Computers have been around since the 1940s—lots of time for people to get used to them. But science fiction writers have seen computers—and their offspring, the robots—as potent symbols for certain aspects of the human condition. These writers, in their stories, novels, plays, and films, have captured in literature and on the stage and screen some of the fears—justified and unjustified—people have concerning computers. The resent massive introduction of microcomputers into the average workplace, school, and home have brought these deep-seated fears to the surface again.
The writers of the stories in this anthology have given a great deal of thought to the “computer age” we are entering. Most have anticipated drastic changes, not all of them good. Computers are now propelling us into a truly technological age, when machines will begin to match humans in intelligence and may even become self-aware and have emotions. Will these thinking machines be the servants of humanity—or its rulers?
This is actually a relatively nice anthology—and relatively short, too, weighing in at only 150 pages. Asimov himself is represented by “Sally,” which is a solid story even if not the best computer or robot story he ever wrote. There are a couple of other really good stories in here by author authors, such as Gordon Dickson’s hilarious “Computers Don’t Argue,” the two Laumer stories (“Prototaph” and “Placement Test”) and, of course, Frederic Brown’s “Answer.”
The one real mystery is the inclusion of Lester del Rey’s “To Avenge Man,” a rather weak story from an excellent writer. One wonders why they didn’t dredge out something better.
This is hardly a definitive collection of computer stories or computer/robot stories by any means—but it is pleasant enough to be worth the effort of reading and, perhaps, even rereading.