Throwback Thursday ~ The Caves of Steel

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

Noting that book blogging often focuses on new releases, here’s how Throwback Thursday works:

  1. Updated! Pick any media (or non-media item) released more than 5 years ago. Remember to keep it book-related!
  2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it.
  3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
  4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

ATTENTION! Next week, Mandi and Lauren will be hosting a Throwback Giveaway! That’s right, you will be able to WIN THINGS!

But here’s the catch: You will have the best chance of winning if you participate in Throwback Thursday. And comment on other people’s Throwback Thursday posts. You can do this after the giveaway goes live, but EVEN OLD THROWBACK THURSDAY POSTS WILL COUNT AS ENTRIES. In other words, browse your bookshelf or DVD collection, find something you loved, and HOP TO. RIGHT NOW. Get a leg up on the slackers.

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

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.

Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to help track down the killer. The relationship between Lije and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw. “R” stands for robot—-and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim! (via Goodreads)

I’m killing several birds with one stone this week, reviewing something I just finished rereading (Book 4 for the year) for Throwback Thursday *and* it’s Crime/Mystery too!

The Caves of Steel, first published in 1953, is credited as being the first science fiction mystery. The blending of the two genres was thought to be difficult to pull off because the use of far-future technology could be used as hocus-pocus to cheat the reader. Actually, you wouldn’t necessarily have to go too far future. How would any of the recent CSI TV shows look to a person from 1953 if they hadn’t seen the progression of science? Asimov manages to pull it off though, and better than I remember from my first reading of this book back in high school. I’m also not sure how prevalent the “buddy cop” trope was in the 50s, but Asimov presents an instance that I’m surprised hasn’t been adapted into a Will  Smith movie. (I, Robot (2004) was loosely based on other Asimov robot stories.) Lije and Daneel are a fun pair.

Despite being set in the far future, the book is very 1950s. People curse “golly.” Women are depicted as, let’s say, frivolous. Computing involved a lot of punch cards and tape. It makes me a little sad that Asimov passed away in 1992. He never got to see what computing would really become in only another decade. I’d like to think that he would have appreciated it. Despite its inaccuracies in predictions, the novel does hit on some interesting topics. What happens when robots (or some other population) move in to do jobs that others don’t want? What will happen as our life-spans continue to lengthen? I recently read a review of Asimov’s Foundation series in which the reader was disappointed that Asimov’s conclusion for the human race was that we’d continue on like we always have, no better or worse. That philosophy comes out in The Caves of Steel as well. Personally, I find that somewhat comforting. Asimov was a student of history as well as the sciences (there are biblical references in Caves) and knew that the past is not as rosy as we’d like to think and the future will never be as grim as we often fear.

I also realized that my writing style has probably been influenced by Asimov more than I thought. The way the story is paced and structured remind me very much of how I’ve come to write stories. I wonder what other habits I picked up from authors I first read in my teens?

My one problem is that, while Asimov doesn’t exactly cheat, the solution of the mystery relies on a piece of evidence that could have been addressed earlier without giving the story away. The mystery plot is actually a little thin in comparison to the time Asimov spends on the worldbuilding. It’s not a long novel and its the corner stone for two Lije and Daneel sequels.

Genre: Science-fiction mystery
Why did I choose to read this book? Someone from the Bout of Books Readathon was reading the second one which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to give the series a reread.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Craft Lessons: That moment when you realizes you’ve been subconsciously imitating works you read 20 years ago.
Format: Kindle ebook
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library

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