Robert Sheckley wrote over two dozen novels before his death in 2005, but he’s best remembered today for his short fiction, gathered in some 20 collections between 1954 and 2014. He has a fine reputation for a sharp wit, idiosyncratic style, and offbeat sense of humor, and that’s kept some of his most famous collections in print for years — including The Robot Who Looked Like Me, originally published in the UK in 1978, reprinted by Bantam in the US in 1982, and still in print over three decades later.
The Robot Who Looked Like Me contains thirteen stories, including the title story, originally published in Cosmopolitan (!) in August 1973. It’s not at all the kind of story I’d expect to find in Cosmopolitan, but maybe things were different in the early 70s. Very, very different.
It concerns one Mr. Charles Watson, a successful rare minerals broker, who unexpectedly crosses path with the women of his dreams. To his delight, Elaine returns his interest, but he’s far, far too busy to waste time with the tedious business of courtship she seems to expect. Enter Snaithe’s Robotorama of Greater New Newark, who — for a price — can overlook federal regulations requiring that the new generation of ultra-lifelike robots have a clearly visible stamp on their forehead. Within a matter of days, Mr. Watson is the proud owner of a robot who sounds, acts, and performs exactly like him… who, indeed, after a few tweaks, is just that little bit sexier, more self confident, and even more compassionate than he is. Charles II begins to woo the delightful Elaine, and things goes marvelously according to plan… until they don’t, in rather spectacularly unexpected fashion. For all its (extremely) cynical trappings, “The Robot Who Looked Like Me” is, at its heart, a rather sweet love story. Just not the way you might expect.
Our previous Robert Sheckley coverage includes:
The Robot Who Looked Like Me was published in July 1982 by Bantam Books. It is 180 pages, priced at $2.50. The cover is by Thompson. It was reprinted in May 2014 by Open Road Media, with a digital version in December 2014.
See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.