The bookgroup book for yesterday was The Humanoids, but it's short and I read the sequel, too. It turned out most of us had read the sequel. All the books (mine were very old from SFBC, everybody else had a new paperback) had "With Folded Hands" at the front, but my book also had a bit from Williamson at the back: "Me and My Humanoids."
"With Folded Hands" is not only the best story of that group, but one of the best stories in SF. A man comes home from his mechanicals shop and finds new robots, humanoids, who look like small black ungendered humans, and will do anything free. People in the city sign on -- why not get the house cleaned, no more work at the office, no more babysitting -- but it turns out that the Prime Directive: "to serve and obey and guard men from harm" is interpreted too strictly. The man tries to get his wife to stop the temporary humanoids and at the same time, checks on the tenant she put in the garage apartment that day.
The tenant said he made the humanoids and is trying to change the Prime Directive. They work together to get a beam that will kill the "brain" on another planet that runs the humanoids. It not only doesn't work, but the humanoids appear at the door. The tenant gives in to the humanoids because he'll die otherwise. The humanoids give almost all humans euphoricide, a drug that makes them happy, but like babies. They aren't allowed to do anything because it might hurt them -- use knives, bathe by themselves, play golf -- so when the humanoids drive the guy home, he sits with folded hands because he can't do anything anymore.
This is like a bigger version of that story. A general has a secret missile compartment and spends all his time worried about what he has to send it at. A little girl, Jane Carter, teleports to see him and tell him that other telurgy people need to see him and he eventually comes. The folks in that group hope to kill the humanoids, but the general doesn't believe in the humanoids yet. Things progress until not only is the general trapped by the humanoids with his missiles removed, he jumps with Jane Carter to the brain world and tries to put in a set of relays that will change the Prime Directive.
It doesn't work, they get caught, and he's put in a cage and watches a new skill -- making humans puppets. He turns up with Jane on another planet and it turns out he can do a lot of telurgical stuff now. The humanoids still find them and eventually make him, all the telurgists, and others into happy beings, with the euphoricide and psychological training.
Williamson's bit at the back says that a lot of people had questions about what happened and he felt that the people who gave in to the humanoids show social culture, but the ones who don't have to, are individualist culture.
The Humanoid Touch
We're in a completely different planet now, and most people no longer believe in humanoids. Unfortunately, they show up and lie to the population extensively, including making themselves look like real people. Our protagonist, who turns out to be a mutant human who can live in a deadly land on the other planet, tried to kill them and then get away, and only he and his father do because they can go into the deadly land. All other humans are then happy with the euphoricide or dead.
Tbis one was nowhere near as good as the first book, much less the story.