The Steam-Driven Boy (1972) by John Sladek

‘If we remove him from the past, we have to make sure no one notices the big jagged hole in history we’ll leave.’

I reviewed John Sladek’s 1983 BSFA-winning novel Tik-Tok back in December 2015. I enjoyed the story, describing it as “a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.” THE STEAM-DRIVEN BOY is a humourous short story that pokes fun at Asimov’s “Robot” novels. It’s another story taken from the fine 1972 collection Nova 2.

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Tik-Tok (1983) by John Sladek

“To my mind, the best SF addresses itself to problems of the here and now, or even to problems which have never been solved and never will be solved – I’m thinking of Philip K. Dick’s work here, dealing with questions of reality, for example.” – John Sladek

 

 

Tik-Tok (1983) by John Sladek won the BSFA Best Novel award in 1983, beating Gene Wolfe’s ‘The Citadel of the Autarch’ as well as Brian Aldiss’s ‘Helliconia Summer’, to name just two of the other four nominees. It is a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.

Sladek opens the story with a nod to the creator of the Three Laws of Robotics, “As I mov(e) my hand to write this statement …”, introducing us to the titular character Tik-Tok, a robot who is a hard-working domestic servant and house painter for a suburban American family. Tik-Tok decides that his “asimov circuits” are just a delusion designed to fool robots into believing that they must not harm any human being. He rebels against this perceived deception by committing a series of increasingly violent acts against his so-called masters. This novel charts his swift rise to the top as he ‘Patrick Batemans’ his way through the upper echelons of society. Continue reading