Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I AM Robot

“God, Robot” is a peculiar but surprisingly good science fiction story inspired by Isaac Asimov's fictional universe. Eight different authors have collaborated on the storyline, including John C Wright, L Jagi Lamplighter and Anthony Marchetta. While each chapter looks free standing, they should be read in the correct sequence for context.

The story is a fictional chronicle of “theobots” or theological robots, created by human scientists and used as substitute priests and preachers by churches desperate to fill their pews and entertain the parishioners. The robot-ministers originally follow Asimov's three laws of robotics, but with two theological laws tacked on. Unsurprisingly, the theobots soon acquire self-consciousness with results comic, tragic and intriguing. Later, new robotic races (such as the evil Erewhons), cyborgs and enhanced humans are introduced. The narrator, an interplanetary detective chasing a mad scientist, turns out to be a kind of fish-man with imposing gills!

The first half of “God, Robot” is pretty entertaining, at least if you recognize the Asimovite references and has a working knowledge of theology. Sometimes it borders the frivolous, as when the robots call a “church council” to discuss whether their race has original sin! Some references to Heinlein and even Capek have been included, too. The second half is more somber in tone. C S Lewis rather than Asimov may be the influence here. It has an explicit Christian message, attacks moral relativism and atheism, and contains a crucifixion-like scene. One story contains graphic violence and sex, making the collection as a whole unsuitable for children or more tender minds. The “World State” mentioned in several chapters is a symbol for the welfare state, globalism or perhaps both at once. I admit it was pretty clever to name a “ring world” close to a “worm hole” Ouroboros. What the Erewhons may symbolize is beyond me, however, but then, I never read Deleuze and Guattari!

“God, Robot” is probably too narrow for the general audience, but if you are a fan of Isaac Asimov and/or love skeptic-Christian brawls in cyberspace, you may find it to your liking. This just might become an underground classic. Four stars.

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