Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov
I’ve never really been able to get along with Asimov, and I’m not sure why. As these stories show, he has some great ideas, and can present otherwise common themes in new and interesting ways that get a reader thinking, but there’s just something about his writing that doesn’t quite click for me.
It’s certainly not his writing style. On that score he’s not too different to Heinlein or Clarke, two of his contemporaries who I absolutely love. When it comes to getting the point across, Asimov is as up to the task as pretty much any other writer who came before or after him. And his exploration of both the possible and the potential are equally exemplary, so that’s not the problem, either. Honestly, I think it’s his characters, or more specifically, his humans. They just seem so … lifeless.
And I think that might be the biggest problem with this collection. There are several stories in here that rely on the characters to pull them along (The Ugly Little Boy and Lest We Remember in particular), but there was nothing in those characters to connect with. At least, that’s how it felt.
The thing is, his robot stories (of which there are only a small handful in this collection) are superb. If there’s any of Asimov’s works I’ve genuinely enjoyed in the past it was his Elijah Baley/R. Daneel Olivaw books, and the robot series as a whole. The robots are, in my opinion, Asimov’s strongest characters bar none.
So maybe that’s why I feel this collection only deserves three stars. Maybe there should be more robots.