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Science Comics: Robots and Drones: Past, Present, and Future Paperback – March 27, 2018
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"The sequential art―which features a diverse cast of young STEM enthusiasts, including one wearing a hijab―infuses the discourse with life"–School Library Journal
"A lighthearted, enjoyable introduction to a fascinating subject."–Kirkus
About the Author
Mairghread Scott is an animation and comic book writer. Her animation includes Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, and more. Her published books include Marvel Universe Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Till All Are One, Transformers: Windblade, Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special #1 and The Secret on the Other Side (also from First Second).
Jacob Chabot is an Eisner Award―nominated and New York Times― bestselling cartoonist. He is best known for his work on all-ages comics like Spongebob Comics, The Simpsons, and his creator-owned book The Mighty Skullboy Army.
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A coffee maker
A tea-serving doll in 1960s Japan
A bomb-disposal robot
The Mars Rover
Early on, the book tackles the idea of what a robot is (and isn’t — for example, a remote-control car, since it can’t respond to its environment). There are brief mentions of historical automatons, but I found these mentions superficial and unconnected to the main content, because they aren’t given sufficient space to be explained or described. Some of the items mentioned I only knew were relevant because of knowledge I already brought to the text (such as what cams are or why punch cards are historically important).
Later topics include how robots and humans can work together, with each having different strengths, and how to build and program a robot. The latter is a great introduction to logical thinking and breaking down a task, but it seems to have wandered in from another book, particularly once we start delving into robot parts and how resistors work. There’s a lack of topic coherence here; instead, it feels like a grab bag of “concepts related to robots in some way”. I missed the stronger structures or even stories I’ve read in other Science Comics.
Chabot does a terrific job with both the machines and people using them, though. I’m impressed by his animated sense of movement. I also liked the short section on robots in fiction, including Asimov’s Laws, and the resulting ethical questions robot development may raise. But again, there wasn’t enough space given, so the debate is raised and quickly dropped.
There’s a final section, “25 Robots You Should Know!”, that I’d rather have read a lot more about than the one- or two-sentence descriptions given. Perhaps this would have been a better structure for the book overall. There’s good information here, but I felt as though a lot of space was wasted on irrelevant information, leaving me confused as to just what the purpose and message of the book was. (The publisher provided a digital review copy. Review originally posted at ComicsWorthReading.com.)
This book struck me as awfully ambitious. It isn't just photos, drawings and snappy patter. Unusual for a book like this, it has serious and substantive content first and jokey asides later. The tone is an engaging combination of earnest, gung-ho, and into-the-future!, which makes the book, (intentionally I think), both informative and inspirational.
The layout is comic book style. There are generally three to six full color panels per page. Drawings are comics/realistic and usually illustrate or act out whatever fact or principle is being introduced. Our host/narrator is a bird named Pouli that is modeled after an ancient mechanical bird circa 350 BCE. This amiable guide leads the reader through the history of robotics and drones. Along the way we define what a "robot" is, (which is trickier and more subtle than you might imagine). We look at early robots, simple robots from day-to-day life, (i.e., arguably your coffeemaker and certainly your Roomba vacuum cleaner). We consider the differences among a remote controlled toy car, a computer, and a true robot.
From there we take a side trip to simple machines of which a robot is constructed, (screw, lever, pulley), and consider automata, (say, the Jacquard loom). This is fairly sophisticated stuff, but it is presented and illustrated clearly. And so it goes - functional components, on-board intelligence, even different levels of programming and language are addressed. Artificial intelligence, robots in popular culture, do-it-yourself robot building, drone racing, "intelligent" houses, Asimov's rules of robotics - the list of topics goes on and on.
It seems to me that any kid interested in robots, computers, engineering, drones, and the like would find a lot to like in this book. It is kid friendly, what with cheerful Pouli and its clear narrative, but the book is never patronizing. Some jokey/Dummies-style books can be overloaded with dumb jokes and puns and the like, but this book just has occasional "funny" bits that the reader can take or leave depending on his or her taste.
So, this book was instructive, accessible, and entertaining, and covered a topic that you usually don't see that much, (compared to, say, sharks). I'd feel good about handing this to any budding scientist, or really to any kid interested in how things work.
(Please note that I received a free advance will-self-destruct-in-x-days Adobe Digital copy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Most recent customer reviews
This latest installment of Science Comics: Robots and Drones by Mairghread Scott was an interesting and delightful introduction to...Read more