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RUR & War with the Newts (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2012
The title story/play RUR or Rossum's Universal Robots has few surprises in it but as it is the ur -robot tale one should probably expect that. Everything else from "I Robot" to "Battlestar Galactica" has its origin in this tale and it was surely a much more startling tale when it was first published.

However its sister story "War With The Newts" also by Karel Èapek holds all its original power, poignancy and humour. Somehow it manages, in a relatively compact space, to tell a five star page turner of a story with (unusually for science fiction) at least a couple of rounded interesting characters. It also packs in a great deal of political and societal allegory, and a fair degree of humour - all of which holds up extremely well after almost 75 years.

This particular edition does suffer from poor paper quality (very thin and already smelling a little musty despite being a new book), but the entertaining romp that is "War With The Newts" even makes up for that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2015
This is the to one, cybernetic part of SciFi as Zamyatin's anti-totalitarianist 'We' is to Orwell's more famous '1984': each is really the blueprint of the other. Famous for coining the term Robot in the title story, Capek is also, according to my Czech friends, a fine stylist in his native Czech. Unlike one tendency in ScIFi which is utopian, this story points up the darker aspects of this artificial skivvy, like Fritz Lang's film, 'Metropolis'. 'War with the Newts' is a short tale, not as weird as Kafka's 'Odradek' but richly suggestive of the possibilities in a mechanized future. These are Ur texts of the genre that doesn't go the spritely way of, say, Wells and Verne. I suspect that the bombast of late Habspurg empire has its hefty influence in a sort of nightmare this is, just as the dead air of Vienna hangs over the likes of Kafka and Musil, literary heavyweights with whom Capel bears comparison; he's stylish and inventive and this is a clever pairing that all SciFi types should read. I speak as one who is a student of Fin de Siecle Vienna and the crucible of modernism: everything artistic, philosophical and architectural owes a huge debt to the brilliance of the otherwise moribund Hapsburg culture. Its slow death fed a rich afterlife not altogether mischaracterized as de-composition. There is something chastening about it, also exciting, very stimulating. Anyway he is a fine and influential writer, and these are two similarly impressive tales. It is a shame he died so young. At that time he was (1938) 2nd on the Gestapo's Most Wanted list in his homeland, the sign of a great man .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a fantastic edition. It not only includes two of Capek's most famous works, but also has a fantastic introduction which outlines that Capek was the one who introduced the word 'robot' to the English language and also talks about some of the historical, social and literary contexts behind his works. In spite of his contribution to the English language, R.U.R has not really received much academic attention, and while everyone has at least heard of 'Brave New World' by Huxley, very few people know about R.U.R. Perhaps this is because it is a play rather than a novel? It really is worth reading. The word 'robot' comes from a Slavic word 'robota' which roughly translates as drudgery in the medieval sense when a peasant would be forced to work for a feudal lord for little or no monetary payment. Taking this into account, the robots in R.U.R are dehumanised workers and everyone knows what happens when you treat intelligent people and/or being slaves: Revolt. If you're a fan of science fiction then you really should give this one a read.
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on 11 December 2014
Bought this for the RUR play, which is excellent (as is the novel). But it is not straight translation of Capek's 1920, rather it is a translation into English by Paul Selver and adapted for the English stage by Nigel Playfair in 1923. Selver's translation abridged the play and eliminated a character, a robot named "Damon". I would have very much liked to have read a translation of the original text.
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on 20 July 2015
Quirky, funny, interesting - not really sci-fi, more like a inter-war Kurt Vonnegut. Try it, I found it very enjoyable and new.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 September 2013
I've only read RUR so far and have absolutely loved it. Really gets the reader thinking about the relationship between man and machine and your musings, once pitted against a contemporary context, seem startlingly real. If you're a fan of Asimov, give this set a read.
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