The Runaway Robot

Enjoyably doofy cover art
 The Runaway Robot, by Lester Del Rey

One of my favorite things about January reading is the Vintage Sci-Fi reading event, and even though our host is on sabbatical this year, I'm reading some old SF anyway.  It's a fun way to start the year!

I thought this would be a fairly simplistic children's story, and was surprised that the plot turned out to be more complex than I expected.  I would say it's a middle-grade novel, ages 10+, but it's a fun read for anybody.  The story is narrated from the point of view of the robot, which is nice.

Rex is a 'companion' robot, and has been with Paul for sixteen years, Paul's whole life.  On Ganymede, it's important to keep a sharp eye on tiny children who don't yet understand that they can't take off their spacesuits when they're outside the house, and since Paul's father is the governor of the Ganymede settlement (which grows important but boring native fungus crops for medical uses), he got a robot to act as a nanny and best friend to his son.  Rex has learned a lot from Paul over the years, so he's pretty intelligent and curious for a robot.

When Paul's father is recalled to Earth for a new posting, everybody is excited, but Paul is informed that Rex will have to stay behind.  The robot is promptly sold to a farmer, and he's resigned to his fate, but he does just want to see Paul leave, so he sneaks off for a day -- and sees Paul get off the rocket before liftoff.  Now the two of them are going to have to try to meet up and figure out what to do.  Can they make it to Earth together?

I enjoyed the technical parts of the story; there are real limitations and problems to solve.  A fun 60s SF tale; I bet my own kid would have liked it at age ten. 


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