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The Caves of Steel

posted on October 14, 2020

The Caves of Steel is Isaac Asimov’s first robot novel. It’s where he gets to expand and build on the wonderful robot short stories that have preceded it. Even though the robot short stories were written over an expanded period of time, Asimov used the stories written after Caves, to backfill with events that cleverly lead up to this book. Reading The Complete Robot, as I did just before this book, allowed Asimov to delightfully and expertly set the table for Caves.

The early robot stories are behind us and we’re now looking at a far different different Earth where everyone lives cheek to jowl in cities built beneath the surface of the Earth. All this becomes the setting for a “buddy movie” featuring Elijah Baley, a policeman , and R. Daneel Olivaw, a robot as detectives trying to solve a murder. The robot we encounter here, specifically Daneel, is the most advanced ever created with the possible exception of RB-34/Herbie, the accidental robot in Liar that was capable of reading thoughts. With the set-up established, the book then becomes a unique fusion of the SF and mystery genres, and, with Asimov at the helm, it makes for an entertaining ride.

Reading this again after way too many years still finds the work as engaging as ever. Reading this work again after way too many years also means that I forgot who the murderer was, so in some ways it’s a fresh approach. As such, I find the the work still holds up to the glowing memory that I had of it. And now it’s on to Asimov’s second robot novel, The Naked Sun.