Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov. The name reminds me why I love science fiction. The original Foundation Trilogy helped make me a life long fan. I did not notice that the stories did not feature much action. What it did feature was fascinating dialogue and ideas I had never heard of before reading them. That was when I discovered this book that sounded more like a mystery. Now was the right time to return to this classic.

Earth has become a planet of people who do not leave the cities. Everyone suffers from agoraphobia. Asimov was agoraphobic so it was natural for him to write a story about it. The Spacer worlds (colonies of Earth) set up Spacetown. When the Spacer ambassador is killed, Elijah Baley is assigned to the case. What he does not expect is the Spacer detective who becomes his partner. R. Daneel Olivaw is a human form robot. The problem is that robots are not accepted on Earth. The duo becomes one of science fiction's classic teams.

The biggest problem they face is no weapons are allowed in Spacetown. No murder weapon is found but the victim was killed by a blaster. The only way a blaster could be smuggled in was by crossing an open area. No human could do it. Robots are not able to allow humans to be harmed so they could not cross the open area and kill a person.

Asimov managed to convince me that Elijah solved the crime a couple of times before he actually solved it. This is the sign of a good mystery. Even though I read the book 30+ years ago, I was still surprised by the revelation.

The Caves of Steel is still relevant today. Overpopulation is a major problem. Cities are growing out of control. The average person is struggling to get by. People are afraid of loosing their jobs to automation. The thought of living your whole life inside a city, inside the caves of steel, would be depressing to most people of our time. Sunlight and getting outside helps perk us up when things get depressed. I could not imagine living in this world. Everyone eats at community kitchens that serve the same food to everyone. We are a society that loves variety and personal choices when it comes to food.

The Caves of Steel remains one of my favorites. If you have not read it, give it a chance. I think you will like it.

1 comment:

Carl V. Anderson said...

As I am doing with Heinlein now, I eventually want to work my way through Asimov's books. I read the Foundation trilogy a couple of years ago, my first experience with Asimov, and was blown away. Since then I've read and loved I, Robot and a few of the short stories in Robot Dreams. I was in a used bookstore the other day and picked up three Asimov paperbacks for a whopping $1.54 (Nine Tomorrows, The Currents of Space, and Death Dealers). I will certainly add this to my list of Asimov books to keep an eye out for. Great review Jim.