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fiction science robots robotics


by John Sladek

ISBN 0575033363 / 9780575033368 / 0-575-03336-3
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd.
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

All John Sladek's SF novels showed his dark humour and fascination with robots. The farce is funniest and blackest in Tik-Tok (1983), a British SF Association Award-winner.

Robot narrator Tik-Tok may have winsome ways and a cute name from Oz, but inside he's bad, bad, bad. It's not just that his "asimov circuits"--which stop robots hurting people--are defective. He enjoys killing, starting with a dear little blind girl in chapter one and reaching a body count well into four figures. With such achievements behind him, how could Tik-Tok not be offered the US Vice-Presidency?

Sladek's nightmarishly satirical future America is full of daft technology like a nuclear-powered land aircraft carrier the size of Delaware, needing 135 million tyres. Starting life on a Southern plantation where they lynch robots instead of blacks, Tik-Tok rapidly changes owners: a fast-food entrepreneur whose Szechuan duck is really armadillo, a habitual robot-smasher, a fake evangelist (Rev. Flint Orifice) who repeatedly "saves" Tik-Tok at public performances, and many more. Successful careers as robot artist and crimelord are mere steps toward the top.

It seems Tik-Tok can talk his way out of anything, even the bad publicity when his Clockman Medical Centre kicks out non-paying patients: "An interrupted appendectomy held himself together and crawled down the steps". His Wages for Robots campaign, improvised mostly for the fun of guilt-tripping human audiences, is a springboard into US politics. Then he commits one murder too many... Wonderfully, horribly inventive and funny. --David Langford [via]