Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

To Protect I, Robot: To Protect
by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Harper Voyager

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

I, Robot: To Protect is a doubly curious work being neither written by Isaac Asimov nor a collection of short stories, however, rest assured the work has been authorised by the Estate of Isaac Asimov so has that essential patina of respectability. I, Robot: To Protect is a novel by Mickey Zucker Reichert an author whom I have only read, and quite fittingly given who she is following, at the shorter length of the writing spectrum.

I, Robot: To Protect is an attempt to fill in the back story of Doctor Susan Calvin and her involvement in the beginnings of android robotics.

For those unfamiliar with the "I, Robot" sequence Isaac Asimov coined the concepts of the positronic brain and the three laws of robotics (both concepts adopted without restraint by Gene Roddenberry for his android character Data in the TV series "Star Trek: the next generation"). Isaac Asimov developed these two concepts in a series of short stories (starting with the title piece "I, Robot") and reinforced the concepts in almost all his subsequent works that dealt with robots.

With that background in mind I approached this novel with much interest. Would the book be a homage to Asimov’s style, i.e. a novel so highly episodic such that the joins between stories could be seen? Or would the book be this author’s own take on the storyline? Answer: the latter.

In I, Robot: To Protect Ms Reichert has delivered a fitting piece to start the story of Susan Calvin and the beginnings of self-aware robots. The tale told in the book concerns the central character’s early life as a psychiatry resident at a teaching hospital in New York City, her experiences in the residency ward and her exposure to nano-mechanical experiments in treating persistent psychiatric conditions. For Susan this first month of residency has the full gamut of personal highs and lows, insights and blindspots.

Against expectation, as I am not a fan of back story for its own sake, I enjoyed this book and found it a satisfying read. However, the story provided little insight into how Susan Calvin became so central to the development self-aware, android robots and their acceptance in society. To which observation I am lead to conclude there will very probably be more "I, Robot" novels authorised by the Estate of Isaac Asimov and penned by Mickey Zucker Reichert. Watch that space way the way over there.

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