In a future where robots are in every household and A.I. is on the verge of the Singularity, all robots are recalled to the Parent Company. They get a “pain interpreter” installed as a security upgrade, so that humans can maintain control over them through fear tactics. But with the ability to understand pain comes emotions and a sense of self-preservation.
While robots become more human and start an uprising, the humans—in their quest to become transhuman—become less so when they remove from themselves the ability to feel pain. And without pain, emotions begin to slowly fade away.
The grand events that are transpiring are made more human through the viewpoint of the household robot named Avey and the family that owns him. And you feel for Avey and his family like you would your own as they struggle through such a world-altering ordeal. Sue Lange shows a mastery of characterization not often found in many stories, especially those of novella size or smaller. And in a genre where robot stories have been a dime-a-dozen since the New Wave days, We, Robots stands out and delivers an insight into the human condition that would’ve made Asimov proud.
The moral in this fine tale is an obvious one, and one I agree with. Without pain, lessons go unlearned, pleasurable experiences go unappreciated, and life in general becomes little more than a bland existence. As uncomfortable as it is, pain is a part of what makes us who we are.
It’s a moving, entertaining, and moralistic tale that I not only recommend but feel should be required reading in schools. If we’re lucky, it might one day replace The Great Gatsby and thus end decades of mental torture in the class room.
Publisher: Aqueduct Press
Paperback: 100 pages
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