The Naked Sun is another story of Lije Bailey and R. Daneel Olivaw. Lije has been called up to solve a murder on Solaria, a world with a very sparse population, where even husband and wife interact as little as possible. Robots, on the other hand, are extremely numerous, and robotics is a major industry on Solaria.
Since under normal conditions, Solarians only view each other through trimensional screens, it is all but impossible for a murderer to have committed this crime. Yet the laws of robotics make it impossible for a robot to have been ordered to do the killing.
The victim's wife, Gladia, is the sole suspect, as the only human who could have possibly approached her husband in person. She tolerates physical presence better than others on her world, as Bailey discovers, but she is still not comfortable.
The society presented is quite intriguing. The idea that humans can become so accustomed to virtual interaction that they cannot tolerate truly seeing each other seems somewhat more realistic in these days where people can meet people from all over the world, and some spend many, many hours every day doing so. Viewing is seen as so impersonal that people don't worry about what they wear when viewed, even though the image is so perfect it can almost be mistaken for reality.
Asimov in general was an exceptional author. The ending is perhaps the weakest point in the story; certainly not his best ending, but it certainly did not ruin the book as a whole.
The Caves of Steel
Imagine a time when Earth is so heavily populated that Cities are domed over, so that most of humanity never sees the sun or feels the wind. This is the Earth of The Caves of Steel.
There has been some colonization of space; however, the Spacer colonies are hostile and feel immensely superior to the men of Earth. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered in Spacetown on Earth, they request an Earth detective try to solve the case, with a humanoid robot assistant.
Earthmen do not trust robots on Earth, as they are taking over many jobs, causing people to lose all status and be sent to a subsistence living. Elijah Bailey, the detective, dislikes his partner immensely at first, despite his complete resemblance to a human, for that reason.
This is a great murder mystery story blended into science fiction. Daneel Olivaw, the robot, is a great character in his own right, and appears in many more of Asimov's stories in this universe, beyond the Robot series.
The science won't impress much these days, aside, perhaps, from the ability to create the Cities and feed everyone almost exclusively on foods created from yeast, but as this story is more than 50 years old, some things do have to be forgiven. The extrapolation on how to make life more efficient, to make the Cities possible, is both uncomfortable and realistic. Little efficiencies like dining halls for most or all meals rather than kitchens in every home, make sense, even if I wouldn't want to deal with it.
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Isaac Asimov was in general a great author, and Nemesis certainly isn't an exception. He is one of the few authors who can get away with so little romance or action.
Imagine if Alpha Centauri weren't the nearest star. What if there was a red dwarf hidden by a dust cloud, even nearer?
No, the book doesn't deal with an encounter between Nemesis, the newly discovered star, and our Sun. Instead it supposes that a space Settlement decides to go live there without telling the rest of the world of the new star's existence. The goal of the Settlement's leader is to build a new society without all the squabbling caused by differences on Earth. We won't get into the odds of that working, especially since that isn't the point of the book.
The daughter of the astronomer who discovered Nemesis has an unusual ability to read body language. She can tell when people are lying, no matter how they try to hide it, or how they really feel about something they're talking about. Not a very comfortable person to be around for those who prefer to keep secrets.
But back on Earth, there are those who feel the Settlement's inhabitants deliberately and maliciously did not reveal the presence of Nemesis, and they intend to follow them.
Now, if you aren't familiar with Asimov's style, you may find his stories dry. As I said above, there is very little romance or action in his stories, and this is no exception. Many readers dislike how often he emphasizes that Marlene, the daughter of the astronomer, is quite plain and that no one can hide anything from her. But I enjoy this book quite a bit. Maybe it's the exploration of human nature.
The Robots of Dawn
Lije Bailey and Daneel Olivaw have been called up yet again in The Robots of Dawn to solve a murder in another world. This time, the suspect is Daneel's own creator, and the victim is the second humaniform robot he created. The political implications of the destruction of this robot are serious, not only for Dr. Han Fastolfe, the roboticist who created Daneel, but also for Earth.
The case occurs on Aurora, where Gladia from Solaria (The Naked Sun) has gone to live a life where she can interact with other people without shame.
You have to love Asimov's style to enjoy this novel. In other words, there's lots of talk and explanations of technology. Fortunately, I enjoy that tremendously.
Bailey's trip to Solaria inspired him to start working toward finding people on Earth who would like to colonize other planets. He's trying to train them to tolerate the outdoors and get permission to settle a new world. But the established Spacer worlds don't want to let Earhmen do that, yet don't feel comfortable settling new worlds themselves either.
Bailey's ability to solve this mystery will determine who gets to continue exploration of the galaxy. The Spacer worlds have to power to keep Earthmen on Earth if they so choose. Fastolfe supports the idea, but other roboticists on his world oppose the idea, and want to use his humaniform robots instead. They're using the accusation that he maliciously destroyed his second humaniform robot and are trying to ruin his political influence.
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Below my short book review on "Myth-Nomers and Impervections" by Robert Asprin.
In Myth-Nomers and Impervections Aahz has quit the company because he feels as though he is nothing but dead-weight since he lacks his magical powers. He returns to his home dimension, Pervect.
Skeeve cannot bear to think of losing his mentor without at least one try at keeping him on the team. But Pervect isn't exactly friendly territory. The Pervects have well earned their reputation as a less than friendly race.
The city Skeeve arrives in is much like an overdeveloped New York. Yes, that much of a mess. Skeeve quickly realizes he has no idea how to find Aahz, so much of his time is spent figuring out how to cope in this strange world and making odd new friends.
I must say, if my mother were anything like Aahz's, I'd rather go traveling among the dimensions than stay anywhere near her. Come to think of it, if I could travel the dimensions, I probably would no matter what my mother was like. You know how that goes.
Little Myth Marker
Take my advice... if a Deveel invites you to sit in on a game of Dragon Poker, don't accept unless you really understand the rules.
Skeeve sits in on a game at the start of Little Myth Marker, despite not understanding the game. Remarkably, he wins. When one player tries to use a marker, the others protest, but Skeeve generously offers to cover the marker himself. Should've checked on what the marker was first.
Markie is the marker's name, and she's a little girl. Sweet, innocent... sure.
But she isn't Skeeve's only problem. The Mob has decided that a chieftain of his standing needs a moll, and has generously provided one.
Worst of all, jealous competitors have decided to try to ruin Skeeve by hiring the most notorious Character Assassin of all, the Axe, to take Skeeve's business down.
This one isn't quite as funny as the previous books, but it definitely has its moments.