The Humanoids (1948)
Spine Front Cover Book Details
Jack Williamson
Publication Date 2003
Format Leather-bound (240 x 160 mm)
Publisher The Easton Press
Genre Science Fiction
Product Details
Series Masterpieces of Science Fiction
No. of Pages 239
Paper Type Acid-neutral paper
First Edition No
Personal Details
URL This book on
Rating 9
No. of Reviews 8
Frontispiece/Illustrator Klein. David G.
Introduction/Foreward F. M. Busby
Original Details
Original Publication Year 1948
On the plant Wing IV, a brilliant scientist creates humanoids--sleek black androids programmed to serve humanity. But they follow their program with ruthless efficiency, and the planet's inhabitants soon succumb to the humanoid's velvet-gloved tyranny. Only a group of rebels on a distant world can stem the humanoid tide--if it's not already too late.
Few writers of science fiction can approach Jack Williamson in either longevity or accomplishment. Williamson first started writing science fiction in the late 1920s and soon became popular for his adventure stories. Throughout the 1930s, such works as The Legion of Time and The Legion of Space trilogy were synonymous with excitement. But Williamson is as well known for his willingness to try new things. In the 1940s he turned to "naturalistic" science fiction (as in Seetee Shock and Seetee Ship) that sought to portray the future in a less romantic manner.

As popular as all these works were, however, Williamson's greatest successes were still ahead of him. Soon after World War II a number of stories started to appear that have since been called social science fiction. Unlike many of the authors of the earlier stories, their writers dwelt on the social consequences of scientific advancement and the relationship of the human race to its creations. At their best, these writers were not content to rehash the Frankenstein tale for yet another time. In the pages of their fiction readers watched the debate between the humanists and scientists rage, examined the benefits and curses of progress, and questioned the motives and foresight of those who tried to make life better.

Jack Williamson wrote some of the very best social science fic tion. The Humanoids is based on two stories written for John Camp bell's Astounding. The first, "With Folded Hands , has become a classic novelette in science fiction. Sledge, the inventor of the science of Rhodomagnetics, has created the humanoids. These perfect mechanical creations have been programmed with the Prime Directive: To Serve and Obey, and GUARD MEN FROM HARM. And they are very, very good at obeying that law. So good, in fact, that they remind many modern readers of a line from a popular song of not too long ago: "killing me softly with kindness."

Sledge originally invented the humanoids because he believed his race was not capable of handling its own affairs. His native planet, Wing IV, had been wrecked by wars, by indifference to poverty, by stupidity, and by greed. The humanoids rebuilt the world by taking all decisions out of humanity's hands. These perfect servants - these saviors - became prototypical babysitters who refused to allow the race to grow. Any adventurous activity was interpreted by them as constituting a danger to their charges.

"With Folded Hands. . ." chronicles Sledge's attempt first to escape his own creations and, later, his resistance to them. ". . . and Searching Mind" picks up after Sledge's story ends. A group of inter planetary rebels with strange powers has gathered to rid the worlds of the humanoids. While they are plotting, a scientist, Clay Forester, has himself rediscovered Rhodomagnetics. The rebels seek Forester's help in destroying the mechanicals, but he is not so sure their cause is the right one. As another character in the story puts it: the humanoids are machines meant to serve humanity. The only people they harm are those who insist on clinging to old forms of behavior that have been proven to be harmful to the race. Shouldn't humanity take advantage of the new freedom given to them and develop mental and spiritual powers denied them before?

Williamson is noted for such questions. Much of both stories is taken up with how and why humanity creates the inventions that change lives, yet Williamson does not preach at us. We are free to draw our own conclusions. His concern is for all of us, and the humanoids, those darkly perfect servants, stand for one possible future. We, like Forester, must choose whether we want to follow such a path.

The Masterpieces of Science Fiction special edition of The Humanoids contains an introduction written by F.M. Busby. The author of many science-fiction novels and short stories, Busby is noted for his human characters who seek answers to many of the same questions suggested by Williamson. His major works include two extended novels, one named for the leading male character Barton (Cage a Man, The Proud Enemy, and All These Earths) and the other for its leading female character Rissa (Rissa Kerguelen, The Long View, and Zelde M'Tana).

The artwork for this special leather-bound edition was designed by David C. Klein of Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of Pratt Institute, Mr. Klein has received many awards for his work, among them, the 1979 Society of Illustrators Certificate of Merit. His love for his work is evident in the series of scratch board illustrations he conceived for this special leather-bound collector's edition of The Humanoids.