Friday, January 3, 2020

Review of "The Runaway Robot," by Lester Del Rey

Review of

The Runaway Robot, by Lester Del Rey

Four out of five stars

 This book was published in 1965, so it is necessary to forgive most of the descriptions of the surface conditions and the presence of life on the other planets of the solar system. In this book, there is even life on Mercury and Pluto. Paul is a sixteen-year-old boy that lives on the moon Ganymede. The story is narrated by Rex, his personal robot. On Ganymede as is the case on the other planets, much of the tedious and dangerous manual labor is performed by robots. Rex has been a companion to Paul since he was three.

 When Paul’s father is recalled to Earth, Rex cannot go with them, so he is sold to a farmer on Ganymede. Paul objects, but it has no affect on the situation. Robots are designed to be subservient and follow human orders, while they are not explicitly stated, the rules generally follow Asimov’s three laws of robotics.

 Before his transport takes off, Paul jumps ship and Rex and Paul go into hiding. Whenever a robot significantly deviates from what the human expectations of their programming is, it is declared a “mad robot” and can be vaporized on sight. Furthermore, even though Paul is willingly with Rex, there is the belief that any human that sides with a robot in those circumstances has been hypnotized, so their statements are not taken seriously.

 Paul and Rex then must find a way to safely travel from Ganymede to Earth and most of the story is about their machinations. There is a happy ending, even though there are many close calls and Rex is transformed into what would have been considered a mad robot to one that is considered extraordinary. Although the science is dated, the fundamentals of the interaction between a human and a robot are likely prescient.

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