Saturday, December 31, 2011

Robots and Empire (SF Book)

An Impending Crisis. Descendants. Revenge. The Zeroth Law. An Abandoned World. The Fate of the Earth. Galactic Expansion. 

Isaac Asimov’s Robots and Empire is a sequel to The Robots of Dawn. It unites the Robot and the Foundations Series. We discover what ultimately happened to Elijah Baley and how Han Fastolfe’s victory affected the people of Earth and the Spacers. We learn about the origins of the Empire and the fate of the Earth. We continue to see the faint beginnings of psychohistory. Most of the storyline takes place two centuries after the events of The Robots of Dawn.

Briefly, the robots are the main characters of the story. After Fastolfe’s death, Gladia is bequeathed Daneel and Giskard. Daneel, a humaniform robot, continues to evolve, having learned many things from his former partner Elijah Baley. At one point Daneel refers to having programmed himself with the Zeroth Law. Giskard, a telepathic robot, can read the emotions of humans and can subtly nudge feelings according to what he interprets as being beneficial. Giskard senses an impending crisis. Using their skills, the two robots must determine what the crisis is and take whatever steps they believe will lead to the highest outcome.

The story includes a number of interesting supporting characters. Gladia grows into a woman who wants to bring peace to the Galaxy. —In The Naked Sun, she almost never saw a person. Now we see her speaking before thousands of people— D. G. Baley is a Settler Trader and a descendant of Elijah Baley. He talks Gladia into helping him visit Solaria, which has been abandoned, in hopes of selling robots to the other Spacer worlds. Mandamus, a descendant of Gladia, unites with Amadiro to orchestrate the destruction of Earth.

Reading Robots and Empire was especially rewarding for me. When I was reading the Foundation Series, I was disturbed by the sudden appearance of robots. After reading the Robot series —beginning with I. Robot—the storyline makes much more sense. To anyone who has not read the full Foundation Series yet, I highly recommend reading the Robot and the Foundation Series as one combined series according to the publication dates of the novels. Robots and Empire is also fun because of the way Daneel and Giskard work together to solve the mystery of the impending crisis. They both have such wonderful personalities and thought processes.

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