Mini Book Reviews

I, Robot
Isaac Asimov
The classic sci-fi set of short stories by Asimov about Robots and their relationship to man. Asmimov sets out the famous “Three Laws of Robotics” that have influenced much science fiction writing since the stories were originally published in the 1940’s in sci-fi magazines, and then collected in this book published in 1950. I haven’t seen the Will Smith movie of the same name, yet, but from what I understand, it’s quite different than the Asimov stories and is only “influenced by.”

1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Interesting that the stories, written in the 1940s, are set in 1996-2006 or so. Their expectations of technological advances are beyond what we’ve accomplished, but at the same time fail to anticipate some of our technology — like the internet. The influence of these stories on all science fiction that came after is fascinating; they really are the foundation for everything from Terminator to Battlestar Galactica, to dystopian fantasies of post-apocalypse futures.

The Final Solution: A Story of Detection
by Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon produces a melancholy Sherlock Holmes homage, portraying the Victorian age hero at the end of his life in 1944 Sussex, having retired from London to keep bees in the quiet countryside. Holmes gets caught up in the mystery of a lost parrot and a young mute Jewish refugee boy who was rescued from Hitler’s path.

Black Swan Green
David Mitchell
Mitchell’s fourth novel veers away from the complex literary structures of his previous work, to portray a simple but profound narrative of a 13-year-old boy’s life over the course of 13 months — one story each month, describing Jason Taylor’s struggle with a speech impediment, navigation of the complex social structures at his school, his interest in girls, exploration of the town and woods around his home, and the break up of his parents marriage.

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