Robot Dreams

I've been working through some of my backlog of started-but-not-yet-finished books and finally finished Asimov's Robot Dreams collection.

I've read a fair amount of Asimov before --- robot stories, novels, the Foundation trilogy (which I greatly enjoyed), the Foundation sequels (Foundation and Earth accomplished the rare feat of retroactively damaging the trilogy; I prefer to pretend it does not exist) --- but this collection would stand as my recommendation for someone seeking a starting point for Asimov. At least if they don't want to dive into the world of Foundation. It has a smattering of robot stories, Multivac stories, and other things, many of them excellent.

Some highlights:

  • ‘The Martian Way’ is a fascinating medium-length piece (nearly a novella) on the political turmoil leading to the independence of the Martian space colony.
  • ‘Eyes Do More than See’ and ‘Does a Bee Care’ are slight, haunting pieces with grand themes. Brilliant examples of what can be done in 6 pages of well-chosen sentences.
  • ‘The Feeling of Power’ is strange and fun — what happens in a future where we have computers but forgot how they work, and basic mathematics are rediscovered?
  • ‘Jokester’ — where do jokes come from? What happens when we find out?
  • ‘Franchise’ is premised on the perfection of social psychology, but in a lighter-weight fashion than Foundation. If we can thoroughly understand people, do we need elections?