The/The Naked Sun Caves of Steel Critical Essays

Isaac Asimov


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although Asimov’s name is strongly connected to science fiction concerning robots, he did not invent the word “robot”; the haunting title of his first story collection, I, Robot (1950), was taken from another writer; and the idea of writing a robot detective novel set on an overpopulated Earth came from Horace Gold of Galaxy. Asimov did coin the word “robotics,” as he often noted with pride, and much more important, he created a body of work that has deeply influenced almost all science fiction involving robots that goes beyond simple views of robots as killing machines.

Asimov’s influence extended beyond literature to vi-sual media. Famous examples include the amusing Robbie of the film Forbidden Planet (1956); the Vulcan Spock of the Star Trek (1966-1969) television series and later films, who although flesh and blood is a close cousin to Daneel in his devotion to logic and his utterly impassive tone; the android Data of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1993), whose “positronic brain” is the writers’ direct homage to Asimov; and the Replicants of the film Blade Runner (1982). The Replicants, unlike Asimov’s robots, had no qualms about harming the humans they perfectly resembled. Like Asimov’s robots, however, they could be detected as nonhuman via a questionnaire, much like the one administered to Daneel in The Caves of Steel.

Asimov saw fit to describe the two novels as “a perfect fusion of the murder mystery and the science-fiction novel.” Even if critics have found flaws in both the mystery writing and the science fiction, one could hardly disagree about the fusion. In each novel, the solution depends on a human psychology determined by the technological environment of Earth or Solaria....

(The entire section is 739 words.)