Robots and Androids have been the subject of stories for ages. While the term “robot” comes from Karel Capek’s Czech play R.U.R. in 1920, the Marius Petipa-Leo Deloibes ballet Coppelia featured a life-sized dancing doll in 1870, and can be found in the Finnish myth Kalevala of a woman forged from gold as well as the Talus, an iron man who mechanically helped dispense justice in the epic poem The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1590). Homer, Plato and others wrote of bronze and clay statues coming to life in works such as The Iliad and Pandora. In the 16th century, the Talmud included legends of Golem, an animated man of clay.
Transformers, Iron Man, and even the upcoming Pacific Rim by Guillermo Del Toro are all big movies featuring robots.
While you’re waiting for the premiere of Pacific Rim on July 11th, here are 10 big and little books in which robots also play prominent and interesting roles:
1. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov is a classic wherein Asimov’s famous four laws of robots are posited. In a chilling set of nine related short stories, Asimov endows his mechanical creations with very human personalities. But these don’t always lead them down the expected paths.
2. War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, a classic of steampunk, science fiction and general literature combined, chronicles an invasion of Earth by Martian robot-like aliens.
3. Star Wars by George Lucas and Alan Dean Foster, while it may not be on anyone’s list of great literature, it surely makes a lot of lists of great films and the influence of R2D2 and C-3PO on public awareness of and fondness for robots cannot be denied. No one has done robots quite like Lucas before or sense, making them the duo to reckon with in many ways. The series went on to create an entire cadre of various robots, good and bad, who are beloved by fans.
4. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick chronicles twenty-first-century Earth, a devastated planet in which incredibly realistic androids fight back against their potential destroyers. The basis of Ridley Scott’s hit movie Blade Runner, the book was way ahead of its time.
5. Psalms of Isaak by Ken Scholes is a postapocalyptic novel series wherein a metal man, Isaak, holds the key to restoration of a library of knowledge gathered through the ages as well as the destruction of the Named Lands.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke tells of three astronauts aboard a vessel controlled by an Artificial Intelligence named H.A.L., both computer and ship becoming one living being.
7. Society Of Steam by Andrew P. Mayer features steampunk superheroes including a metal man called The Automaton who teams with the heroine to stop one of their number when he goes rogue and unleashes a dastardly plan. Recent releases, the books capture the feel of Wells and Verne, while remaining contemporary at the same time.
8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams chronicles the adventures of Marvin the Paranoid Android, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, Trillian, and Zaphod Beeblebrox, a motley crew of terrestrial, alien, and metal beings, roam the galaxy in a storm of mayhem and hilarity.
9. The Boy At The End Of The World by Greg van eekhout is a great middle grade novel that will please readers and robot fans of all ages. The tale of Fisher, the last boy on Earth, who meets a broken robot he nicknames click. Click’s programmed purpose is to help Fisher “continue existing” and thus becomes a bit like an overprotective parent. But together, the two set out to find a rumored survival bunker to the west and discover if Fisher is not alone.
10. Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher has seven superheroes, one of whom is a robot created by the others, whose artificial intelligence leads him to a decision fateful for them all.
11. Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, soon to be a Spielberg film, is a near future thriller wherein a massively powerful Artificial Intelligence called Archos assumes control over a global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. Eventually, a Robot War ignites in which humankind must unite to regain control and fight to survive.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s science fiction, fantasy and humor books, short stories and articles. A frequent contributor to blogs like SFSignal, Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and To Be Read, he also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat under the hashtag #sffwrtcht on Twitter and blogs about writing and creativity on his own blog at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net/blog. Connect With Bryan On Google+