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The Caves of Steel (1954)

by Isaac Asimov

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,7741411,144 (3.96)2 / 250
Classic Literature. Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov‚??s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.  

Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer.  

The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw.  Worst of all was that the ‚??R‚?Ě stood for robot‚??and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the mur
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  2. 70
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  5. 54
    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Artificial intelligences, detectives, a city and a mystery. The Dick is a darker, more difficult read.
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    Curran2: both books are by prominent sci-fi authors and both protagonists are detectives
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» See also 250 mentions

English (131)  Italian (3)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  Czech (1)  Dutch (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (140)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
There are authors that can write very interesting stories and then there are authors that manage to create such a wonderful story and characters that you just need to finish the book in one sweep. One of such authors is Frank Herbert (original books from Dune are just marvelous) and other is Isaac Asimov. Although at the later stages of their magnum opuses both of the mentioned authors got a little bit too much wordy and stories became ever so convoluted (later books in Dune saga by Frank Herbert seem to be monologues and Asimov's Foundation became too cumbersome) their initial works were written in a very clear style, not concentrating on the tools and technology but on people and society in general.

And this is the trademark of this novel - although we are given very vivid presentation of future Earth with the crammed cities and general fear of contact (considering the current worldwide situation when I write this it is truly disturbing that Asimov wrote of people that would forsake the open grounds and internal contact for fear and cram into gigantic cities that are for all means and purposes solitary confinements) contrasted against the alien people of the star colonies [that dominate their home-world through technology], story is centered around two representatives of these so close but also so estranged societies - New York policeman Elijah Bailey and his police partner from the colonies while working on a very touchy murder investigation, Daneel Olivaw. We follow them as they try to working together - this takes time especially because in crammed cities of future earth privacy as such does not exist (again brrr) and inter-space politics are as messed up as our current one. Criminal investigation is but a backdrop for Asimov's very neat portrayal of human society, fears and anxieties that are ever so present in our society no matter the time period [ages past, our times or distant future], fear of change, fear of unknown and constant romanticizing of the past [that never brought much good to humanity].

Excellent book, highly recommended to all fans of SF thrillers. ( )
  Zare | Jan 23, 2024 |
When I started this book I was a bit skeptical. A lot of the language is pretty outdated and cringeworthy, but the story stands up. People worried about robots taking their jobs? Yeah, still pretty relevant. Doesn't pass the Bechdel test, unless you count a woman talking about conversations she had with other women. ( )
1 vote stardustwisdom | Dec 31, 2023 |
Released in 1954, The Caves of Steel is the first in the Robot mystery series by Isaac Asimov. It is a detective story and illustrates an idea Asimov advocated, that science fiction can be applied to any literary genre, rather than just being a limited genre in itself. It remains one of Asimov's beloved novels. It remains a tremendously satisfying reading experience (hence my reading it twice) but there are sequences where the book shows its age a bit. But as a mid-twentieth century sci-fi classic, it endures the test of time.

The story is a nifty murder mystery set in a distant future Earth in which humanity now lives in enclosed city-sized buildings known as, of course, Cities or "caves of steel". Between the people of Earth and the Spacers, human emigrants from Earth who live among the 50 independent colonized planets (because Earth’s inability to support 8 billion humans), there exists R's (robots). They are designed and perfected among the Spacer colonies to do all the menial tasks humans do, freeing up humans for a life of leisure and pleasure. At least, that's how it works off-world. In the Cities of Earth, as robots became integrated into Earth's rigidly heirarchical society, and some of them began taking sorely needed jobs away from people, hostilities erupted into riotous frenzy. Now, robot integration is a slower process, though one that meets with no less hatred. In the story there exists a group called the Medievalists. The Medievalists are a subversive anti-robot group which pine for the 'olden days' where men did not live in the 'caves of steel' and weren't in competition with robots. He uses his position to engineer meetings with Spacer Dr. Sarton under the guise of further cooperation, but he actually intends to destroy R. Daneel - who lives with and resembles Dr. Sarton

Our main character is Elijah Baley. Elijah is a police detective whose commissioner, Julius Enderby, calls on him to solve the murder of a prominent Spacer scientists (Dr. Sarton) in a cordoned-off sector of New York called simply Spacetown. At the Spacers' insistence, Baley is partnered with a mechanical lowlife! - a robot, R. Daneel Olivaw, created by robotics engineer Dr. Sarton. And yet Olivaw is the first of a whole new breed of R's. Nearly human in appearance and demeanor, Olivaw was in fact invented by the murder victim, a Spacer scientist actually sympathetic to Earth people who hoped the new generation of human-like robots would improve the pace of Earth's technological growth and help Earth overcome its aversion to robots. The Spacers, and Olivaw, believe the scientist was murdered by an underground anti-Spacer organization which knew of these plans, and, to say the least, disapproved strongly (perhaps a member of the Medievalists?). But despite Earthfolks' hatred of Spacers, Baley knows of no organized terrorist cells dedicated to their destruction and Baley even assumes it could be a follow Robot. Yet as Baley and Olivaw pursue the case, clues mount up which point to a conspiracy that Baley doesn't want to confront that those closest to him maybe the culprit. Is the murderer his wife? His boss?

You'll have to read to find out.

This is an excellent whodunnit and fascinating sci-fi tale, even if it has a few flaws. Here are my two main complaints: 1.) The dialogue has more of place in the 1950s rather than three millenniums from now. 2.) Baley's wife is sadly not written well and is given to melodrama. But I guess we don't read Asimov for strong female characters....

And despite these flaws, this is a classic.

More than merely an entertaining whodunnit, this novel is ultimately about humanity's need to overcome the fears and prejudices which senselessly prevent our own betterment as a species. It's a message that has remained important (just look at the current unrest in America). For this reason alone, this is a timeless novel even if it does show a bit of age. ( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
A formative book for adolescent me ( )
  emmby | Oct 4, 2023 |
Always a pleasure to re-read one of my favorite books of all time, starring one of my favorite characters of all time (Daneel). A pretty straight forward murder mystery in a SF Asimov future. Always engrossing. ( )
  MandyPS | May 13, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Asimov, Isaacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cramer-Westerhoff, B.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dufris, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my wife GERTRUDE and My Son DAVID
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Lije Baley had just reached his desk when he became aware of R. Sammy watching him expectantly.
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But now, Earthmen are all so coddled, so enwombed in their imprisoning caves of steel, that they are caught forever. (p. 97)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Classic Literature. Fiction. Science Fiction. HTML:A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov‚??s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.  

Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer.  

The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw.  Worst of all was that the ‚??R‚?Ě stood for robot‚??and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the mur

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