A robot is accused of deliberately rewriting a book for which it was only ordered to correct the galley proofs, and Susan Calvin is called in to prevent US Robots from losing the case in court.

This is the best, bar none, of the Susan Calvin stories. Hands down the winner. No doubt about it. The only real competition in my estimation are "Evidence” and "Satisfaction Guaranteed,” and in the latter Calvin is only a minor character. I love courtroom dramas, and this is also one of Asimov’s best, with a “Perry Mason” ending which I adore.

To top this all off, we have an fascinating “villain,” poor pathetic Simon Ninheimer, who deliberately destroys his own career in a luddite blow against the roboticization of academia. (As a side note, it says a lot about the society of the 1950’s that Professor Ninheimer is described as having the potential to earn some $150,000 over the course of the remainder of his career. Since he clearly has more than a year or two left, that doesn’t say much for the earning power of a typical University professor.)

One might feel that Asimov should have a point or two knocked off for his failure to anticipate the full impact of computers on the composition of books. With computers that check spelling, and even do remedial grammar checking, with the ability to send an electronic MS directly to the publisher and have it typeset without human intervention—heck, with the ability to publish electronically in the first place—and with the existence of searchable databases and engines which simplify enormously the task of finding references—we are now experiencing enormous changes in both publishing and scientific research. And Asimov has confined his robot to proof-reading. Still, one forgives him—he was writing over half a century ago when computers will still lumbering giants, and he has written so entertaining a story that one would gladly forgive him much, much more.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...