The 9 Best Robots In Fiction, Because These Characters Are Totally Underrated
So, robots, man. They've already started to make the leap from sci-fi trope to actual reality. I know that we have enough to deal with in this current political climate without worrying about the fact that robots are going to rise up and conquer/seduce us within the next decade, but it's time to face the facts. And honestly, we're not doing such a hot job with Earth right now. I say we give the robots a crack at things for a couple of centuries. But if you're not quite ready to welcome our robot overlords, then here are a few of the best robots in fiction, to remind you why robots are the best.
All robot uprisings aside, robots in fiction serve many purposes. They might be terrifying monsters that represent all of our tech-related fears. They might be comedic sidekicks, or failed experiments, or the perfect servants of a utopian future. But most often, we use robots in literature to explore what it means to be human. What makes us sentient? How do we define personhood? How long until our toasters start to complain?
So here are some of the funniest, scariest, and (somehow) most human robots from science fiction books:
1. HAL 9000
HAL 9000 is your classic "evil" robot. Cold, calculating, and totally OK with letting humans die. In the novel 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL is ordered to withhold the truth about the Jupiter mission from his crew, but he's also been programmed to relay only accurate information... so he decides to kill everyone on the spaceship. That way he won't have to lie to them. Logical, I guess?
2. Robbie the Robot
I, Robot collects nine of Asimov's best robot stories, but Robbie might stand out as the most adorable robot in any of them. Yes, he's basically just a robo version of Lassie, because he befriends a little girl and then saves her from certain death in a robot factory, but Robbie is one of the best examples of "good" robots who genuinely love their human friends (take notes, HAL).
3. The Roboti
Sure, the roboti from the 1920 Czech play R.U.R. might not be the most well-known literary robots out there... but they were the first to be called "robots." R.U.R. tells the story of a robot uprising at a factory, and it gives us most of our favorite robot tropes: they think logically, attempt to destroy all humans, and yearn to fall in love.
4. The Nexus-6 Renegades
In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (also known as Blade Runner), most of the lifeforms on Earth have gone extinct after World War Terminus. What's left is a confusing assortment of surviving humans, a few pets, electric animals, and androids. And sometimes telling the "real" people from the robots can get tricky. The plot follows a bounty hunter going after six runaway Nexus-6 androids, who just want to live out their robotic lives in peace.
5. Neuromancer and Wintermute
Do super-computers really count as robots? What about very advanced A.I.? Well, Neuromancer and Wintermute, from William Gibson's cyberpunk classic Neuromancer, are two "sibling" A.I. programs. If they merge, they will create a super-intelligence far beyond human understanding. But neither of them seems particularly interested in killing all humans, so we should be safe... for now.
Comic books and graphic novels have more than their fair share of great robot characters, but Ultron (from the Marvel Universe) is your classic robot bent on world domination. Sometimes he appears as a complex character in story-lines where he relates to his creator in a Frankenstein-and-monster kind of way, but... most of the time he's just a killer robot. He's metallic, he's hyper-intelligent, and (usually) pretty evil. Plus he has a goofy robot name. Don't mess with Ultron.
Speaking of killer robots, there's Gnut from Farewell to the Master. He's a tad more recognizable as "Gort" in the film adaption, The Day the Earth Stood Still. He's tall, green, and shoots laser beams out of his face. He just rolls up in a flying saucer with his buddy, an alien named Klaatu. Gnut is an old school robot from outer space, and he'll laser that gun right out of your hands.
OK, so this one is cheating a little bit, because Helva from The Ship Who Sang is maybe more of a cyborg than a purebred robot. She was born human, but she was permanently sealed inside a metal "pod" as a baby, to be used as the brain of a space ship. So... she's a brain in a jar hooked up to a massive space ship... which is a lot like a robot, at least. And she likes to sing and hit on her passengers.
9. Marvin the Paranoid Android
And then, of course, there's Marvin the Paranoid Android from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. He's undoubtedly the most depressive fictional robot ever created. It's hard to blame him, though: due to some messing with time travel, he has to live through the entire history of creation on more than one occasion. And you've got to love his dry humor (even though it's clearly a cry for help).