'Two months after I read it, I began "Robbie", about a sympathetic robot, & that was the start of my positronic robot series. Eleven years later, when nine of my robot stories were collected into a book, the publisher named the collection I, Robot over my objections. My book is now the more famous, but Otto's story was there first.'
- Issac Asimov, when introducing it in "Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories".
I read Asimov's robot stories years ago & have forgotten many of them. But I don't recall one robot story, by anyone, that surpasses this Binder story in entertainment value. OK - I'll make an exception for Kuttner/Moore's "The Proud Robot", but there aren't many better ones. Asimov's "Bicentennial Man" is simply a longer version, & if "Robbie" is the story of the girl with pet robot - well, that's just an elaboration of an episode in this story.
This may be the first story about a robot indistinguishable from humans in behavior, but not in appearance, that draws hostile human reaction. And authors clarify the plot's genesis: "it is the most stupid premise ever made: that a created man must turn against his creator, against humanity, lacking a soul. The book is all wrong." Book referred to is Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein".
Story summary.Adam Link is the robot, & the narrator. Telling us of his coming to awareness, baby steps, & education with Dr Link, the man who created him.
Dr Link had come upon an unusual idea for a mechanical "brain" - "an intricate complex of iridium-sponge cells" - this probably will later become the "positronic brain" in Asimov's robots & get substantial development. Adam Link is the first hominid robot designed to be close to humans - in thought processes, at least.
The process of training this mechanical brain to control its metal body kept reminding me of C L Moore's "No Woman Born" (1944). In Moore's story, it's a salvaged brain of a human victim of fire who gets a metal body. Did this story inspire Moore too? I also have a feeling there is a similarity in robot training process with some of the Asimov stories - but cannot recollect specific examples.
Dr Link has been training Adam in secret before presenting him to world. Only before the D-day, Dr Link is killed in an accident. That's about 6 months after Adam had gained consciousness. Adam, with still developing world view, leaves him to look for a new master - not realizing he will be blamed for murder. Tagging him along is Terry, Dr Link's dog that has become fond of Adam.
Adam will draw hostile reactions everywhere. In one incident, he rescues a girl who is drowning in water, & not realizing his own strength end up harming her hand he caught to pull her out. He will get blamed as a monster killing little girls!
Rest is his chase by gun wielding mobs. Terry gets killed in mob attack. Adam eventually writes a suicide note, about to switch himself off. I would have assumed he would die, but this story is apparently first of a series featuring Adam Link - so may be second story contrived something that would save him.
- Frederik Pohl, on the origin of this story's title: "the title on an Eando Binder robot story — “I, Robot,” borrowed from the great Robert Graves novel, I, Claudius".
Fact sheet.First published: Amazing Stories, January 1939.
Note: Eando Binder is a joint pseudonym of the brothers Otto & Earl Binder.