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I, Robot: To Protect by Mickey Zucker Reichert
Cover Artist: Eric Williams
Review by Mel Jacob
Roc Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451464194
Date: 01 November 2011 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Mickey Reichert, a former pediatrician, begins a new science fiction series with I, Robot, to Protect with Dr. Susan Calvin, a recently graduated psychiatrist beginning a new job at a major hospital. Her assignment to the Pediatric Inpatient Psychiatric Unit brings her four children with long-term problems. Starling suffers from dementia, Monterrey hasn't spoken for six years, Diesel is morbidly obese, depressed, and has oppositional-defiant disorder, and Sharicka is a four-year-old demon. Matters heat up when Susan begins work on a project using nanorobots injected into patients to determine why their brains malfunction. The Society for Humanity pickets the hospital to stop all such efforts. Then two patients blow themselves up in public places.

The novel focuses on Susan and her efforts to help chronically ill patients. She has notable successes with three of her charges. The chameleon nature of the charming and manipulative Sharicka makes treating her difficult. Her nurses don't believe she does mischief for which others are blamed even when presented with the evidence of the almost murder of another child. Susan's observations have alerted her to the character of the child and the parents confirm it. However, the profession fails to consider AntiSocial Personality Disorder in children.

Susan meets Nate, a humanoid robot, and learns something about her father and his work. Nate's appearance, knowledge, and humanity impresses her, but he informs her his role has been restricted because of the Frankenstein complex, fear of robots taking over. Nate helps with one of Susan's patients. She also meets Remington Hawthorn, a neurosurgeon, and they become close friends.

Intrigued by the nanorobot project, Susan has some reservations. When tragedy strikes she struggles to untangle what had caused it and why a patient would become violent. She believes these events are modified by the three laws of robotics that places human safety first, then following human orders, and lastly self-preservation so long as that doesn't violate the first two laws, but others claim there is no brain link with the nanorobots.

The novel raises important issue about technology and the risks associated with it. It is loaded with medical terminology and may be hard going for some, although Reichert explains it all. A thrilling climax provides plenty of action and excitement, forcing all to examine their values and to take action in an untenable situation.

Reichert's initial contract calls for three prequels, so readers can expect more books, hopefully filling in the background on the characters and taking the implications of technology and the nature of humanity further. A prolific author, she will be familiar to many fantasy and science fiction readers for her many other novels and series to her credit.

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