Generation Robot: A Century of Science Fiction, Fact, and Speculation

Terri Favro. Skyhorse, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5107-2310-8
Novelist Favro (Sputnik’s Children) serves up a frothy brew of fact and fiction in this appraisal of how the robots of science fiction are becoming part of day-to-day life. The book begins with a brief history of robotic simulacra in early science fiction that is marred by a number of factual inaccuracies: for example, Frankenstein was first published in 1818, not 1811, and John W. Campbell, not Joseph Campbell, edited the pulp magazine Astounding (not Amazing). Favro then takes the reader on a jaunty tour through a century of speculative robotics that includes breezy and accessible chapters on advances in autonomous vehicles, the prospect of self-sustaining smart houses, and the possibility of robots as helpmates and even intimates. Each chapter begins with an extrapolative scenario in which Favro writes herself into a scene in the near future; for example, in the chapter on autonomous vehicles, Favro conceives of hitching a ride in a driverless car from Toronto to Tenafly, N.J., in 2025. She then spends the rest of the chapter discussing the details of the scene in the context of research on the emerging technology. In every chapter, Favro shows how different actual robots are from many of their counterparts in science fiction. Her book’s greatest achievement may be to get readers looking at their cell phones, computers, prosthetics, and other gadgets as robots in the real world. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/05/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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