The stories of I, Robot are set inside a frame-tale, so that while each story is independent, they can be seen as a series of reminiscences of Dr. Calvin's life. Most of the robot tales are exercises in problem solving. The rationality and integrity of the investigators makes them more like the robots than like the humans motivated by selfishness and fear. In both technique and content, Asimov celebrates the use of reason, a persistent theme of the science fiction associated with John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction magazine.
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The story of artificial men reaches back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and Karel Capek's R.U.R., which first used the word "robot." By the 1940s, the robot in science fiction was usually treated as a monster who would turn on his creator and destroy him and try to take over the world. Asimov's own robot stories are a reaction against this attitude. Asimov's belief in the value of science impelled him to depict robots sympathetically, as rationally serving human needs. Asimov was not the first to do this, however. Ear and Otto Binder, writing as Eando Binder, had written a sympathetic robot story in 1939 also titled "I, Robot." But Asimov's robot stories were far more influential in creating a new and more benevolent portrayal of robots.
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The Complete Robot is a collection of all of Asimov's robot stories published in book form up to that time. The Caves of Steel (1954), The Naked Sun (1956), and The Robots of Dawn (1984) are three novels dealing with positronic robots. The human policeman Lije Baley and his robot partner R. Daniel Olivaw solve murders dealing with robots and robot-using societies, in a fashion similar to the scientific investigation of I, Robot. Asimov's recent fiction ties to
J, Robot his Foundation and robot stories together, so that Foundation's Edge (1982) and Robots and Empire (1985) relate the two series. Although robots make no direct appearance in Foundation's Edge, they are discussed extensively and Asimov questions his earlier position that the robots will always act for human benefit. He now suggests that the robots will become tyrants out of benevolent motives.
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Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Goble, Neil. Asimov Analyzed. Baltimore: Mirage, 1972.
Gunn, James. Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2005.
Hassler, Donald M. Reader’s Guide to Isaac Asimov. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont, 1991.
Moskowitz, Sam. “Isaac Asimov.” In Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction. Cleveland: World, 1966.
Olander, Joseph D., and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Isaac Asimov. New York: Taplinger, 1977.
Patrouch, Joseph F. The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974.
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