Robotic Ruminations
Sci-fi books about robots, androids and cyborgs


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R.U.R.
by Karel Čapek (1920)


Prolific Czech writer Čapek introduced the word 'robot' into the English language with this devilishly funny play about subjugated working-class androids. The title stands for Rossum's Universal Robots and, not surprisingly, the play is rife with political overtones. The newer translations in print are generally the best. Currently available in a volume with The Insect Play.





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The Humanoids
by Jack Williamson (1949)


Williamson churned out genre-spanning SF for over 60 years - with The Humanoids generally regarded as his best novel. Sleek black androids designed to serve and protect humanity take things a little too far. Physical danger and emotional lows are eliminated through tyrannical means. Rebels on a distant world fight back.





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I, Robot
by Isaac Asimov (1950)


Collection of must-read early Robot stories sees 'The Three Laws of Robotics' fall far short of being foolproof - with humanity copping some bumps and bruises as a result. Robots go mad, get superiority complexes, enter politics, read our minds, and even develop a sense of humour. As always, Asimov's science is virtually flawless.





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City
by Clifford D Simak (1952)


Simak knitted his City stories into this wonderfully cohesive tale of a dedicated and uncomplaining robot who dutifully serves generations of Earthly masters. When humans abandon the planet he ends up helping a race of intelligent dogs bring compassion to parallel worlds. Typically, pastoral values are prominent throughout this fine book.





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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
by Philip K Dick (1968)


Filmed as Blade Runner, this PKD classic has lost none of its appeal over the years. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard tracks down renegade 'replicants' - almost-faultlessly lifelike androids created to fill the void left by the devastating World War. As usual, Dick keeps us guessing - and the hunter becomes the hunted. Must read novel.





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The Cyberiad
by Stanislaw Lem (1967; English translation 1974)


Short story collection subtitled Fables for the Cybernetic Age centres on 'cosmic constructors' Trurl and Klapaucius - robots who try and out-invent each other in a machine-dominated future. Polish readers swear that most of the really side-splitting humour just can't be translated into English. Don't be put off - this is absolutely great stuff.





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Schismatrix
by Bruce Sterling (1985)


Set in Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist future, Schismatrix is the story of spacefaring 'post-human' cultures. The tension between the genetically enhanced Shapers and prosthetic Mechanists underpins what many think is Sterling's best novel. A recent omnibus edition includes the five Shaper/Mechanist stories published from 1982-84.





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Diaspora
by Greg Egan (1997)


Another sterling effort from topnotch Australian hard sci-fi writer Greg Egan. Set in the 30th century, Diaspora depicts a human future dominated by beings who are either downloaded into robot bodies or exist in an idyllic virtual reality. A cosmic calamity threatens all, including the 'fleshers' who still exist in human forms. Writer worth checking out.


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