‘The Complete Robot’ is a collection of robot short stories written by Asimov between the 1940s and the 1970s. Supposedly it is the most complete collection of Asimov’s robot stories on the market today, wholly comprising amongst others the earlier collections ‘I Robot’, ‘Rest of the Robots’ as well as some previously unreleased material. This book is one that requires some time to grow on you. At the beginning the stories are very short, disjoint and often without much in the way of plot. These are mostly anecdotes that serve as case studies of man, robot, their perception of each other and the unexpected dilemmas this can give rise to, although Asimov usually does not attempt to supply them with any definite answers. Later on, in particular in those parts pertaining to Powell & Donovan and Susan Calvin the stories gain more substance and a common timeline and set of characters starts to emerge. These are the stories where Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are investigated in great detail in all their possible consequences and interpretations. The stories in this omnibus are interesting to a varying degree and some may appear somewhat meaningless at times or, with the current state of technology, a little bit obsolete. However, if one considers that many of these stories were written more than half a century ago it should be no problem to understand why Asimov has become such an influential figure in robot literature and even the technology of Artificial Intelligence.
‘The Complete Robot’ is best appreciated if it is read concomitantly with Asimov’s other work. In particular it would serve as a wonderful introduction to his ‘The Robot’ series (starting with ‘Caves of Steel’). People that are after more robot-dystopian literature are also referred to e.g. ‘Mockingbird’ by Walter S Tevis or ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ by Philip K Dick.