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R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – August 20, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Czech
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (August 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486419266
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486419268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Today Karel Capek's R.U.R. is most famous as the work that introduced the word "robot" (from the Czech word "robit," meaning "work") and for its conceptualization of a bio-mechanical device in human form. Written in 1920, the play startled European audiences, but perhaps had its greatest impact on the New York stage in 1922, where it had particular relevance in the American upward-rush of industrialization of the roaring '20s.

Although the ideas that Capek broached remain extremely influential, the play itself is difficult to evaluate from a modern point of view because in many respects it conforms to then-popular but now outmoded ideas about dramatic structure. Even so, the story of a world gradually consumed and ultimately destroyed through its own technology remains a powerful one--as does the image of the robot, which gradually acquires an unexpected sense of identity and begins to vie with man for domination of the earth.

By and large, plays are written to seen rather than to be read, and this may be particularly true of R.U.R., which proves very difficult to visualize from the page. The seriocomic first act with its emphasis on exposition feels awkward to the modern mind, and the progression of the story has an obvious and awkwardly episodic feel. But it is worth pointing out that if R.U.R. seems obvious to us today, this is because its ideas have been so often used; everything from METROPOLIS to FORBIDDEN PLANET to TERMINATOR, from I ROBOT to RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA has borrowed from it heavily.

Ultimately, the play asks us to consider who will inherit the earth: man or what man has created? Audiences of the 1920s found this an extremely disconcerting question--and if anything, audiences and readers of the present day will find it more disconcerting still.
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This is a very lean version, with some characters being removed or merged with other characters. Whole sections of original dialogue have been removed, or at best, changed. Avoid this version like a robot plague.
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Written as early as 1920, this play was the first time the word 'robot' was used, first coined by Karel Capek. In the story robots were fist invented by a character called Rossum, and while he was not immediately successful with his experimentations, his successors were to the extent that eventually robots were able to take over the world. The scene is an island somewhere, presumably in the Atlantic where a handful of skilled scientists have developed these automatons. An outsider, Helena, appears o the scene, ostensibly seeking 'human' rights for the robots & she ends up marrying Domin, head of the scientific team. The play ends when the robots take over & eliminate all mankind, except for Alquist who is the island's handyman and not a scientist. When the robots realise they cannot create new robots they put pressure on Alquist to build new robots which he is unable to do. The story ends with Alquist, the last man, seeing that Primus the robot & Helena the 'robotess' (it is not obvious if this is the original Helena or a robot of the same name) have emotions for each other, says to them as they leave 'Go Adam, Go Eve, the world is yours'.
Capek was probably away ahead of his time in writing this play. It is a precursor of later science-fiction books and the fact than it was written almost 100 years ago puts I in the same league as HG Wells 'The Time Machine' or Jules Verne's 'Robur the Conqueror.
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This play about biologically-based robots who work as slave labor is dated in some ways but surprisingly modern and engaging.in others. I enjoyed the story, which was though-provoking, and I was curious to find out what would happen all the way through to the end. Plays are nice because you can read one in an hour or two, and with this one, more than most classics even, there was a sense of having read something worthwhile, something that left traces we still see in society today. I wound up doing a little reading on the author, who seemed unusually far-sighted, especially in that period before science fiction had really become a genre.
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Karel Čapek had an insight on the future of humans 100 years ahead of the time (written in 1920). This great play, Rossum's Universal Robots, reveals the role of robots (Karel Čapek created the word ROBOT with his brother) in relation with humans. When we are experiencing all sorts of robots including a car that can run without a driver, it is high time we should revisit this play and examine if humans are on a right track. This is a book anyone who talks about what robots can do should read to check if you have a right frame of mind. This is a book we should read now. TKOhska
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Karel Capek is frequently the answer to a historical trivia question: Who came up with the word “robot”? Capek it was, and this was the work in which he introduced it. R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), published in 1920, is a four-act science fiction drama. It is the precursor to all the science fiction literature and movies about robots and/or computers becoming self-aware. The robots of R.U.R. can be seen as the great grandparents of Skynet from The Terminator, Hal from 2001, and Agent Smith from The Matrix. Though the concept may seem old hat to 21st-century audiences, this visionary play deserves more than a historical footnote. Almost a century after its debut, R.U.R. is still disturbingly thought-provoking and delightfully entertaining.

The play is set sometime in the late 20th century. Harry Domin is general manager of R.U.R., a robot manufacturer founded by Old Rossum in the 1930s. R.U.R. is the world’s foremost supplier of cheap, nonhuman labor. Helena Glory, the daughter of the President, arrives at Domin’s office unexpectedly. He is used to receiving curious visitors at the robot plant, and he gives her the VIP tour. Helena’s motives go beyond curiosity, however; she has come on behalf of a human rights organization called the League of Humanity, with the idealistic intention of liberating the robots. Her plot is thwarted, however, when Domin proposes marriage to her, an offer she somehow can’t resist. While Helena’s apparent change of heart cools her ardor for robot revolution, the robots, on the other hand, just might liberate themselves.

It goes without saying that this work was way ahead of its time. The robots of R.U.R. are not boxy, mechanical constructions, but rather androids built from man-made organic tissues, so as to physically resemble human beings.
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