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Parasha: I Robot: November 16th reading

Man, I feel like me and this book must have gotten off on the wrong foot this time around. Now it's like I'm going into each story looking for things to pick at. And finding them, of course.

I tried to get past that and just take the story on its merits, but really, the characters and situation just annoyed me too much. XD I mean, the three guys aren't exactly shining examples of humanity, but aren't too bad character-wise (especially with a slightly larger cast where it's more okay if they're not as fleshed out), but Calvin, who is all intelligent, capable woman, has one hint of love, and descends into near-insane harpydom? Blah.

Calvin just came across too much as a vengeful, unbalanced shrew for me at the end. I will admit that the ending surprised me a bit - I was looking for the "catch" as to why it wasn't actually a mind-reading robot, but that turned out not to be the case. And yet we don't have any idea as to why or how it's supposed to have happened, even in a handwavy "it's a property of the unobtanium waves" or anything. (I'm totally stealing that word btw, prince_corwin).

And since I was focusing on the wrong thing (whether or not the robot was psychic in the first place), I of course was bothered by the lack of scientific method here. I mean, I'm not exactly a scientist myself, but I'd kinda think that for a bunch of them, the first step would be, I dunno, some actual TESTING to make sure that the robot is in fact capable of reading minds, and maybe getting more of a grip on his actual abilities? Rather than just jumping feet-first into trying to figure out what went "wrong" in his assembly.

And I could continue to be mean and nitpicky and call the whole climax cliched (the whole "confront a logical machine with some illogical conundrum that it cannot overcome, hilarity ensues" thing), but I imagine this is, if not the first story, ONE of the first anyhow that used it, so.

Reminder of the book schedule.


( 8 Notes — Write a Footnote )
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
I think I liked this one, although they're kinda blending together in my head at this point. But not having Powell and Donovan was a definite improvement. I agree with you that Susan Calvin's reaction seemed way out of proportion for what happened, that kind of threw me off. I assumed that the scientific testing for psychic abilities had just been skipped over in the narrative.
Nov. 16th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
Hrm, I guess skippage is possible. It just seemed to be implying though that they went straight from "oh hey, I was walking with this robot and he READ my MIND dudes!" to "okay, let's totally mobilize everyone to figure out why/how he can read minds!" With no "wait, what? Are you sure?" in between. :/
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Nov. 16th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I guess the mind-reading thing is a case of "damned if they do, damned if they don't," since chances are whatever handwavey explanation they tried to give would just sound silly, but the lack of it still jars for me a bit. I mean, they've got a *mind reading robot*, and it's just... left there dangling!

And yeah, I do like it when the stories play around with the laws, even if the laws themselves seem kinda... silly at times. For lack of a better term. Or at least a better term while I'm hungry and going to go nom something.
Nov. 17th, 2009 05:34 am (UTC)
I really do wonder what readers thought of Susan Calvin back when these stories were first published. Our perception is irreversibly colored by the fact that her role as a senior researcher in a major technology company is fairly unremarkable in the modern era, and that being single at 38 is ALSO fairly unremarkable.

I think you're right about this. I can see Susan Calvin as my grandmother -- a physicist who worked for the Navy during WW2 and then taught at the university afterward -- and that changes my frame of reference a lot. My grandparents didn't have kids until their 30's (gasp!). From what I remember my mom saying, that was pretty unusual by itself, and not being married at all would be much more so.

(That being said, I would like to think my grandmother wouldn't intentionally drive a robot insane out of spite.)

My mom and I had some good conversations about _Stranger in a Strange Land_ a few years ago. She was shocked at how poorly it'd aged. It was an important book back when it came out, but it just doesn't work the same today.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
I also meant to mention that this is one of the instances where the framing story doesn't work as well with the short story, since it seems a bit odd that Calvin would know of the kinda put-downy comments that Ashe made when she started wearing makeup and such, and pass them along. Possible I suppose, if word of mouth got back around to her, or she could just be embellishing the story, but it just feels awkward.
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Nov. 16th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
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Nov. 18th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
This answers most of what I considered "off" in this story, actually. Everything felt a bit too intense. Now I can substitute "intense" for "dense," and it makes sense that he went that way.

"The other guy," (isn't it funny I cannot remember his name either, even though I read "Little Lost Robot" just this morning and he is in that too, and all I can remember of his name is "B") is in, well, "Little Lost Robot" too, and he is totally condescending and off the whole time through. I think that's consistent characterization between stories, within all of the two and 1/4 dimensions the characters have here.
Nov. 18th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
*facepalm* after seeing "the other guy" again, my thought was "well duh, that's silly! His name was... um... uh... o_O"
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