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WesternSFA
Isaac Asimov's I, Robot: to obey
by Mickey Zucker Reichert
ROC SF, $7.99 mass market pb, 386 pp
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
I was, obviously, attracted to the title even though I knew it wouldn’t really be Asimovian.  And it wasn’t.  It was okay but disappointing in that I could have been reading something else.

Susan Calvin is in her residency as a psychologist.  Her first assignment is in the part of the psych ward where the terminally ill and hopeless mental patients are housed.  The attending physician is lazy and selfish; two traits for which Susan has absolutely no patience; which means, of course, they are bound to clash.  Susan, as most young doctors, is determined to find those patients that all other doctors have given up on, and find the obscure cure to save them.  But Susan is a brilliant diagnostician (think House on TV) and she actually does find cures for patients who were categorized as hopeless. This does not endear her to the attending physician; not the least of which is because of her superior attitude.  She also has no clue that she has such an attitude and is at a loss to understand why people aren’t more enthused about her observations and diagnoses.  Her best friend and confidante is a robot that works at the hospital; she is also very close to her father, who works secretly for U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc.  And she has a growing friendship with another doctor, Kendall. But normal human relations seem to escape her; she’s much more comfortable with robots.

There are medical conflicts as Susan tries to find cures and then runs into obstacles from the attending physician.  And there are background issues with the public’s opinion of robots and their unreasoning fear of them.  But the main conflict in the story is the murder of Susan’s father.  Apparently, he was murdered because someone thought he had a secret code that would inactivate the Three Laws of Robotics.  And if you don’t know them, they are: 

1.  A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.     

2.  A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.   

3.  A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.        

And the question is:  Who had reason to kill him?  Was it the Humans First movement, in an effort to discredit the project?  Or was it the military in an attempt to find a way to weaponize robots?  And since they now believe Susan to be in control of the code, is her life in danger?

The best thing I can say about this book is that it is boring.  Most of the book is exposition; the story can’t make up its mind about what direction to go.  The characters are one-dimensional and have no idea where they want to go.  The only robot in the book has a very small part and ends up in the final climax but don’t expect too much.  Don’t waste your time expecting anything related to Asimov’s robots.  ~ Catherine Book

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