The story opens in a psychiatrist’s office, where Hugo Johnson has been brought by ‘Central’ after failing to leave his apartment for two months. Johnson lives in an over-populated, regimented world; he’s anti-social and bitter: “I had had my fill of friends. They sponged on you, drank your drinks, invaded your privacy and drove you mad with incessant, nattering monologues on matters of supreme unimportance.” Johnson is diagnosed with chronic apathy and told he is a potential suicide. As treatment he is given a companion – a robot who will live with him until he’s cured.
The robot arrives and proceeds to drive Johnson to distraction: eating his food, mimicking him, and ultimately making a pass at a woman Johnson invited back to his room.
The story closes with Johnson back in the psychiatrist’s office. “I was cured. I had taken the necessary steps towards getting out and meeting people.” And the reason for this cure? It’s not giving much away, as most readers would have worked out the reason by the end of the tale: the shrink reveals that, “The robot possessed an almost perfect replica of your own brain!” For the past three weeks, Johnson has been living with himself.
“R26/5/PSY and I” is another minor though entertaining tale. Coney has yet to hit his stride in the short story format.