The Caves of Steel is a murder mystery novel set in a hi-tech yet subtly dystopian world, following detective Elijah Baley. Humanity has retreated into the furthest point of urban living possible featuring large cities that are enclosed completely from the outside world. The cities are made up of tube highways, automated walking platforms, and a distinct lack of open space. By being acclimated to the cramped quartering of the city, humans have become anxious at the mere thought of the fresh air and spacious outside world beyond the city limits.
“Better your own road to hell than another’s road to heaven, eh?” The Caves of Steel will make you ponder whether or not life will life be better for our advancements or worse. From the character’s point of view, the supply chains and the yeast farms that provide enough rations to keep enormous sprawling cities alive is an amazing feat! As the reader you cannot help but feel a slight sense of dread while the destruction of choice and personality has taken place to create this society. Sustaining billions doesn’t quite leave enough room for the individual. The setting is dreary, but isn’t in your face with gloom and despair. The characters are rather unphased by it, but it’s an important aspect of world building that really helps set the tone for the rest of the story and explains the mannerisms of the characters.
Standing opposite the people of Earth are the Spacers. The Spacers are our cousins that took to colonizing the stars thousands of years ago, and haven’t given up their freedoms to advance as a people. Spacers live in lowly populated planets with open spaces, clean air, and fresh food. Highly robot dependent and superior in status to the Earthlings, the Spacers illicit the help of a local police department to solve a rare occurrence among their kind, a murder. This is where plainclothesman detective Elijah Bailey, our main protagonist, comes into play. Accompanied by Spacetown’s own, a robot by the name of R. Daneel Olivaw, our detective sets out to solve a murder with no viable suspects.
As the story follows Elijah on his mission to solve the murder you are exposed to an amazing universe full of science fiction tropes that may have very well originated here with Asimov. The Caves of Steel is fantastic sci-fi mystery novel genre bender that was a pure pleasure to read. Please let this book find it’s way to the top of your must read list. Asimov is a esteemed author in the sci-fi genre and The Caves of Steel is clearly part of the reason why.
P.S. Avoid my silly mistake of reading the sequel The Naked Sun before Caves of Steel. They are standalone novels but getting the introduction to Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw from the first book may have given me some better context for the sequel.
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