One of the most influential sequences in the whole of science fiction is Isaac Asimov's Robot sequence, with the famous Three Laws of Robotics being among the Holy Writ of the genre. When Asimov was approached with the notion of setting up a series of novels under the overall title of Robot City, his reluctance was quickly overcome when he was persuaded that the writers using Asimovian robots and ideas would be among the most imaginative and daring in the genre.
His brief was to serve as consultant, making sure the robots stay Asimovian, answer questions, make suggestions, veto infelicities and provide the basic premise for the series as well as challenges for the authors.
Quite often, riffs on the ideas of classic SF writers by other hands notoriously lack the spark of the originals. But Michael P Kube-McDowell and Michael McQuay's Isaac Asimov's Robot City shows that genuinely inventive writers can not only spin fascinating filigrees on existing concepts, but sometimes come up with inspirations that hadn't occurred to the original creator.
The two complete novels contained herein are both full of galvanic and inspiring ideas, with Kube-McDowell's Odyssey arguably being the more inspired.
A man without memory finds himself in a city as big as a planet, populated by robots running wild. His mysterious female companion claims to know his identity, but will not reveal it to him. The man calls himself Derec, the woman is known as Katherine, and they begin a fascinating odyssey through this fantastic society. And when a murder occurs, they soon find themselves wondering whether the most famous of the Three Laws of Robotics, "A robot may not injure a human being" has been contravened. But this is only one of the mysteries they are obliged to solve on the mean streets of Robot City.
Both Kube-McDowell and McQuay (the latter in Suspicion) pull off the difficult trick of creating a facsimile of Asimov's cool, gleaming style (not to mention the persuasive science of his robot society with all its attendant complexities) but they are also capable of passages that have a wholly individual sense of wonder owing little to the originator.
Take Kube-McDowell's description of the mechanical wonders of the planet:
The gateway itself was an enormous box-like machine which filled the tunnel flush to the walls and ceiling. As Derec drew closer, he saw that the gateway was actually crawling slowly forward. Like some mechanical larva, the gateway was burrowing through the asteroidal mass and leaving a finished tunnel in its wake. Everything--the raw material of the walls, the covering of reinforcing synthe-mesh, even the overhead lamps--was being handled in one continuous operation. --Barry Forshaw