Bibliophilic Friday: The Elijah Baley Detective Novels


Good morning everyone!

Sun, Summer

From ClickArt Online, by Broderbund

Take one of the geniuses of science fiction, throw in a love of detective novels, add a dash of humor and adventure, and you arrive at the three detective novels written by Isaac Asimov starring plainclothesman detective Elijah Baley and his robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn.  In the introductions to the first two books, Isaac Asimov explains how one of his editors, desiring another robot story, urged him to write a detective science fiction story.  The result was The Caves of Steel.

Set in a time period long after the Susan Calvin stories and the world of I, Robot, yet before the creation of the Galactic Empire that we see the end of in Foundation, the Elijah Baley novels take place in a galaxy where man has colonized fifty other star systems in addition to the Solar System.

The vast majority of humanity has remained on an ever more crowded earth, where the sheer volume of people has caused human kind to build downward, creating huge underground cities where people live their entire lives, never seeing the sun or “going Outside” as it is called.  The fifty Spacer worlds, by contrast, are relatively sparsely inhabited.  The Spacers, as they are called, see themselves as vastly superior to Earthmen – they have completely eradicated infectious diseases of all kinds on their planets, even the common cold and have natural life spans of over 300 years.  Because of the infectious diseases, the Spacers are also terrified of infection by Earthmen.  With little want on their planets as well as strictly controlled birth rates, the Spacers do not have police forces per se the way that Earth does.  There is another significant difference between the two cultures – Earth’s people do not want to use robots, but the Spacers depend upon them.  However, at the time the novels begin, robots are starting to be introduced into earth’s economy as well.  Daneel Olivaw is the first of his kind, a “humaniform” robot – a robot meant to be as much like a human being as it is possible for  a robot to be.

In the first novel, Elijah and Daneel work together for the first time to solve the murder of a prominent spaceman on Earth, while in the second novel, the two work together on the newest Spacer world, Solaria, to solve the murder of a scientist.  In the third novel, the pair meet one more time to solve the “murder” of the second humaniform robot ever created on the most prominent Spacer world of all, Aurora.

Isaac Asimov skillfully blends the genres of detective fiction and science fiction creating characters and settings that are  believable and consistent within the world that he has created.  Each novel kept me on the edge of my seat until I could find out who the culprit was.

I would not hesitate to let any child at a sixth grade reading level  or higher to  read The Caves of Steel or The Naked Sun.  I would suggest that parents read The Robots of Dawn before allowing their children and teenagers to read it, simply because the issues surrounding sexual mores and knowledge are tackled in a frank, open manner that some parents may feel is not age appropriate for those age groups.

Still, nothing beats a good detective story for an entertaining read.  Add in Isaac Asimov’s unique writing talents and a fascinating universe, and you have a combination that makes these three novels exceptionally good reads.  Whether you are a detective fan or a science fiction fan, give them a go!  You’ll be glad you did.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Nancy

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One response to “Bibliophilic Friday: The Elijah Baley Detective Novels

  1. Pingback: Marvellous Mystery Novels | Israel Foreign Affairs

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