Category Archives: Mystery

The Naked Sun

Isaac Asimov 1956

Second installment of the Lije Baley, Daneel Olivaw detective cases.  Baley’s success with the murder case of Dr. Sarton from Aurora, mostly his success at working with the Spacers and navigating the cultures, has gotten him the attention of the Outer Worlds.  He is called to Solaria to help solve a murder case on a planet where there are no police–nor need of them, they thought.

Lije Baley’s trip to an Outer World, him being one of the only humans to do so in the past few hundred years, gives humanity a glimpse at their haughty rivals.  Lije has to not only solve a murder case under galactic scrutiny, but he has to do so in a culture completely opposite to his own.  On Solaria there are ten thousand robots for every human, and humans each have their own estate covering miles of the planet.  Personal contact is absolutely taboo and most interaction happens through “viewing,” advanced holograms.  This attitude towards space also means that Baley will have to confront the openness of outside.

As he frustratingly deals with the Solarians he discovers their greatest strengths are their weaknesses and that they aren’t as dissimilar from their earth-men beginnings as they’d like to believe: they still harbor jealousy, fear, and insecurity.  He also discovers strife between Solaria and Aurora and a hint at greater workings in the galaxy.

The scene where Baley is interviewing the sociologist felt like talking to Candide’s professor.  And can anyone tell me why the blue eyeshadow on earlobes?

The Caves of Steel

Isaac Asimov 1953

But now, Earthmen are so coddled, so enwombed in their imprisoning caves of steel, that they are caught forever.  Caves of Steel, Del Rey page 120

summary Mankind has continued to boom in population and has entrenched itself in highly efficient Cities, so efficient that the slightest imbalance or disaster would be fatal. Space travel did allow the colonization of 50 Outer Worlds, but that was hundreds of years ago.  The emigrants’ descendants, Spacers, are much different now and thoroughly disliked by Earthmen.  The Spacers are powerful, and the murder of one of their researchers calls for an investigation between Spacetown and the City, as well as investigators from both cultures.  Lije Baley must work with a Spacer robot (robots, a group hated even more than Spacers) to solve the case, with his job, his family’s status, and Earth’s relationship with Spacers depending on it.  Surprises are in store for Baley as he learns the truth about Earth and races to save his life and the future of humankind.

At first Baley’s false guesses about the murderer, done in dramatic fashion, struck me as sudden, bordering on hasty, but they ultimately serve to divulge new clues that fit into the end solution.  It is also surprising how things work out between Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw.  The novel becomes less about the conflict between human labor and robot replacement than about the agendas of Spacers, Medievalists, politicians and romanticists.

Asimov creates a futuristic world (well-woven into storyline) with intriguing technologies and a very interesting look at how the human psyche may evolve and cope with a densely packed and controlled environment, but with much more brevity and positivity than a future such as Aldous Huxley envisioned.  For a murder mystery, I liked the ending; Baley on his toes, working off of evidence he suspects is there.  The cerebroanalytic analysis, however, is just too convenient.  And no error?  Quite an advanced robot.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

by Trenton Lee Stewart

Young Adult books are gaining esteem for their quality and contribution to great literature.  Juvenile fiction can also be an enriching genre not to be overlooked by those over the age of 15.  (Need I mention Harry Potter?)  The Mysterious Benedict Society is one of the juvenile classification that any adult can still appreciate.

Good read.  The intriguing cover is a good representation of what you’ll find inside.  This book can be separated into two parts, the test/finding of amazing kids, and the battle against the evil mastermind.  I enjoyed both; the first part was so interesting, and will excite anyone who likes puzzles.  The second part was full of interesting twists and turns and makes the reader think.  Stewart has a lot of fresh ideas.

Excellent book.

Snow Falling on Cedars

by David Guterson

Very good read.  This is maybe only the second novel I’ve read revolving around a trial (To Kill A Mockingbird being the other).  I’ve read that this book was influenced by Harper Lee’s.

It is easy to see that the author knows his subject matter from the vibrant descriptions of the island where the story takes place.  I was in Washington in the summer of 2007 and got to see San Juan island, which allowed me to visualize and enjoy this book so much better.

The main theme is the necessity of individual moral action despite the indifference of nature and circumstance.  The characters deal with loss and racism, they have to find ways to move on.

Guterson leaves us with a powerful message:  “he understood this, too: accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.”

There is a movie version, I wonder if it is worth watching?

Click here for a summary via SparkNotes:

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson 1886

Great story!  Make sure to add this short novella to your list of classics to read.  It has suspense, angst, mystery and admirable development of empathy for the main character for such a short text.  The setting offsets the plot and amplifies it flowingly.

A very good man ventures into the land of the alter ego and the impulses not followed by decent people.  With a formula he discovers, the doctor unleashes the pure essence of his evil side.  His fascination with the other side is his downfall, because an impurity in the powders cannot be replicated, and he will be trapped forever, his own personality repressed while the beast rages on.  So in a last act of unselfish goodness, he manages to end his nightmare and spare society an evil madman.