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Caves of Steel School & Library Binding – October 1, 1999
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School & Library Binding
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- Publisher : Bt Bound (October 1, 1999)
- Language : English
- ISBN-10 : 0785774459
- ISBN-13 : 978-0785774457
- Item Weight : 7.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.25 x 4.5 x 7.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,279,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #42,833 in Children's Fantasy & Magic Books
- Customer Reviews:
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Figured I'd start at the beginning of Asimov's journey with establishing the foundations of his now-canon robot ideas, as much as I dislike the writing style of early sci fi (it's usually unreadable for me).
So. It wasn't terrible, but still. Disliked it for use of dated words and presentations. Could have cheerfully lived without any biblical stuff (can't I escape this even in robot sci fi?), and use of "golly" or "gosh" from the obedient teenage son and "Jehoshaphat" as a "curse word" from the dad. Please. And the wife crying and acting like Lucy Ricardo, oh, that was painful. I was a 60s kid and was continually disappointed back then for idiotic tv, movie, and book depictions of women. This is no exception. Child-woman, terrified of society and husband's disapproval! I never met any in my family...and seldom anywhere else in real life, either.
But. This kind of junk is always part of old science fiction. Grit your teeth and move on. This is the way men wrote fiction then. (Most women too, trying to meet common expectations for their readers.) These bigger ideas trapped in the silly sexist pages still deserve a hearing, in all fairness. These writers were products of their time, as we ALL are. Someday people will be laughing at MY pretensions.
So, fellow and sister explorer. Read it for the ideas and not for the stupid dialog. Asimov was a brilliant man, and this is clearly an early but earnest effort. He is a better writer than he sounds from this review. He can tell a story, and he's learning here.
Try it. I found myself rewriting the dialog as I went, and still could work with the story. But try the story...take the journey with Asimov and his ideas.
The Spacers have established an embassy on Earth on the outskirts of New York, called Spacetown. The book goes into great length contrasting the culture of the Spacers verses the Earthers, and this is necessary to understand the significance and possible motive of the murder of a Spacer in Spacetown.
Plain-clothes man Elijah Baley is assigned the case and in an unprecedented move is partnered with a Spacer robot, R. Daneel Olivaw.
The book succeeds as both a great work of Science Fiction speculation and as a fine mystery. Asimov does not cheat the reader, providing many clues to solve the perplexing murder.
This robot novel introduces the human looking robot R. Daneel Olivaw who would appear in many other robot novels as well as the continuing Foundation novels. This book is top notch.
Today it is just as enjoyable to return to these books. They have lost very little of their impact despite the many years that have gone by - in the case of The Caves of Steel, nearly 65 years ago (it was first published in February of 1954). In fact, it is remarkable how well this story has aged.
The title 'Caves of Steel' refers to how Earth has evolved into massive cities, where the population lives, works and recreates without ever departing into the 'real world' of sunlight, wind and rain. Mankind has separated into two groups, the majority remaining on earth and a smaller number who have emigrated to other planets. Robots are an established part of both groups, but the humans who have remained on Earth are distrustful of robots.
Asimov's famous 'Three Laws of Robotics' are integral to the story:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
This is a refreshing, enjoyable and worthwhile story that reminds me how great Asimov was, and remains.
I'm of the generation that grew up devouring Asimov - who, among others, got me imagining a fantastic future - but now that vision is revealed as much less imaginative than was once thought. What value this book retains is in nostalgia for those who read it long ago, or as a semi-important example of the development of the genre. (The Foundation Trilogy being a better example of the latter.) I give one star for each, though I cant disagree with anyone who rated this 1 star overall, that's likewise reasonable.
As for the "mystery" element - that wasn't good when the book was new. Our hero stumbles along doing pretty much nothing worthwhile (though we do get descriptions of Asimov's future New York), then the solution - jehosphat! - just pops into his head a few pages from the end.
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His insight into the "human condition" and what motivates mankind to evolve/excel/invent/revolutionise is nothing short of remarkable.
In this novel he gives us a vision of what earth might look like in 1,000 years with an ever burgeoning population - a strain on Earth's resources along with a sort of inevitable erosion of some of the forces that had previously driven mankind through the millennia to expand. He sees a risk-averse, conformant homogenised society - ring any bells with modern globalisation and our very present "health and safety" risk-averse society we can see 'blossoming' before our very eyes? This, he identifies, is the problem with earthmen of 1,000 years plus. Consider this ... would Christopher Columbus ever have set sail if he's had the "health & safety" brigade doing risk assesments on his "project proposal" to set off into the unknown to discover a hypothetical 'new world'?
He develops this theme into how mankind can get out of this sociological 'cul-de-sac' in an intriguing and thought provoking way.
I like the idea of Medievalists who oppose the spread of robots and technology in general. The commissioner's use of a disguised window is one example. I found the idea of Spacers a little unclear. At first, I wondered if they were robots, but they just use robots as useful tools. They are in fact the original descendants of earth. They are the ruling elite who keep the new settlers in megacities, ration food and enforce a classification linked to privileges. These people fear robots will come and take their jobs away resulting in de-classification.
The murder mystery element of the book is a little forced in the sense that it does not flow smoothly. The clues to the identity of the murderer and their motives are in the book and there is a logical revelation at the end, but it lacks the sophistication readers may expect.
I think Asimov, like Huxley, is a brilliant scientist but lacks literary technique in the modern sense of the word. His novels will be read for their insightful ideas, not for their literary brilliance.
Ok, that's the gripe about the synopsis over and done with.
Earth, thousands of years into the future. Massively overpopulated ever everyone loves in one of 800 Cities - enormous structures that protect their population from the outside, the feed them, Clothe then and nurture them. There is nothing wrong with the outside, it's just that people have been closeted in the Cities for so long that they simply don't go outside. On the outskirts of New York is Spacertown. A reminder to earth that it lost the war against is one time colonies of in the stars. Spacertown is where the ever arrogant and superior spaces stay when visiting old Earth. And now one of them is dead. Murdered. A major diplomatic incident needs to be avoided as any such week price very costly for dear old Earth. Plainclothesman Elijah Baley , C5 rated, of the New York police department is assigned the case along with a partner from the space community. Solving the case will save Earth and will also save Elijah Baley and his family , because fake is not an option.
I've always loved the good doctors books and these books that start what turned into the Robots and Foundation series, a massive conglomeration of a lot of his scifi works, are among my favourites of all. If you can find 'I, Robot' and 'The Rest Of The Robots' these will give you a great background info the Asimov Robots, robots built upon a foundation of ethics, the laws of robotics. a more modern collection is 'The Complete Robot' anthology.
With this book and is follow ups ('The Naked Sun' and 'Robots Of Dawn') we meet one of Asimov's most loved characters, Elijah Baley. An Earth detective called on to solve the most difficult of crimes - murder. Elijah is human, fallible and capable in equal measure. He has to offer come his feelings and failings as he feels into the complicated world and lives of the Spacers.
Surely one of the best characters ever created. Elijah Baley seems to blunder around the problems accidentally finding the solution to the tricky problems with which he is faced. He is so completely human, timelessly so. Thrown into situations that no school could ever prepare him for, he's so it off his depth and comfort zone. But somehow he finally sees the core, the one thing that let's him solve the problem.
Alongside our good detective is his Space partner, Danieel Oliver, their to smooth ruffled father's and explain the Society and technology that no man of Death could ever hope to understand otherwise.
The characterisations are brilliant and the stories are well crafted for all that they were created and published back in 1950.
The plot focuses on earth in the far flung future where humanity's numbers have swelled to immense proportions causing the creation of "cities", giant enclosed superstructures capable of housing millions of people where food and space are planned and regulated accordingly. Hummanity has also spread out to the stars and colonized other planets without the overpopulation or resource limitations causing a rather large rift between them and earth, they are know as "spacers".
One of these spacers has been murdered on earth potentially causing diplomatic problems between the two already struggling cultures. In steps detective Baley, an earthman who doesn't like robots to investigate. The spacers are willing to hold off consequences on the condition that one of them investigate with him, problem is Daneel is a robot.
For a book about the police and robots there is surprisingly little action, instead it focuses on the possibility of humanities future, it's struggling differences, and it's use of advancing technology and the divide that causes. I enjoyed the book all the more for that and found it not only interesting material but also rather clever in it's examination of culture and survival.
All in all a good book if a little short, next up the sequel The Naked Sun, I can see myself becoming an Asimov fan.
+ Well developed themes running throughout.
+ Interesting characters.