the reviewer’s philosophy, giving away the plot of a book or movie, and reviews that only state “good” or “bad” without why. I hope to only break one of those guidelines. (Obviously, the first one.)

I received a copy of I, robot by Howard S. Smith as an Advance Reading Copy by requesting it from an ad in Shelf Awareness. I was intrigued by the title and the idea of updating the Isaac Asimov books. It came with some advertising material.

I’m sorry to say that I believe Dr. Smith made a strategical error by setting himself up to be compared with Dr. Asimov. Whether or not he is a better scientist is I don’t know, but he is not as good a writer.

I would like to say that the book would have seemed better if he had not set up the comparison, but in truth I cannot. I’m sorry to say I couldn’t finish it. As a new reviewer, I really wanted to do the best possible job. But I could not force my way through it.

I find it’s generally a bad sign when a book is made up mostly a lot of short chapters. This book has 369 pages and 160 chapters. That is not a good ratio. I know that deciding where to break chapters is much like deciding where to begin and end paragraphs. A lot of it is according to the taste of the writer. The problem I have with short chapters is not just the waste of paper, but the fact that very little thought or work seems to go into short chapters. I’m having this problem with Robert B. Parker’s new books. I love his characters, but he almost never gives me the details that I used to love. That’s true in this book. The first 11 chapters, covering 29 pages, are devoid of interest and of animation. There was no explaining what was going on – yes, I picked up a lot of it in context, but there are good ways of giving background details without distracting the reader from the plot. I can make all kinds of guesses as to how the world got into the straits depicted, but I need to know what the author says lead up to what he’s writing about. If I don’t know where he’s coming from, how can I truly appreciate where he’s going?

This is not to say that there is no merit in the book. With better editing and some instruction, it might have been a much better fiction book. In fact, the book comes alive when details and minutia of the science is being described. Clearly Dr. Smith is interested in the science and technology that go and will go into making robots. One chapter, in which one of the robots is turned on and put to work and interacts with the protagonist, is especially good and well-written. It kept me reading for a good bit, hoping for more. But the characters went back to being cardboard and the writing went flat again.

One other mostly good thing that I noticed was that it became clear gradually that the protagonist has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. At first it was not subtle. In what seemed like three consecutive chapters the protagonist was called by a nickname we’re told is Japanese for “artificial human”. We’re told that in Japanese science fiction it is used to refer to androids and robots. When that’s just about the only thing you’re told about a character, it begins to feel like you’re being hit over the head with it.

But later in the book the protagonist displays OCD ritual behavior. It’s subtle at first; I wondered what that behavior was about. Eventually it became clear that this was his way of dealing with anxiety and helped explain his anxiety about everyone following the rules. He believes that when rules are followed, bad things won’t happen, even if the rule is nonsensical. That was well done.

There’s been a discussion in my house about what science fiction should be about. It’s my contention that all literature should be about people. Science fiction is especially good at illuminating the human condition by creating characters who are not human – robots, aliens, Vulcans, Time Lords, Cylons, and the like, help us understand ourselves. (Mysteries are also good at this, by showing up people placed in extreme circumstances and how they behave in those situations.) My husband, on the other hand, thinks science fiction should be about the science, not the people. If you agree with me, I don’t think you’ll appreciate I, robot. If you are more interested in the science than plot and characters and good writing, then you might enjoy it very much. Dr. Smith does make the science interesting. There are charts and graphs (as well as maps) to help him explain the technology behind his robots. Like most of us, he is more interesting when he is interested. ( )
  DianeS | Aug 23, 2008 |
I, robot by Howard S. Smith tells the story of Suzuki Haruto, a Japanese police inspector, who stumbles onto a plot between Japan and Israel to exchange nuclear weapons for robot soldiers.

There is a lot of technical information in I, robot. In fact, the very first sentence in the book is followed by an abstract for a patent application for isotope separation. That’s a risky approach as a book opening considering you have mere seconds to sell a reader on your book as they browse the shelves.

The author seems knowledgeable of robotics and artificial intelligence, but much of the information is imparted to the reader in lecture- or presentation-format between characters. I would have found the robots just as convincing with less information and fewer diagrams to interrupt the flow of the story.

While the robots are convincing, the human characters are more difficult to grow attached to. The protagonist Suzuki Haruto is a rule-follower, which is integral to the book’s message. The point that this is the result of obsessive-compulsive disorder is not made convincingly until about 70 pages into the book, which is late considering the importance of this disorder to the events in the book.

Although there is a lot of action, the tension is defused because each time Haruto gets in a jam his karate or blind luck saves him. He also never suffers the repercussions of being shot a number of times over the course of the book (even after jumping into salt water mere seconds after being wounded there is no mention of pain or discomfort). These are things that I might overlook in a two-hour action movie, but not in a book where I spend several days with the characters.

The other characters in the book are flat. The women are of the I-need-a-man-to-keep-me-safe or I-need-babies-to-make-me-whole (or both) variety. Without background to support these attitudes in these particular characters, these mindsets come off as stereotypes (particularly when they are used for every woman in the book). Haruto has a particularly magnetic effect on one woman that left me flipping the pages to see if I missed something before she stripped naked and invited him “in”. Haruto’s love interest is nice to him, but there is not enough transition between being nice and being naked to make their relationship believable or interesting.

Another stereotype which cropped up repeatedly was that military generals are all overly-patriotic-with-a-quick-temper. Again, while there certainly are people like that in the military, it is not a given. Without the personalities being established I was confused when one general stared choking another in the middle of an argument, and another spontaneously began yelling at a subordinate, threatening him with all sorts of harm. There was no lead up to justify this behaviour from these characters.

Some readers will not care about these issues and some will. If you want to check the book out for yourself, you can download the first nine chapters of the book at Robot Binaries Press.

Visit Booklorn.com for more reviews. ( )
  anysia | Aug 20, 2008 |
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