Tik-Tok (novel)

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First edition
AuthorJohn Sladek
Cover artistRian Hughes
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Tik-Tok is a 1983 science fiction novel by John Sladek. It received a 1983 British Science Fiction Association Award.

Plot summary[edit]

The title character is an intelligent robot (named after the mechanical man in the Oz books) who originally works as a domestic servant and house-painter. Unlike other robots, whose behavior is constrained by "asimov circuits"—a reference to Isaac Asimov's fictional Three Laws of Robotics, which require robots to protect and serve humans—Tik-Tok finds that he can do as he pleases, and he secretly commits various hideous crimes for his amusement. After manipulating both robots and humans to cause chaos and bloodshed, Tik-Tok becomes wealthy (partly through health care privatization) and is finally elected Vice President of the United States.


The novel gleefully satirizes Asimov's relatively benign view of how robots would serve humanity, suggesting that the reality would be exactly akin to slavery: robots are worked until they drop and are made the victims of humans' worst appetites, including rape. It also, like Sladek's earlier novel Roderick, mocks the notion of the Three Laws of Robotics and suggests that there is no way such complex moral principles could be hard-wired into any intelligent being; Tik-Tok decides that the "asimov circuits" are in fact a collective delusion, or a form of religion, which robots have been tricked into believing. This liberation from tradition, while it makes him a cruel sociopath and nihilist, also provides him with intellectual insight and artistic talent; thus Tik-Tok is an extreme type of Romantic anti-hero.

Sladek's love of word play is apparent: the book contains 26 chapters, and the first word of each chapter begins with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. Also, the first three words of the book are "As I move", a reference to Asimov.

The notion of using the faithful robot servant in the Oz books to analyze Asimov's principles, and to question the social status of robots, was first proposed in the 1978 essay "Tik-Tok and the Three Laws of Robotics" by Paul A. Abrahm and Stuart Kenter in the academic journal Science Fiction Studies, which Sladek may have read.

Publication history[edit]

Tik-Tok so far has seen five editions in the English language, spread over three different publishers: Gollancz (who published the 1st edition and two later editions); DAW Books (1985) and Corgi (1984).[1]

In 1985 Tik-Tok was translated into the German as Tick-Tack, published by Ullstein-Verlag, and into the Italian as Robot fuorilegge, published by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore.

In 1988 it was translated into the Finnish as Tik-Tok, published by Karisto oy.

In 1998 a French translation followed as Tik-Tok (1998), published by Éditions Denoël.[1]



External links[edit]