ROSSUM'S UNIVERSAL REPLICAS: KAREL CAPEK'S R.U.R. REIMAGINED by Christopher Conlon
Karel Capek's nightmarish drama R.U.R. took audiences by storm when it premiered in Prague in 1921—within three years it had been translated into thirty languages and seen in productions all over the world. Now Christopher Conlon, “one of the preeminent names in contemporary literary horror” (Booklist), reinvents this theatrical classic for a new generation, creating a fresh and different take on Capek’s unforgettable vision of the end of human civilization.
Bram Stoker Award winner Christopher Conlon is the author of Savaging the Dark and A Matrix of Angels, among other novels, and the editor of He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“Conlon is a consummate literary artist...His insight is rare.”
– George Clayton Johnson, author of Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories
“Conlon has a major talent...with a marvelous artistic grasp of the joys, pains, and sorrows of this world we all inhabit. He is a superb writer.”
– William F. Nolan, co-author of Logan’s Run
"In 1921, celebrated fantasist Karel Ćapek’s futuristic stage play, R.U.R, premiered in Prague, stunning audiences and becoming an instant classic. Now largely forgotten, it has been resurrected and reimagined by award winning author Christopher Conlon. In Ćapek’s stage production, mass-produced robots have been invented and employed to do mundane jobs that humans eschew, laboring in factories and sweatshops. The robots eventually develop consciousness and revolt against their makers and masters in an apocalypse of horror. Award winning author Christopher Conlon has retooled Ćapek’s vision into a futuristic 1921 setting reminiscent of the film Metropolis. Robots have been updated to Replicas, and a descent into terror awaits the cloistered Rossum family as they receive increasingly horrific news about the Replica revolt that is brewing and worsening beneath their high-rise castle keep. People are dying at the hands of the Replicas, who are rumored to be duplicating themselves. In the Rossum’s plush sitting room, the family begins to look at their Replica servants in a whole new light. I do hope this unnerving play sees the stage—I would love to attend. Until then, this play is a grand reading experience."
- The Tomb of Dark Delights
Conlon (author of the fantastic novels MIDNIGHT ON MOURN STREET and SAVAGING THE DARK) delivers a reimagined version of Karel Capek's classic 1921 doomsday story R.U.R., and does so in a play format (in the 20s the original was a smash hit and was performed on stage all over the world).
Rossum is 70 years old, the most powerful man on earth, who has dedicated his life to his company, which manufactures life-like human replicas that are now more plentiful than humans. The replicas are designed to serve mankind. His daughter Helena runs the company with him, and when her sister Nina comes around, stating she believes the Replicas are starting to revolt, her fears are confirmed by Dr. Gall, a research scientist at Rossum's company, R.U.R.
The two replicas who have raised Helena and Nina, Gertrude and Raymond, do indeed show signs that they may have developed their own wills. And as the humans in this tale learn they may be the last alive, Rossum's head butler/replica Primus explains what is now happening around the globe.
ROSSUM'S UNIVERSAL REPLICA'S, while epic in scale, is a quick read full of genuine tension, wonder, and a horrifying finale. After reading Conlon's reimagining, I located a copy of Capek's original story, and while it's enjoyable, Conlon's version modernizes a few details and in my opinion, makes the replicas twice as eerie. Fans of apocalyptic stories will surely enjoy this "retro-apocalypse" and perhaps be inspired, like I was, to seek out the source material.