Two books on robots and time travel…perennial favorites.
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So robots and time travel:
While blogging about time travel recently, several readers commented that The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein was one of their favorite time travel novels. I hadn’t read it.
So I did.
And really enjoyed it. I recommend it strongly to time travel enthusiasts.
Dan Davis, a brilliant electronics engineer, creates the invention of a lifetime…a robot that does almost anything called Hired Girl. His best friend, Miles, becomes a partner and they hire a curvaceous Belle Darkin to handle the administrative side of the fledgling company. Dan immediately falls in love with her.
The salesman inside Miles wants to get the product out the door and make money right away while the engineering mind of Dan wants to make sure it will work. His fertile imagination already has two more robots on the drawing board: Windows Willie and Protean Pete, named after his sidekick cat, Pete.
Pete accompanies Dan everywhere. Well, almost everywhere.
And when Miles and Belle collude to take over the growing company, Dan nosedives into depression at their betrayal, and signs up with Mutual Insurance to take “the Big Sleep.” Then he changes his mind, but keeps the contract on him. Half drunk, Dan goes to confront Miles and Belle about their deception. After a scuffle and threats, Dan is knocked unconscious where the two discover his ticket and bundled him off into the cryo crib to get rid of him, sending him thirty years into the future.
Heinlein deftly uses cryogenics to get Dan into the future where he discovers a time machine that will transport him back into his past to right the wrongs done to him.
Time travel like this can be tricky, but Heinlein weaves a delicious story of revenge that satisfies at all levels.
The character of Dan is especially well drawn as he continually has new ideas popping into his inventive mind on how to make life easier for the average housewife, even years in the future. And the machinations of time travel and how to use it are a fun read. The exploits of Miles and Belle are also interesting as you read how Dan tries to thwart them.
Dan’s robots assist the ordinary person, making his or her life easier. They have no independent intelligence. However, in Fruit of the Gods by Gary Naiman, robots have evolved in intelligence and form the army that supports twelve global corporations called the Consortium.
This science fiction dystopia peeks into a future where nuclear war, political terrorists and a devastating earthquake plunge the world into chaos, poverty and starvation. Humans roam about unemployed, and economies have collapsed. Only the mining of algae off the seabed and conversion to a food called “manna” prevents worldwide starvation.
The Consortium is the ruling body that dispenses the manna and tries to run the world efficiently through robots. With all this unrest, underground rebels led by top scientists plan to bring down the Consortium.
To avert a takeover and bring down the insurgents, the current leaders bring in their top spy. Enter 0021, or Lucinda, and her robot companion, Gog, who are sent to ferret out rebel activities, but instead uncover the truth of what is really happening.
While Naiman’s Amazon reviews are glowing, it took me a little while to warm up to the story. It was well written, I just struggled to follow hints and clues as to what was happening.
Still, it moved along well and is an interesting story along the lines of IRobot by Asimov. If you like robots, dystopia stories and spy games, then you will like this.