Aug 10, 2017

The Runaway Robot (1965)

Awhile back I got this book as a gift. It's been sitting in a pile of stuff I want to read and I finally decided to take it for a spin.


This is a Scholastic book from 1965. Let's stop and think about that for a second. The physical book that I have is over 50 years old! I bet the book itself has had quite a few adventures.

The cover right up there is the reason my stepdad picked this up for me in his travels. I mean, look at it. Retrofuturism at its best! There are quite a few versions of it that I'll scatter among the post but this is by far my favorite.

This isn't the blurb on my book but it's a better summary of the story:

The robot named Rex had been bought as a companion for Paul when the Simpsons decided to pioneer on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter...a rough, dangerous satellite where a small boy needed a strong, intelligent robot to protect him. By the time Paul is sixteen, they are inseparable. Robots, of course, have a personality leeway that gives each one a certain individuality within its pattered capacities - and Rex had a wonderful personality, with a logic quotient that allowed him to reason. But when the Simpson family is ordered back to Earth and Paul refuses to part with Rex, the robot plans to stow away on a spaceship to Earth - no easy feat, even for a robot with Rex's abilities. Thrilling chases in skimmers, through spaceports, and over the deserts of Mars are just the start of the problems for The Runaway Robot!


There is just something about 50s/60s scifi that's...I don't want to use words like quaint or simple. Maybe matter of fact? There's no techno-babble or long explanations about the hows or whys of the technology. The way everything is presented there's nothing flashy about it, it's all just this is how things are in everyday life and I love that about it.

In addition to the wonderful cover, there are a few chapter illustrations.


One of the things that makes this an interesting read is that the story is told completely from Rex's, the robot, point of view. He makes some interesting observations at times like that he knows things not because they were learned but because that's how he was programmed. One of the other things I really got a kick out of is the way he uses part names when talking about his eye or ears. Which of course makes total sense when you think about it. Over the course of his adventures with Paul, Rex becomes more than his programming and begins to understand what it's like to be human.

As you might guess, this is a story about friendship. I couldn't help but think that it was very much like a Lassie story. That is if Lassie were a humanoid, sentient robot.


Doing a bit of research on the book naturally lead me to Amazon to read reviews. Turns out, a lot of people read this when they were in grade school. For some it was their first chapter book or intro to science fiction and I think that's pretty cool. Because the book is over half a century old, I just presumed it was one of those random things that turn up at a flea market after someone cleaned out their attic and no one would remember it.

When I started the book I had no idea that I was going to be reading something that people have such fond memories of.

Also while poking around, I found just how much some people love the book in this great post where a fan of the book created this display piece. The post itself is worth checking out to read people's reactions/memories about the book.


If you're a fan of old sci-fi movies, it's worth checking out. While reading, I was picturing in my mind what the special effects would look like if it was a movie from the 60s. As cheesy as that may be, the story has some heart to it that I wouldn't necessarily expect.

You can sign up at Archive.org for a virtual library card and check the book out online or, using Adobe Editions, get a pdf that's good for two weeks. If you want physical media, you can snag a used copy from Amazon for under $5.


Not a fan of this cover.

2 comments:

  1. I have an Arrow Book flyer from 1968 with a last chance offer on this book. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ss2tIZR8-bk/VNk5dpCMLbI/AAAAAAAAP0o/7xFdX_6xbqk/s1600/Scan_20150209%2B(42).jpg

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    Replies
    1. Hey Tom, that is pretty cool! Thanks for sharing.

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