Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel

Isaac Asimov

Date: 1953   —   $7.99   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction/Mystery

This is part of a larger Asimov universe where the Outer Planets were colonized, then refused further colonization, leaving Earth to find new ways to deal with its rapidly increasing population. Enter the Cities, highly functional masses where people live in hive-like situations, with everyone and everything in its place. All of Earth's eight billion people live in there. (Amusing sidenote: Asimov, who generally had a good grasp of the possibilities for the future, writes in this book that even five billion people could live on Earth as it was, with proper rationing. We have 6.1 billion people as of 2000, and even though many of them live in hunger, it is estimated that with proper distribution of resources, it would be possible to feed everyone comfortably. Asimov did not forsee the agricultural improvements in his mechanized futures.)

The Spacers have reported a murder, and found that it could be tied to one of the City residents, and Elijah Baley has been given the nod to try to uncover it. He has been partnered with a Spacer robot, R. Daneel Olivaw, who looks and acts so realistically human that he is a far cry from the mechanicals who are, unfortunately, replacing the functions of many City workers. So Lije Baley not only has to find the murderer in an increasingly touchy situation, he has to cope with anti-robot feeling and the possibility of losing his own job.

Asmiov's book was a form of writing exercise; the feeling at the time was that it would be impossible to write a mystery novel in a science fiction setting, where a simple brain scan might tell the truth. He rose to the challenge admirably, including a form of brain scan, and coming up with a beloved tale that only gets larger in subsequent novels.

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