Helena, daughter of an industrialist, meets Harry, the manager of Rossum’s Unversal Robots (which might better be translated as Rezin’s Universal Robots). He tells her all the secrets of robot production, and they grow close. Eventually, the robot situation turns sour.
I think I first heard of RUR from Isaac Asimov’s story notes in The Early Asimov. I thought it of historical interest, but for some reason never bothered to try to find the play itself in school libraries. Several decades later, I’ve finally made up for it.
I found the play much more successful than I expected. The characterization is shallow, the attitudes dated, and the motivations extremely thin. But the tone of the piece is largely light, and it’s easy reading. None of the ideas it raises are new to today’s SF readers, but they remain intriguing. Čapek explores themes from economics to hubris to love, and while he drops many aspects unexamined, the play is still a quick, thoughtful spin through some of the key points.
All in all, a surprisingly fun read, and worth checking out for its historical value.