The Caves of Steel
By Isaac Asimov; Read by William Dufris
6 CDs – 7.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mystery / Robots / Artificial Intelligence / Sociology / New York /
A millennium into the future, two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.
Elijah Baley and his wife and son live in an overcrowded New York city (the titular Caves Of Steel) in our distant future. Outside the insular Earth, humans have colonized many planets with their robot servants to assist them. These “Spacer” worlds are rich, have small populations, and high standards of living. The Earthers all live in vast city complexes and never venture outside. The Spacers maintain an embassy, from which they seek to help their backward progenitors – but this help is both resented and rebuffed. The latest incident is revealed when Elijah Bailey, a New York detective, is called into his superior’s office and tasked with solving a murder in the “spacer” enclave. But his boss has one more demand of him. Elijah must partner up with a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw for the duration of the case.
Asimov’s vision of New York in The Caves Of Steel fits neatly somewhere in between the well envisioned arcologies like “Todos Santos” (Larry Niven and Steve Barnes’ Oath Of Fealty), future cities like “Mega-City One” (Judge Dredd) and that of “Diaspar” (found in Arthur C. Clarke’s The City And The Stars). As such it is an experience not to be missed. The mixture of politics, psychology and sociology that’s found in Asimov’s Foundation novels is also present. But central to the experience of The Caves Of Steel is Mystery. It is a Mystery in a Science Fiction setting and not the other-way round. The well realized economy, culture, and characters (this latter in a surprisingly good turn for Asimov) are all carefully explained so as to set up the mystery – even the red-herrings are important to the plot.
Isaac Asimov basically invented the small sub-genre of the Science Fiction Mystery, and this was the novel that started it all. I’ve read lots of other books of his, including one straight Mystery that was set at a Science Fiction convention (starring a detective modeled on Harlan Ellison). And like that novel, this one keeps you guessing right up until the very end. That’s a good thing too – Asimov doesn’t cheat. We’ve got a city full of suspects, but the motive – when it’s ultimately revealed – is as logical as the deduction is sound.
It isn’t an insult to say that William Dufris sounds like a robot. He sounds like a robot when it’s a robot speaking, and sounds like a man when it’s a man speaking. He can also inflect his voice to sound more feminine – which is handy for females (and female robots too). Suffice it to say William Dufris reads Asimov’s spare and unadorned prose with alacrity. I’m excited to say the sequel, The Naked Sun is also available from Tantor!
Posted by Jesse Willis