Author: John Sladek
Original language: English
Publisher: Gollancz, London, 2001
Never before published in its entirety in the United States,
Roderick is a robot who learns. He begins life looking like a toy tank, thinking like a child, and knowing nothing about human ways. But as he will discover, growing up and becoming fully human is no easy task in a world where many people seem to have little trouble giving up their humanity.
John Sladek was one of SF’s premier satirists, and
Roderick is an experimental robot, a well-meaning innocent who grows up and learns what it is to be human in the comic inferno of modern America. Being human isn’t much fun: bullied at school, diagnosed as mentally unstable for saying he’s a robot, forever in trouble for applying logic to religion…
Being a robot is tough: a sinister government agency is determined to destroy all AI “Entities”. Luckily their agents are hilariously inept—one assassin lying in wait for Roderick gets mugged for his laser-aimed sniper rifle.
Like Voltaire’s Candide, Roderick moves wide-eyed through a world of insane commercialism: (Danton’s Doggie Dinette, the posh canine restaurant), fly-by-night religions (the Church of Christ Symmetrical), non-art (identical purple squares, meaningless when painted by Roderick, are praised as cutting-edge art), junk science (research into psychic pigeons is faked but generates a bestseller anyway) and—everywhere—people whose fads and tics and rigid prejudices make them more programmed, less truly human, than Roderick himself.
This book is painfully funny, sprinkled with wild ideas and nifty one-liners: a surreal musical called
Applause to Gollancz SF Masterworks for producing the first one-volume edition of this major SF satire.