Famous Robots & Cyborgs: An Encyclopedia of Robots from TV, Film, Literature, Comics, Toys, and More is a big name for a slim book that doesn’t really qualify as an encyclopedia. There are fewer than sixty entries covering this fairly rich topic, which left me wondering, “Where are the GoBots? Where are those robo-bugs from Runaway starring Gene Simmons and Magnum P.I.? Where are the Star Wars robots that aren’t C-3P0 and R2-D2? No love for IG-88, 2-1B or R5-D4? How about 2-XL?” OK, so the trivia toy 2-XL was more of an eight-track player than a functioning robot (in fact, I used to listen to eight-track tapes on my 2-XL), but if author Dan Roberts thinks that Batman’s nemesis Mr. Freeze and Lisa from Weird Science qualify as robots he has to cut “The Toy with a Personality” some slack.
If you don’t go into this encyclopedia expecting it to be an encyclopedia (the entries aren’t even arranged alphabetically) you will find it to be a breezy and entertaining read. Roberts arranges his entries according to each robot’s appearance, level of artificial intelligence, cuteness, and scariness before delving deeper with origins, memorable moments, assessments, and trivia arranged neatly in bulleted lists. Written in charming British parlance (no surprise that Roberts doesn’t skimp on the “Doctor Who” details), Famous Robots & Cyborgs also breaks up the proper entries with fun extras, such as a timeline of mechanical milestones, different methods for annihilating androids, robo-relationships, and artificially intelligent space ships (though the absence of 2001’s HAL from this section is a major fumble). One should be wary of an encyclopedia that only takes a couple of hours to read, but it can’t be said that those hours haven’t been enjoyably spent.
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