Imagine a world in which the science of robotics has become the driving force behind our economy. Not just a robot to vacuum your floor, a la The Roomba, but actual talking and thinking robots. In this short story collection Asimov has done just that. Much as in today's world where we have those who object to science in one or more of its aspects, Asimov's Earth has many of the same. It is due to these objections that robots have been limited to off Earth use and their brains impressed with three unbreakable laws. 1) A robot may not harm a human. 2) A robot must follow all orders given to it by a human, so long as such orders do not conflict with the First Law. 3) A robot must protect its own existence at all costs, except so far as it conflicts with the First or Second Law.
Framed around the reminisces of robo-psycologist Susan Calvin as she prepares to retire, we are presented nine short stories going back to the first uses of robots and their subsequent ban from Earth use to the Machines or Brains which have come to control global economy. I am not typically a reader of short story collections, as I find short stories never give me as much information as I want. However, I thought this one was quite well done. I rather liked that they were all connected, so that it felt more like reading one complete novel as opposed to nine individual stories. Many of the characters spanned several of the stories, so we got to know them better than we might otherwise have done. Unfortunately, I am not a science fiction reader and I occasionally tuned out for brief periods and would have to back up to re-read/listen. I think someone who enjoys the genremore than I did. In all this is a solid book, and I feel like I got a good sense of Asimov as an author and will be interested in trying more by him.