The Caves of Steel
Isaac Asimov's Robot series - from the iconic collection I, Robot to four classic novels - contains some of the most influential works in the history of science fiction. Establishing and testing the Three Laws of Robotics, they continue to shape the understanding and design of artificial intelligence to this…
Why read it?
3 authors picked The Caves of Steel as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
I grew up reading Isaac Asimov, and it must be at least forty years since I first read this.
Far in the future, a New York detective is partnered with a robot to investigate the murder of a leading citizen. At the heart of the book is an intriguing murder mystery. However, what makes this a favourite of mine is the growing relationship between the two investigators.
Asimov wrote this to prove that crime and science fiction are not incompatible genres – and succeeded brilliantly, paving the way for those who have followed him.
As early as 1954, Asimov was already playing with the limits of genre.
He specifically wanted to prove that SF wasn’t just a limited set of tropes, but that it could tell any kind of story, so he set out to invade the murder mystery, long considered the most elevated branch of the genre family tree. The result is a fun adventure story about robots… and murder.
Though it can feel a little dated now this genre mashup paved the way for some incredible books to follow. Asimov returned to this idea, and these characters, many times in his…
Asimov wrote this novel way back in 1953, after an editor insisted that mystery and science fiction were incompatible genres. While some aspects of the story are understandably dated, it shows a remarkable amount of creativity and imagination given the year it was written. It introduced the “buddy cop” trope, but with one human detective and a robot (R. Daneel Olivaw, one of the great sci-fi characters), who must abide by Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”. Like all of Asimov’s work, it’s well-written, a great read, and, in my opinion, perhaps the true genesis of the Sci-Fi/Detective genre.
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