The Humanoids

by Jack Williamson
Reviewed date: 2007 Jan 9
Rating: 4
178 pages
cover art

To Serve and Obey, And Guard Men from Harm

The Humanoids is a rare book.

Jack Williamson's most famous work might be his short story With Folded Hands, about robots--called the humanoids--built to serve mankind. They do their job too well--and end up as controlling and overprotective masters. The humanoids protect humans from all harm, even though that means curtailing individual liberties. The Humanoids carries that story further: the humanoids spread throughout the galaxy, invading worlds and bringing them under the benevolent totalitarianism of humanoid service. The Humanoids ranks among the best that science fiction has to offer.

Dr. Clay Forester is a scientist studying rhodomagnetics when his world is contacted by the humanoids. Before the humanoids take charge, Dr. Forester is contacted by a group of dissidents who need his help to defeat the humanoid menace. The dissidents are armed with psychophysical powers such as clairvoyance, telekinesis, teleportation.

Once he overcomes his scientific skepticism at their powers, Dr. Forester tries to help fight the humanoids: they develop a plan to reprogram the humanoids to allow men to have their freedom. Forester hopes to get help from his brilliant assistant Frank Ironsmith, but Ironsmith welcomes the humanoids and betrays Forester.

Forester is not a particularly likable hero. He is absorbed in his work, brusque to his colleagues, dismissive and insensitive to his wife. Despite this, we root for Forester over Ironsmith, even before Ironsmith turns traitor. Why? Because Forester recognizes the wrongness of his actions--he knows that he neglects his wife, and he's sorry for his actions, but he's too engrossed in his work to make it up to her--but Ironsmith is indifferent to others. Ironsmith is a sociopath, caring nothing for anybody and interested only in his mathematics; he betrays the human race for the chance to study mathematics with the humanoids.

The Humanoids a great book, and one that I will make a point to reread.

The red glow of their dying fire touched warm glints in Ruth's hair, but the thin light of the star was cold on her hurt white face, and it made hard blue diamonds of her tears.

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