52 Stories #13: “Catch That Rabbit” by Isaac Asimov

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For my second selection today, let’s take a look at story from Asimov’s classic 1950 short-story collection I, Robot, at the recommendation of Dave Hunt over at the “GOLiverse” Facebook page.

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The Pitch

On a distant asteroid, two employees of “US Robots” try to diagnose a peculiar glitch in their mining ‘droids that results in sudden work stoppages and impromptu dancing/marching.

The Payoff

“Catch That Rabbit” was pretty good, if a bit thin. The fact that it’s part of a collection of connected short stories makes me wonder if reading it in context would add some missing heft. (Then again, maybe not.) As it stands, this one was still a good read. The resolution of the “mystery” was funny, and I enjoyed the interactions of the main characters more than the plot itself.

The Takeaways

The best thing about this story really was the dialogue. The patter between Mike and Greg reminded me of the classic comedies of the 30’s and 40’s–that quick-firing, slang-filled dialogue that established immediately how familiar and comfortable these two were with each other. You get a bit of an “Odd Couple” vibe from these two, and it was fun to see them work out the problem they faced. In other words, the dialogue felt natural, not staged for exposition. It’s a good reminder that your characters are “real people,” not just authorial mouthpieces.

There was a nice level of humor in a story set-up that could have easily turned into a “menacing robot attacks” tale. From the sarcastic comments about the company’s tolerance of mistakes to the fact that the head robot “Dave” (DV-5) has enough personality to be a third character, the overall feel is playful. Even when the engineers get themselves trapped in a cave-in, I was never concerned that they wouldn’t get out okay (though that would have been the perfect point for the plot to turn). The tone was consistent throughout, which I appreciated.

Asimov also manages to tie this piece back into the overall story collection, not only by re-using these characters (who appeared in the previous story in the book, if I recall correctly) but also by maintaining the Three Laws of Robotics as a prominent discussion point. It didn’t feel forced, either. Fears about a potential robotic uprising were easily dismissed, because these rules still apply. As I’m thinking about my own plans for an interconnected short story collection, this idea of having consistent “in-world” rules/elements is a good reminder of how these stories hang together.

On the whole, I liked “Catch That Rabbit” but I think it may suffer a little by being read out of context.

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Agree? Disagree? Any observations of your own? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “52 Stories #13: “Catch That Rabbit” by Isaac Asimov

  1. Hi Dave,
    I have read the I, Robot collection in its entirety, but that’s probably been 25+ years ago now, and I don’t specifically remember this story. Makes me want to dig out my old copy and revisit it. As far as context goes, I’m not sure ALL of the stories in the book were meant to be read together (though a few were obviously part of a series – I may be mis-remembering) so maybe this one was supposed to stand alone on its own merits but didn’t quite do so. 🙂

    Also, I’d recommend the author’s great autobiography, “I, Asimov” (even greater title for an autobiography!) as further reading at some point. I really loved it. Give it a look if you haven’t already. Asimov was an amazing character and an incredibly prolific author – and not just in sci-fi.
    -Jay

    1. Thanks, Jay! Yeah, it’s been at least 10 years since I read “I, Robot” so you may be right about how connected or disconnected it may be. I just noticed as I thumbed through the e-copy I had that there seemed to be segues between stories. That was actually the other thing I forgot to mention–once the plot was resolved, the story just ended as the person telling it moved on to something else. That was weird.

      Thanks for the Asimov biography recommendation! I’ll add it to my (ever-growing) library pull-list!

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