My Review of The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1)

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isaac Asimov was famous for his stories involving robots, and for inventing the Three Laws of Robotics:

First Law
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

Second Law
A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The earlier stories took place on an Earth not too far in future. In this novel he jumps several millennia into the future. With the aid of robots, some people have colonized 50 worlds near Earth, and they are called The Spacers. They do not want much to do with Earth, but there is some trade. Earth has in the meantime become an overcrowded megalopolis of enclosed levels inhabited by people who have become agoraphobic to an extreme. The population is huge, and taking care of them requires severe rationing measures and artificial foods. Interestingly, the total population is given as 8 billion, not much more than we have today, and less than the maximum we are projected to reach. Asimov was someone who worried about overpopulation to perhaps an extreme degree.

Then a Spacer is murdered, and a detective form Earth named Elijah Bailey is assigned to the case. But the Spacers insist that one of their “people” be involved, only that turns out to be a humaniform robot named R. Daneel Olivaw, who can pass for being a human being. So the novel combines a developing relationship between these characters with a murder mystery, something Asimov was also fond of writing. This novel is the first of three. The second, The Naked Sun is set on the planet Solaria, and a third, The Robots of Dawn is set on the planet Aurora. The three novels explore in some sense different settings: Earth is the more primitive, over-crowded society, Solaria is highly developed but becoming neurotically opposed to any social contact, and Aurora is a more balanced middle. Asimov later tied all of his future history into one big whole, and R. Daneel Olivaw becomes a character in the Foundation series.

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