The/Robots and Empire Robots of Dawn Critical Essays

Isaac Asimov


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The short stories in Isaac Asimov’s collection I, Robot (1950), especially “Robbie” and “Runabout,” establish the three laws of robotics that Asimov worked out to avoid the expected negative response to robot characters. He employed these three laws in the rest of his robot stories and novels. Each of the stories in I, Robot involves a clever or witty use of the three laws, reflecting Asimov’s interest in detective stories and anticipating the robot novels. The story “Liar!” foreshadows the character Giskard, a mind-reading robot.

The Robots of Dawn and Robots and Empire connect the two famous canons of Asimov’s science fiction: the robot stories and the Foundation stories. In these two novels, Asimov continues the stories involving Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw developed in The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. Robot characteristics and the story lines from the short stories appear in the novels. The mind-reading robot of “Liar!” becomes Giskard in the two novels.

Giskard creates the opportunity for Earthpeople to colonize other planets after he studies Baley’s performance in the investigation on Aurora. Baley displays great ingenuity in following the scant clues to accurate conclusions and takes considerable risks in exploring the evidence, especially when he has limited time, as in The Robots of Dawn. Baley’s work impresses Giskard and clinches his decision to ensure Earth’s chance to colonize.

Giskard believes that humanity must colonize the universe and form a galactic empire and that Earthpeople’s short lives (a mere possible one hundred years, compared to the Spacers’ four hundred) encourage greater variety in the gene pool, thereby retaining the vitality that will be needed to populate the numerous available worlds. He believes that Earthpeople will be better colonists than the Spacers, in part because the relative shortness of their lives encourages Earthpeople to cooperate with one...

(The entire section is 829 words.)