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WARNING, WHOPPING SPOILERS AHEAD. I write these pages as notes, records and reminders to myself of books I have read. You are welcome to peruse these reviews, but be warned that they will spoil your reading pleasure if you have not already read them.
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The Caves of Steel   by Isaac Asimov

Read: 2004-11-20 Reviewed: 2004-11-28
Re-read factor:

Agatha Christie whodunit job this one. I'm not even sure that the plot relies on the famous laws of robotics, or even on the futuristic `womb city' landscape for its realization (it could probably have been well done in a cowboys and indians scenario), although Asimov's exploration of the place and the psyche of the people living in it are deeply interesting.

The neck-cringing part of it is that the detective keeps making mistakes that are blatantly obvious, and when he is told about them anybody in the real world would just disappear to be replaced by a more intelligent individual. For example, his first mistake is to accuse a robot of not being a robot, but he could easily have dismissed the idea by asking the robot to prove himself.

An earth-based detective (where the people of earth are now all living underground) is teamed up with a robot from an isolated and superior civilization that split from earth centuries earlier, to investigate a murder in that civilization's earth-based quarters (above ground) which was committed by a member of the underground community (the people upstairs know no crime...). After several rather stupid misses, it turns out that the detective's own boss was aided by a robot to supply a weapon (and dispose of it afterwards) to commit the crime. The implications of the whole affair are, however, much deeper as the superior race has a hidden agenda to convert humanity to a civilization of their own form which incorporates robots (it is for the good of both parties - to get earth's population out of the caves of steel into outer space, thus ensuring the longevity of the species). Unfortunately I find the leap from the detective story to the global consipracy story too tenuous.

All told, I'm surprised by the success the robot novels got given that this was the original installment. Its successor, The Naked Sun, is much better as a detective work that relies on the alternative universe for its plot and has a more intelligent working.

It is easy to be dismissive of this original with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that better things have happened since, and the truth is that this is a good book in its own right, albeit not the classic I was expecting.

Comment added 2006-12-30 by Wes
The plot may not be perfect, but Asimov keeps the pages turning, as always....

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