Author: Isaac Asimov | Page Count: 208
‘Perhaps it was annoyance that caused him to forget. It was Daneel who annoyed him, he thought, with his unemotional approach to problems. Or perhaps it was himself, with his emotional approach.’
The sequel to Asimov's The Caves of Steel (1954) is the second full length novel in his Robot Series. It once again pairs up the Earth-born Detective, Elijah Baley (now a C- 6), with the Spacer Robot, Danell Olivaw.
It begins with a brief journey to help the reader recall what happened one year before. It doesn't recount all the events of the previous novel, it just helps set the scene and reminds us of the working relationship between the two men.
Elijah, who’s spent his entire life in the vast underground cities of Earth, has to venture to one of the Outer Worlds, Solaria, to investigate a murder. Why do the usually self-sufficient and technologically superior Spacers need terrestrial assistance to investigate a murder on their private soil? No human has set foot on Solaria in over a thousand years. And why did they choose him?
In the previous novel it was Danell who was the outsider; now it’s Elijah, and he’s way out of his comfort zone. He’s forced to use his talents to uncover the murderer, while simultaneously struggling with fears about the environment.
The difference between the two cultures seems staggering at first, and any hope of finding the killer impossible, but Lije knows there’s more at stake than just his own reputation: he’s a representative of Earth, and he’s determined to show the arrogant Spacers that Earthmen aren't as stunted as they seem to think, even if that means pushing a few angry buttons.
The story moves along at a steady pace, in a typical mystery novel way. The ending makes it clear that everything up to that point was merely to facilitate what Asimov wanted to say from the beginning, but by using the unique characteristics of Bailey and R. Daneel, he was able to better achieve that goal, and in true sci-fi style he manages to both look to the future while referencing the present and the past.
3½ long-distance relationships out of 5