Edited by Anthony Marchetta
Published by Castalia House (2016)
I did not expect a book about Bible-believing robots to be this good.
The premise of God, Robot seems very silly at first: a corporation builds robots that worship the Christian God. However, what lies within is a story of how these artificial beings come to understand their place in God’s order as they grapple with their own programming, with human society, and with whether or not they have souls. The result is a wide-ranging tale of great depth that anyone could read and enjoy, whether or not they believe in God.
The book opens with an interstellar criminal named Locke, who is cornered in a monastery by a policeman. Before the policeman arrests him, though, he tells stories about theological robots, or “theobots” to explain why he did what he did. The stories cover the entire range of theobot history, from their creation in 21st-century California to their journey into deep space, along with all the ways they, and human society, changed throughout the centuries. Each story is written by a different author, but they all move the larger history forward and keep the theme unified.
None of the stories are boring; all of them present interesting conflicts and even more interesting resolutions. The authors largely avoid preaching about current events (though one story does reference today’s political correctness.) The segments set on near-future Earth have a familiar feel to them (in a good way), while the segments set in space truly do feel alien, rather than extending out Earth politics and Earth issues. The theme of robots understanding themselves as creatures that answer to a higher power than humanity remains throughout, keeping it from going all over the place.
If there was one flaw in the book, it was the overly narrow focus on Christianity. It would’ve been interesting to have at least one story about a Muslim theobot, for example, since Islam has a strong bias toward predestination. A Buddhist theobot’s brain would need to be intentionally flawed so that it can struggle to reach nirvana rather than having it automatically, since robots don’t feel emotion. Just imagine the loads of fun you can have with Shinto theobots, who definitely have a soul. Still, this is forgivable since the authors are all Christians or were raised in Christian cultures. It would make no sense for them to write about religious traditions that they didn’t know enough about.
Overall, there was very little that was bad about the story; I found it an enjoyable read. Though the book was rather short, if felt like it was longer — a testament to the skilled writing of all of these different authors. Highly recommended.