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just how far into the future do you set a novel like this? Books such as 1984 and 2001 were ...
on 9 April 2015
This was my first Isaac Asimov novel and it was okay. I didn’t think it was earth shattering, it was simply entertaining enough to hold my interest to the end.
Asimov wrote this book back in 1953 and it is a detective story set in a future world of megacities, space colonisation and human/robot coexistence.
I guess Asimov had to make some tough decisions when he was writing The Caves of Steel? For example, just how far into the future do you set a novel like this? Books such as 1984 and 2001 were set too close to the present, in my opinion. It wasn’t long before the future arrived and the extrapolations made by the authors based on the technology and culture of the era they were writing caught up. Asimov gets it just about right here and he uses a sci-fi detective story to highlight issues which concerned him.
Asimov does have a tendency to digress into long-winded examinations of his pet subjects. These include robots, colonisation of other worlds, the nature of humanity and overpopulation. I got the impression that on the one hand Asimov was advocating a simplification of society while on the other blasting humans off to other worlds with robot helpers.
He tries to sandwich these digressions between action sequences or, in this particular book, detectives doing some, well … detecting! This structure interrupts the pacing of the story. The flow becomes disjointed but it did have the benefit of keeping curiosity levels high enough to make me want to keep on going.
In a way the book was like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in so much that it questioned when does a machine become human? The suspicion and resentment felt towards robots by humans mirrored the way many citizens feel about minorities and immigrants too. Both of these ideas were woven into the plot.
Asimov didn’t seem to the particularly comfortable writing for the female characters (not that there were many). They were window decoration who were only good for hiding behind their husbands or gossiping. And finally, The Caves of Steel also suffered from the classic, “explain everything in the last couple of pages” syndrome.
So, in summary despite my criticisms above The Caves of Steel wasn’t a bad novel it just wasn’t a great novel. It was good enough to make me want to read some more of his works and I’d be happy to recommend it as a quick and straightforward enough read.