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This review is from: The Humanoids: A Novel (Paperback)
This book contains two classic SF works. The first is the novelette titled 'With Folded Hands...' published first in 1947 in 'Astounding Science Fiction'. The second story is the novel "The Humanoids", which was also published originally in 'Astounding Science Fiction' in 1948 (March - May) under the title '...And Searching Mind'. The two stories share the same nemesis, which are the robots known as The Humanoids.
The Humanoids' purpose is "To Serve and Obey, And Guard Men from Harm", which is really just a rewording of the first two laws of robotics that Asimov and Campbell create for Asimov's robot stories that first started to appear in 1940. However, this does not make these stories redundant, as Williamson's Humanoids take their purpose to the extreme, and go so far as to prevent men from doing anything that could potentially cause harm, which includes such activities as driving, or even reading in some cases.
In 'With Folded Hands...,' the hero is Mr. Underhill, who opposes the humanoids at first because they threaten his livelihood (he is an android salesman), but later because he can see the effect they have on people's lives. He works with the creator of the Humanoids, Mr. Sledge, who is desperately trying to put an end to his creation.
In 'The Humanoids,' the hero is Dr. Clay Forester, who is made aware of the Humanoid menace by a group of humans with various special abilities such as teleportation, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and telepathy. They refer to these types of abilities as "psychophysics". As the story proceeds, the reader becomes less and less sure who is right and who is wrong in the conflict. The Humanoids, though still a presence, are not the main foe for Dr. Forester. Instead he focuses on Frank Ironsmith, a former colleague who is helping the Humanoids, involved with Forester's wife Ruth, and is given much more freedom than other humans by the Humanoids. Although the Humanoids use some horrible methods of forcing people to be happy (e.g. drugs, surgery), they are not nearly as controlling as they were in `With Folded Hands....' One oddity between the two stories is that Williamson introduces a different creator of the Humanoids, whose name is Warren Mansfield.
These two stories are definitely worth reading for anyone interested in Science Fiction. `The Humanoids' rated 27th in 1952 for science fiction books, and tied for 18th in 1956 on the Astounding/Analog All-Time Polls. `With Folded Hands...' tied for 32nd in 1999 on the Locus All-Time Poll of novelettes.