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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.

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