Friday, February 13, 2015

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At the risk of spoiling the joke, "Klaatu barada nikto" was a password that deactivated the world-destroying robot Gort in the classic science-fiction movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951).

Behind the Curtain: I wanted to go for a gag here with the three books, but couldn't quite figure out how to pull it off. The joke would've been that the first book is some turgid "heavy" tome that most people are reluctant to read--something like War and Peace or Joyce's Ulysses. The second book is a piece of "light" reading--maybe a children's book. The third "just right" book I couldn't come up with anything I liked. To work as a tight gag, the three books would ideally be thematically related, and even better would reflect something about the story or characters--for example, something to do with robots, science or superheroes. So:

CONTEST TIME! In this post's Comments, suggest titles for the three books. They should be actual books that people know, not funny names you make up. I'm the judge and jury, and I'm not obliged to declare a winner. But if anyone comes up with three book titles I like enough to use, I'll send them an original drawing of the Robot and Inventor Sparky, and remember to mention them in the acknowledgements of any future print or e-book incarnations (if any) of "The Last Mechanical Monster."

I'll be interested to see how this goes (or doesn't)!

UPDATE: The contest is over and I think went pretty well! See Page 142 for details, and thanks again.


  1. Moby Dick - Jonathan Livingston Seagull - I, Robot

  2. James Michener's Centennial (Sparky's 99)

    The One-Minute Manager (Thinking Quickly)

    Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People (Sparky's learning already)

  3. A brief history of time
    The magic school bus (and the Electric Field Trip)
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

    1. This was me. I can't get enough of this blog. Thanks for all the happy reading!

  4. R.U.R.
    The Little Engine That Could
    The Caves of Steel

  5. Aaargh! All the books getting wet! D: Library/Museum emergency!


  6. (This may be a dupe - if my other came up as anonymous, it's because I hit the wrong button at the wrong time... where's my Engineer?!?! Feel free to delete that one.)

    Harry Bates, "Farewell to the Master" (story that "Day the Earth Stood Still" was based on - yes, it was just a short story, but it could be published as a novella...)

    Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged" (heavy, turgid to many, and "the story of a man who said he would stop the motor of the world...and did." Very "Earth-stood-Still-Ish.")

    And I think Mike nailed it with "I, Robot" for the third. Brings to mind the laws of robotics, it's a good middling size, it tickles the idea of "he/it" becoming self-aware, etc.

  7. I agree Mike nailed it with "I, Robot", but in any case, gotta love the heroic, quick-thinking librarian! Get a few books wet to save the library.

  8. 1) The Theory of Everything
    2) Fast Diets for Dummies
    3) The Fire This Time

    It's Friday the 13th. What really did you expect?

  9. Crime and Punishment, Are You My Mother? and Prometheus Bound were my first thought. For a sentimental touch you could do The Art of the Italian Renaissance, The Art of Jim Davis, and The Art of Richard Thompson.

  10. You guys are great, keep 'em coming! And thanks.

    Anonymous @ 8:21, you should leave your name, I like yours.

    L., wait til Tuesday.

    More titles, please! Feel free to "enter" more than once if you get new ideas.

  11. Also, I think you're gonna get a big bill for ceiling damages from all the flung books in the near future... I myself can't wait to try it!

  12. Big Book: Isaac Asimov "Foundation" Omnibus edition.
    Little Book: "Elmo's Little Library."
    Medium Book: "Fahrenheit 451."

  13. One more try:

    The Stand - Green Eggs and Ham - The Wizard of Menlo Park

  14. Too heavy, too light, just right -- that's Goldilocks, so the book would be Grimm's fairy tales. But that's not really related to the story.

    The thin book could be a Superman collection, or something like "Plumbing for Dummies"
    The fat book maybe "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoevsky
    The just right should be "I, Robot"

  15. Lord of the Rings
    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    To Kill a Mockingbird

  16. Big one: Android Karenina.
    Little one: Electric Ant.
    Just Right: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

  17. Big: Crime & Punishment
    Light:Hardy Boys
    Just Right: The Maltese Falcon

    Keeping with a crime theme...

  18. Big: The Art of Computer Programming, Vol 1, by Donald Knuth. Classic in the subject and heavyweight in both senses.
    Light: The Machine Stops, by EM Forster, or The Iron Giant by Ted Hughes. Both short and appropriate.
    Medium: I can't argue with previous suggestions of Frankenstein, and I, Robot. Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra is the right length and appropriate to "superman" saving the day-but Dante's Inferno is a better punchline.

  19. Medium: R.U.R. by Capek or Metropolis by Harbou
    Light: The Mad Scientists Club by Brinley
    Heaviest: The Adventures of Superman by Lowther

  20. Okay - how about "Bone", then "Bark George" and finally "The Giving Tree"?

  21. "The Giving Tree" is one of the worst books ever.

    This has been great, thanks everyone. Let's give it a couple of days (more suggestions welcome!) and I'll pick some I like.

  22. If the heavy book isn't Shaw's "Man and Superman," then what's the point? No preference for the lightweight tome. But I second Helena's "Kavalier and Clay" suggestion for the middle book.

  23. Too heavy: lord of the rings trilogy
    Too light: Harry Potter and the sorcerer's stone
    Just right: Fahrenheit 451.

  24. Thanks for your smart and thoughtful suggestions, everyone. The contest is now over, see the next installment for the winners! My wife says I picked the most boring ones.