A review of I, Robot, by Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow’s take on I, Robot is not uninteresting: the world he presents is disturbingly on the edge between the ‘dystopian’ and the contemporary. And retro cold-war politics merge with modern-day concerns about the state control over the development of technology.

However, if I was going to rewrite any of my favourite sci-fi classics, one of the things I would leave behind is the poor characterization (and its sexist stereotypres). We have characters that are nothing more than archetypes lifted from Lethal Weapon. When the cop-hero cries, I don’t need half a paragraph dragging on about how yes, he cried, but he very rarely does this, actually it hasn’t happened since… His entire world just crumbled, he almost died, who knows about his loved ones, he cries. Not that surprising.

His 12 year old daughter is not even sexually active or anything, yet the fact that she is a daughter and not a son is emphasized virtually with every single of her appearances. We learn that she has great tech abilities and independence, but when she’s in the story she is just a helpless wee girl who needs her daddy for everything. And so on and so forth. It starts with a disturbing depiction of father-daughter bonding: well, the scene is good as an introduction, but how does the sentence “I will beat you purple and shove you out the door jaybird naked” fit into what is otherwise a realistic, tough on the outside, but tender in reality family moment?

The narrative is catchy enough, the universe describes and the political issues it raises are definitely interesting, but the bland characters are a big let-down.


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