Tag Archives: Asimov

The rest of the robots

Asimov; robots;book;

Original title: The rest of the robots.

Title of this edition: The rest of the robots.

Author: Isaac Asimov.

Gender: Science fiction.

Saga: Asimov Robots.

Editorial: panther 

Edition year: 1, 1969.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: As the own Asimov states, the book is made with stories that didn’t fit anywhere. They are robot stories, sometimes involving Susan Calvin, all happening before the Foundation, but not following the same plot.

Robot AL-76 Goes Astray: A robot designed to work on the moon gets lost on earth and as a result of its program, builds a machine to harvest resources. His design is much more efficient and the humans around him are scared because robots are prohibited on earth. In the end his machine is destroyed and there is no way of reproducing it.

Victory Unintentional: There is an alien civilization living on Jupiter. Due to the high pressures on the planet, they never get out of the surface and no human has ever been there. An expedition of robots is sent for the first contact. Jupiter’s population, initially hostile, comes to peaceful terms with earth because they mistook the robots, and their capabilities, with average human beings.

First Law: Very short story of a robot escaping and letting one man to die. It seems the robot had a child and was protecting it.

Let’s Get Together: Americans versus Russians. The Russians let know the Americans they have a group of humanoid robots that will meet inside united states and when that happens… explode.

Satisfaction Guaranteed: The new robot version has to be tested with humans… the chosen one is the wife of one of the engineers… At the beginning she was not sure about it, but after a while she falls in love with the robot. In fact, she is so much in love with him that the robot has to abandon her in order to protect her.

Risk: A spaceship that uses teleportation has to be tested…. with a robot. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, and a human has to be sent in order to study why. The reason… the commands given to the robot induce him to overturn the controls and destroy them.

Lenny: Dr Susan Calvin finds a robot with some oddities in the neural networks that allows him to learn as a human. She trains him to speak. He is also able to develop feelings.

Galley Slave: A robot is developed to perform article reviews. While it represents an advantage for the community, one evil professor tries to accuse him of deliberately changing his manuscript. However, it’s own lack of knowledge about robots betrays him and he is finally accused in court.

Personal Review: This is a very nice collection of stories with the pure Asimov essence. Because they are very brief, sometimes is difficult to judge if they are good or bad (in general good). The one I liked the most is “Victory Unintentional”, because it goes beyond the usual stories of robots including aliens. More interesting, it gowns around the question about humans/robots. Asimov imagined Jupiter as the scenario for his novel, but imagine something much more further away. In the other side of the galaxy for instance. Imagine that we send a spacecraft in a 1000 years voyage with robots in it. They will be our expeditioners, our ambassadors… and most likely, by the time they arrive, they will be like ourselves. Interesting.

The second story that i liked most is Satisfaction Warranted, because it describes perfectly how our society will be like with robots. Personal assistants, friends, people who care about us and help us having a better life. They are not a menace or a big technical leap but new friends and companions.

The other stories are good to build a background around the robots universe, but for me they are not as good as the ones I like. For instance, Risk is a good story, but they use a human to inspect the spaceship because a robot is too valuable to loose it. Why not a radio controlled robot? Some kind of drone, not as complex as a real robot but good enough to go into the spaceship? The problem here is that this is a story about all or nothing.

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The caves of steel – Isaac Asimov –

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Original title: The caves of steel.

Title of this edition: Bovedas de acero.

Author: Isaac Asimov.

Gender: Science Ficction.

Saga:

Editorial: Ediciones Martínez Roca S.A.

Edition year: 1, 1981.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: The earth and the space colonies. Earth is against robots, colonies use and embrace robots. There is a murder of a citizen from the colonies in the space port at earth. Detective Elija is assigned to solve the case with the help of robot Daneel Olivaw. Through a series of incidents that manifest the aversion of earth people against robots… Elija discovers that the killer is his own superior. The murder was a mistake, his superior pretended to murder a robot to stop the trading with colonies and the implantation of robots in earth’s economy. In the end, colonies decide to leave trading with earth because they saw that earth people need time to accept the idea of colonize new worlds.

Personal Review: For those who don’t know them, I’m going to put here the 3 laws of the robotics as written by Asimov.

1 A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2 A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3 A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

It is mandatory to know them, because all Asimov’s tales about robots obey them, and because of that, they are extremely fun. It is not necessary for this book, but I need to mention that after many years, and when the bigger part of his work was done, Asimov decided to explore another extra law, the zero law.

0 A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

After this… I must admit it, the story is not strong… I mean, only a few characters, one of them has to be the killer, and the introduction of the robot is accessory, not necessary. It is a mix between robots, detective stories and social problems, but it fails in all sides.

In terms of robots, it doesn’t use any of the robot abilities, it just takes advantage of the fact that robots can be commanded by humans. The killer uses this to smuggle a weapon into space port, but without a robot the weapon can be carried in a different way and the story still stands.

In terms of detectives, Elija prepares an accusation at the middle of the story that fails to discover the true killer. This takes most of the narrative, and instead of creating a story that unveils step by step the plot, it is randomly discovered at the end.

Finally, some reviewers say that this is a great essay into sociology, but for me it fails because it creates an “average” human and assumes everybody is like it. Humanity is variety, it is characterise by individuals able to climb mountains and jump from planes and at the same time, people afraid of getting out of home. Creating and average human and making a problem out of it is creating a problem by oversimplification. It would be better to say that in a overpopulated world different urban tribes appear, and some of them represent fanatics. It would be easy to create a plot where this fanatics have a big role, and you don’t need to oversimplify.

In conclusion, the story is bad, but Asimov is good, and the way he writes makes you enjoy the story. I definitely enjoy it, but I also must admit that in terms of plot it is bad.

One last thing. Despite this book is not part of any saga, it fits into the robot stories and into the Foundation cycle, which is something that must be recognized as a great achievement.

Science Fiction 9: Isaac Asimov – The machine that won the war

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Original title: Nightfall and Other Stories.

Title of this edition: Science Fiction 9 Isaac Asimov – La máquina que ganó la guerra.

Author: Isaac Asimov.

Gender: Science Fiction.

Saga: —

Editorial: Luis de Caralt Editor S.A.

Edition year: 1, 1977.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: Writing this review I found the English version of this book is called Nightfall and Other Stories, and includes many more stories than the Spanish version. I’m sad now, but anyway, I going to speak about the stories included in this book. They are:

The Machine that won the War. Asimov supercomputer, Multivac, is in charge to make the decision to win the war… unfortunately it’s outputs are so strange that they need a human mind and human decisions to be interpreted. What was not known is that it’s inputs where also changed by a human mind to make sense. So in the end… did Multivac win the war or just helped humans to be motivated and think decisions twice?

Green Patches. A new planet. A exploring mission. The first mission failed because it was contaminated by the alien life forms. It seems this forms are able to mimic almost anything and they form a big entity like Gaia. If this new mission is contaminated everyone has to be killed to not contaminate the earth… in the end, the alien kills itself because he mimic a piece of wire and when current tried to circulate the wire…

C-Chute. There is a war against an alien race that breaths chlorine gas… one transport ship is captured (this race doesn’t have very high technology, so they need to scavenge earth ships). The people aboard are quite different but they manage to team up (kind of) and kill the two aliens guarding the ship.

In a Good Cause. It’s basically 3 moments in the life of a man who was claiming not to do war… and unite the human worlds against the alien race. That race decided to diplomatically keep humans fighting while they take over the rest of the galaxy. In the end he was true and people needed to fight against that race… but it’s methods where not the best ones to deal with so many human worlds all fighting against each other.

Strikebreaker. In an isolated planetoid the population has developed an aversion against those who take care of waste disposal. So big is that aversion that they are not considered humans, and no contact with them is possible. The Strikebreaker is a guy in charge of stooping the strike from the waste disposal team… and become hated by the rest of the planetoid.

My Son, the Physicist. A physicist has the problem of how to communicate with Pluto, 6 hours away at the speed of light. No conversation is possible with that delay, and communicating things… almost impossible. But there is a trick from the physicist’s mother, just speak continuously and hear all the time. Your data transfer will be continuous and the reception as well.

Personal Review: In general, I liked them, but sometimes you know… Asimov likes very short stories.

The Machine that won the War. Obviously this one was written long ago, when computers where something like black boxes which outputs could be almost anything… Nowadays it is clear that the output will be something quite defined. But it’s a kind of fun imaging something as big and as expensive as Multivac (somewhere I rode it was 1 mile per 1 mile big) giving weird answers. I do agree with the idea of cleaning data before input it, and analysing the recommendations, but I don’t see how they can create a weird computer that gives weird answers.

Green Patches. To be honest, I don’t believe in the Gaia theory, for the simple reason that competition is the engine that pulls evolution, and for competition individuals are needed. But I think this one is good because it’s like a kind of standard in many stories: if the ship is contaminated, we have to kill ourselves to save the earth.

C-Chute. I like this one because there is one moment when normal humans do what heroes do, fight for their lives even when they are terribly scared. On the other side, it’s kind of innocent, nobody is left without supervision in a room with spacesuits…

In a Good Cause. I don’t like this one because it’s a kind of jump breaking the story. I never like that. The rest of the story is kind of good. It is obvious that if humans spread in to the galaxy, they will become independent worlds, and it is clear that troubles and fights between then are inevitable. The fact of leaving an alien race outnumber humans… I think is not so easy. We have exploit almost anything we get in touch. Aliens will be exploited too.

Strikebreaker. This is a mirror of some Indian cultures? I really don’t see how people can be excluded from civilization just for operating the waste disposal machines. It’s so silly… Anyway, I think humans can be quite irrational, and this might be true under the right circumstances…

My Son, the Physicist. You don’t send a spaceship to Pluto without thinking the problem of communication! That is silly. I think this was a fast story just to be proud of mothers. We don’t need that, I think everyone is proud of his or her mother.

Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus


Original title: Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus

Title of this edition: Lucky Starr – 6: Los Oceanos de Venus

Author: Isaac Asimov

Gender: Science Ficction.

Saga: Lucky Starr

Editorial: Editorial Bruguera S.A.

Edition year: 1ª 1977.

Prizes: …

Sinopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: Lucky Star is sent to Venus where a member of Council of Science was accused of being a traitor. Venus, more or less the same size of earth is covered by clouds, but has oceans where human life has set colonies. There is no oxigen on atmosfear, but on Venus there is some kind of algae rich in oxigen. Apart from algae there are several Veus native animals, all of them aquatic animals. One of this animals are the V-frogs. V-frogs are small frogs with undiscovered mental abilities. One of this abilities is the posibility of work all together to control human minds. And that’s what is happening, V-frogs are controlling human minds towards a complete control of Venus. At least that’s the plot until the end, where Lucky discovers that a engineer has the real control of V-frogs due to a special machine to control them.

Personal Review: Obiously the front of this edition is wrong, cause there is no oxigen on Venus according to book, and Venus cities lay under the water, not up in the sky. Very bad mistake not happening in most of english versions of the book.
Going into the book, we have to think in that Asimov write it on 1954 before we know too much about Venus. We now know that Venus is surrounded by clouds, but the temperature beneath the clouds is so high that the oceans, if they exist, will be of liquid lead!
Apart from that, the book as all Lucky Star series is funny and don’t have too much points to discuss about if they are possible or not.
Maybe the weakest point on Asimov novels is the posibility of human life to coexist with extraterrestial lifeforms without taking care of possible crossing of illness between species. But I understand that Asimov don´t talk about that point to make novels more interesting.
The point about mind control in this book is difficult to analise. There is no experimental evidence that suggest mind control of any kind being possible, but it still can be, so don´t care too much about it.
And now… this is a funny crossover, cause this V-frogs are now present in a new series. Yes, they are the Hypnotoads on Futurama series!


 Nice tribute to Asimov.

Hacia la Fundación


Título original: Forward the Foundation.

Título de esta edición: Hacia la Fundación.

Autor: Isaac Asimov.

Género: Ciencia ficción.

Saga: Fundación

Editorial: Plaza y Janés

Edición Año: 4ª 1997

Premios: …

Sinopsis [Aviso: Spoiler]: El libro cuenta la vida de Hari Seldon durante los años dedicados al desarrollo de la psicohistoria y la caida del imperio galactico. Pasa por varios momentos de la vida de Hari Seldon y cuenta aventuras relacionadas con cada uno hasta que al final del libro el proyecto de la fundación acaba triunfando.

Valoración personal: El objetivo de este libro es zanjar las preguntas sin respuesta que generaron las anteriores Fundaciones. La verdad es que eso lo consigue… pero aun así no me ha gustado. El libro salta entre un modo de relatar las cosas directo, cercano, de historias del día a día, a contar hechos que abarcan varios años e incluso decadas. Esto hace que no sea ni una novela de aventuras ni un relato especulativo que describe la historia a grandes rasgos.

Hay que decir que no todo queda cerrado, la relacfión entre la fundación y los robots sigue abierta en este libro. Aquí vuelven a jugar un papel importante los robots, pero de nuevo sigue sin quedar claro su origen y por qué fueron abandonados en el actual imperio.

Creo que el tema de la superpoblación está bien tratado. Trantor es una ciudad planeta cubierta por cúpulas y el único bosque está en la residencia del emperador.  Esto es algo que nos puede parecer tonto, pero según donde se viva puede ser un temor más que razonable. Hay zonas donde la vegetación ha desaparecido por completo para dar pie al cemento y al asfalto.

En resumen, creo que el libro es interesante porque zanja preguntas que surgen en las otras fundaciones pero que se hace demasiado largo por querer contar muchos años y varias historias que ocurren a lo largo de dichos años.

Lucky Starr Los piratas de los Asteroides


Título original: Lucky Starr and the pirates of the asteroids.

Título de esta edición: Lucky Starr Los piratas de los Asteroides.

Autor: Isaac Asimov.

Género: Ciencia ficción.

Saga: Lucky Starr

Editorial: Bruguera

Edición Año: 1ª 1980

Premios: …

Sinopsis [Aviso: Spoiler]: Hace 25 años la nave en la que viajan Lucky y sus padres fue atacada por los piratas del cinturón de Asteroides entre marte y Júpiter. Lucky se salvó mientras que sus padres murieron. Como el padre de Lucky era miembro del consejo de ciencia el ataque provocó que se llevase a cavo un exterminio sobre los piratas dejando libre el cinturón de asteroides. Ahora, 25 años después los piratas han vuelto. El plan de Lucky consiste en infiltrarse entre los piratas para lograr desmantelar su organización. Por desgracia Lucky es descubierto y los piratas lo aprovechan ellos para infiltrarse en el puesto avanzado que hay en el asteroide Ceres (el mayor asteroide conocido del cinturón). La gente de Ceres repele el ataque y Lucky consigue descubrir toda la trama de poder que hay detrás de los piratas. Estos se han aliado con gente de Sirio para mandar un ataque sobre el sistema solar. Para evitar el ataque Lucky debe perseguir a uno de los piratas hasta Júpiter que se encuentra en ese momento al otro lado del sol. Gracias a la superioridad de la nave de Lucky este consigue vencer y desmantelar los planes de Sirio. Además, en un giro de los acontecimientos Lucky captura al cabecilla de todos los piratas y localiza su base secreta.

Valoración personal: Este es mi tercer libro de Lucky Starr, y por orden dentro de la saga el segundo. Opino que es más flojo que el primero. No es mal libro, pero no da tiempo a disfrutar de las cosas. Por ejemplo Lucky encuentra un ermitaño viviendo en un asteroide y en vez de desarrollar un poco la historia y contarnos cómo es vivir en un asteroide el libro pasa rápidamente a que Lucky y el ermitaño tienen que irse del asteroide. Lo mismo ocurre con los piratas. Se habla de ellos durante casi todo el libro pero sin embargo son contadas las veces que aparecen. Incluso el ataque a Ceres parece algo de poca importancia. En mi opinión el libro habría ganado si quitásemos un par de viajes y añadiesen más historias. La parte de la batalla de pistolas impulsoras es buena, pero añade poca acción.
Además en este libro BigMan casi no interviene, lo que hace que parezca que todos son innecesarios salvo Lucky que intenta marcar su papel actuando en solitario y sin contarle a nadie nunca lo que sabe o planea.

He de decir que el tratamiento que da Asimov a los asteroides no es para nada innovador, es el que cabría esperar cuando se escribió el libro, no tiene nada de especulativo. Cabría esperar sondas que recorriesen los asteroides catalogándolos o balizas colocadas sobre ellos para trazar en tiempo real su posición. Incluso algún tipo de minería o recolección, sin embargo Asimov se limita a colocar un observatorio en Ceres.

El libro está bien para continuar la saga y añadir una historia más a las aventuras de Lucky (ya que más adelante se hacen muchas menciones a los piratas), pero debe tratarse como una aventura ligera para ampliar la saga más que como un libro icono.