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The Robot Novels: The Caves of Steel, The…

The Robot Novels: The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn (1988)

by Isaac Asimov

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The Caves of Steel: When a prominent Outer Worlds roboticist is murdered in Spacetown, the authorities fear another Barrier Riot, with thousands of angry displaced humans, jobs lost to robots, screaming at the Spacers to leave Earth forever and go back to their hygienic, sparsely populated, robot infested planets. The New York City police commissioner assigns Detective Elijah Baley to investigate the murder, but Baley must work with a detective representing the Outer Worlds, and his new partner, although he looks human, is a robot. Baley doesn’t like this at all.

Asimov’s 1954 novel was written in part to prove to his editor that the genres of Science Fiction and Mystery could be successfully blended. Extreme urbanization has turned earthlings into city dwellers and cities into enormous domed enclosures with their inhabitants living in the titles caves of steel. On Earth robots are machines that work outside the cities in mines and on farms. Humans from the Outer Worlds live in relative luxury and companionably with their much more sophisticated robots in what they call a C/Fe culture a blending of carbon and iron based beings. Unfortunately for the human Spacers they’ve also completely lost their natural immunity to all terrestrial disease and dare not venture forth from their Spacetown embassy or they will sicken and die.

The book has several themes in addition to the cultural conflict between a Luddite home planet and its richer and more technologically advanced former colonies. Urbanization is one; the other is automation, the replacement of human labor by machinery. The Spacers cannot understand why the earthlings cling to a planet where life is barely sustainable when they could emigrate to the stars and eventually retire to a life of luxury and leisure made possible by C/Fe culture. And they are actively working to advance that political agenda.

Baley’ partner R. Daneel Olivaw (the R. is for robot) is the obvious model for the android character Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It would seem that the television writers borrowed more than the term for positronic brain from Asimov for the perfectly logical and occasionally bemused by human behavior mechanical humanoid robot.
The Naked Sun:
NYPD detective Elijah Baley is surprised to be called to Washington where an Undersecretary in the Justice Department tells him that he about to be temporarily reassigned. Then comes the real shock. He’s to investigate a murder on the far off planet of Solaria. It’s been so long, three centuries, since there’s been a murder that the planet has no police force. Additionally interstellar diplomatic pressure has insisted that Baley and his partner from the politically powerful planet of Aurora, R. Daneel Olivaw (the R. stand for Robot), must be the investigators.

Asimov’s science fiction is full of anthropological observations about the two worlds and their social phobia. Baily, the earthman from a world of crowded cities can’t stand to be out of doors under the naked sun of the title. The Solarians, who live individually on grand estates served by an army of robots, can’t stand the physical presence of another human. And of course, there’s lots about the author’s three laws of robotics, but, as a mystery story, he also provides, on Samaria a denouement worthy of Dame Christie's Hercule Poirot, and then on Earth a surprise twist to the story worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.
  MaowangVater | May 22, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Isaac Asimovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stawicki, MattCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There are two separate works titled "The Robot Novels". One contains the first two books: Caves of Steel and Naked Sun. The other contains three books: Caves of Steel, Naked Sun and Robots of Dawn.
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