Who-Dun-It Meets the Laws of Robotics #scifi #asimov #sciencefiction #robot #robotics #review #bookreview

Robots of Dawn book coverI read Robots of Dawn to discover how Asimov tackled sex – repressed and free-love versions. The book was important to at least one teen struggling with sexual identity.

Sex is mostly discussed rather than experienced in the story, but there is one sexual encounter – gently done. Asimov published the book in 1983, so I guess he was rather late to the topic as compared to other Giants of Science Fiction.

The story is a who-dun-it puzzle based on Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics. He wrote several stories where a robot is trapped in some bizarre behavior when the laws conflict. Here, a robot’s positronic mind has been destroyed, which leads to a political crisis between two roboticists on the planet Aurora, which further leads to detective Baley being called to solve the case.

Asimov tries to lift the story from merely a puzzle to something important to humanity by saying Aurora-humans must have humanoid robots to colonize new worlds before occupying them. And that Aurorans can somehow forbid Earth-humans from exploring new worlds. This isn’t convincing to me, but doesn’t really matter to the story.

The book is pure Asimov. While events do occur, the story is told in lengthy conversations among the characters. I read the book in many short sittings, but read every word and got through without trouble. I call the style Socratic. Characters question each other back and forth in static encounters. This can drag, and one character even complains to Baley, “I know you must have everything repeated and repeated.”

The robots are barely described. Asimov sometimes goes into great detail on settings, even basic settings like a dining room, so this seems odd. Maybe it’s because Robots of Dawn is the third book in the series and he thinks I already know.

All robots seem to be humanoid, and two are called humaniform. (Here’s a detail: a male-shaped humaniform robot is fully functional. As Star Trek’s Mr Data is fully functional. I told you this story involves sex. And in case you think Asimov’s story is fantasy, think again – sexbot-induced social change is on the horizon.) Asimov’s character also spends a lot of time in bathrooms and thinking about bathroom behavior. Aurorans have holographically enhanced bathrooms. Nothing gross, though.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say
Baley uncovers enough to settle the political issues, and he solves the robotics puzzle too in a neat twist that turns the book into a prequel to his famous Foundation series from the 1940s.

I read an old paperback edition from my town’s public library. The introduction promised that not a single word had been omitted from the original 1983 hardcover book.

I’ve included links to an ebook edition in this post. In reviews on some of Asimov’s other works that were transmogrified into ebooks, I’ve seen comments warning they’d been badly edited. I can’t say if this book was re-edited, but reader beware. Maybe you can find an old paper edition.

What others are saying on Amazon
“By the time this third installment was written, some of the tech was already looking and feeling a little obsolete–but Asimov is regarded as a master for good reason.”

“The book kept me guessing about the solution to the mystery. The only problem I had is that the book felt a tad contrived with the social situation.”

“This book has very little action. Almost every little detail is intellectualize then analyzed to the nth degree . It makes reading rather sluggish.”

I agree with these comments from Amazon readers, but I also found it easy to finish as laong as I took my time. Robots of Dawn was easier to read than Asimov’s earlier Foundation, and most readers enjoyed Robots and the entire robot series.

Scifi by Asimov and a Transgendered Search for Identify – Wait a Minute – Isaac Asimov? #scifi #sciencefiction #bookreview #genderequality

cover Robots of DawnIsaac Asimov, a giant of early 20th Century science fiction, is often criticized for awkward writing with flat characters. Could his book The Robots of Dawn, and in particular a sex scene in the story (Asimov? sex?) have helped a trans preteen find his way?

This is a great article and you should read it in its entirety. What riveted the author about Asimov’s character was:

Bailey’s desires and fantasies effortlessly become reality: Without his asking for it, sex came to him exactly as he imagined it because he was a smart masculine detective guy. I wanted that pleasure and ease and wordless understanding between the object of my desire and myself…
The phrase I now have for it is gender dysphoria—I shunned any experience that sought to tie me to my female body, and in turn escaped that body by mapping my sexual fantasies onto those of cisgender, heterosexual men, in scifi, in pornography, and beyond.

Asimov’s story focuses on a case of roboticide. There are, of course, robots with positronic brainpaths (Mr. Data, here’s your creator.) But he set his story on a planet where sex is casual and monogamy nonexistent. Well, Asimov is also known for writing for adolescent boys. And his story opened up new possibilities for at least one youngster.

I’ve never read the book and headed to Amazon to find over 200 reviews and a 4.5 star rating. Readers love the robot mystery, and also note some elements that didn’t age well over the decades.

  • Fascinating take on culture clashes and assumptions made–even while it remains blind to some of the assumptions of the time period in which it was written.
  • The sex scenes were written in an odd way, I thought, showing that the character (as well as the author perhaps?) was not comfortable
  • There doesn’t seem to be any ethnic diversity
  • This book dragged on and on. I bought it for my 14 year old and found it was really inappropriate.

Even the writer who found the book transformative as a preteen says, “When I re-read The Robots of Dawn now, passages that I absorbed uncritically at the time are transformed into stumbling blocks… a fantasy world that had no place for me or anyone like me.”

I’ve found some of Asimov’s other work to be dated. I have fond memories of some of his books and have avoided re-reading them exactly because I don’t want to spoil the memories.

I’m intrigued. The book resonated for a particular person at a particular point in his young life. What do you think? Should I read Robots of Dawn? Will you read it?