Monday, January 31, 2005

It Always Feels the Same

So I finally finished I, Robot by Isaac Asimov the other day. Now don't get me wrong, I rather enjoy reading his stuff, but every book and every short story feels almost exactly the same. It doesn't matter if you're reading a Foundation novel, a robot story, or any of his other novels or short stories--there is one formula that he follows and it goes a little something like this:
  1. 1. Get acquainted with the characters and listen to them interact for a bit.
  2. 2. One character lays out a situation with all pertinent facts stated. From this initial description of the situation, an obvious logical fallacy is presented as the conclusion of the situation. Sometimes, instead of having the logical fallacy presented, Asimov will instead choose to set up a situation where it appears that there is no possible way to solve it.
  3. 3. Much discussion takes place between characters.
  4. 4. The situation is resolved, but you don't know how, except for the fact that one character usually says something akin to "Ahhh, now I know what we must do."
  5. 5. As characters reflect on situation, the way in which the situation was resolved is revealed.
  6. 6. The end.
I don't think I've yet read an Asimov story that hasn't at least loosely followed that template. It's gotten to the point where I don't even really read his short stories as stories, but instead view them as logic puzzles. I, Robot presented many different logic puzzles involving how robots could do something which on the surface appeared to break one of the three laws of robotics. Even though I, Robot is a self-contained novel, it should be viewed more as a collection of short stories. Dr. Calvin, the main character of the book, is simply recounting different robot stories to a reporter who is doing a story on her.

Anyhow, if you like sci-fi and/or logic puzzles, you've probably already read plenty Asimov. If you have yet to experience his writing, this book is as good of a place to start as any.

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