Isaac Asimov wrote The Caves of Steel, under the persuasion of Horace Gold of Galaxy magazine, as a follow-up to his popular robot short stories. Following its success, Asimov wrote a sequel, The Naked Sun, for rival magazine publisher John Campbell, Jr., and for Doubleday Books.
The novels envision a future humanity split into two antagonistic groups. Those remaining on Earth have developed a fear of open spaces. They live in covered megacities, the “caves of steel” of the title, resigned to extreme overcrowding and rationing of virtually all amenities. The Spacers, descendants of the colonizers of fifty “Outer Worlds,” have much longer life spans and superior technology on their sparsely populated planets, and they forbid “disease-ridden” earthlings from immigrating to their worlds.
Spacers make extensive use of robots. The more primitive models permitted on Earth are violently hated by most City dwellers, especially “Medievalists,” who yearn sentimentally for pre-City days. The only contact between Spacers and Earthmen is through Spacetown, a diplomatic/military base at the western edge of New York City.
As The Caves of Steel opens, police detective Elijah “Lije” Baley is summoned by his Medievalist boss, Commissioner Julius Enderby, to investigate a murder. A Spacer robot scientist named Sarton has been shot in Spacetown, presumably by an Earthman. Baley must accept as a partner a Spacer robot created by Sarton. The robot, named R. Daneel Olivaw, looks human enough to “pass” among hostile Earthmen.
In the course of the investigation, Lije makes a number of embarrassing wrong guesses. He first supposes that Daneel is really Sarton in...
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