Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Caves of Steel

by Isaac Asimov

Story summary: Basically a normal mystery story, but with humanoid robots and space colonization and strange, massive mega-cities and other futuristic developments.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • How would the general population treat robots? What if someone actually died, and you knew a robot was involved somehow? There are some interesting speculations on such politics and human reactions in the future.
  • SciFi mystery combo! Double the genre points!

And Why You Might Not:
  • The futuristic advances and changes were a little ordinary, especially for a millennium in the future.
  • I didn't become attached to any of the characters, though that might just be me (for reasons I discuss below).

Thoughts: This was a weird experience for me, as I listened to an audio book instead of reading it normally. I never listen to audio books. I find it much harder to concentrate, and I think whoever does the reading influences me unduly. So keep that in mind, because most of my thoughts here are even less sure than usual.

Anyhow, Asimov is known as one of the giants of SciFi, and my guess would be that this is one of the earlier examples of some scifi tropes. So I can't really blame it for not seeming fresh. Similarly, the conjectures about the future annoyed me a bit. They had robots but not self-driving cars. They had 8 billion people and were struggling with food shortages (we're at 7 billion now, and our food shortages are only due to political issues and war, not lack of ability). It was written before the internet, so there are many clunky machinery that should be replaced with wireless communication. And this is all a millennium in the future! Again, it was not Asimov's fault, and maybe this book is even considered cleverly predictive but I wasn't able to pick up on it due to it being an audio book. But it still brought me out of the story and lessened the believability for me.

Of the mystery aspect, I have little to say. I don't really know whether the mystery was clever or interesting, though it didn't strike me as such, because I couldn't concentrate as fully as if I were reading. I basically guessed the ending, though.
Eh, detective stories aren't usually my thing anyway (with some exceptions--I went through a huge Agatha Christie phase at one point, and Josephine Tey is *always* fabulous (writing a review of one of hers shortly)).

And maybe it was also because of the audio and the narrator (who people seem to really like, but I didn't much), but I didn't care for any of the characters either. (Unfortunately, this is an aspect that the audio affects especially.) Lije seemed to much a standard hard-boiled detective type. I love robots, so I did like R. Daneel, but he was still not interesting or inspiring enough (this goes back to what I was speaking of above: the standard scifi tropes). Jessie especially sounded whiny and emotional.

Now this all seems rather negative--and truthfully, I wasn't blown away or anything. But it was still a decent story. I think I'll skip out on the sequels unless someone recommends them or I feel like a standard scifi mystery, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone else.

Grade: 3 stars

If You Like This, You Might Also Like:
--Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: because it's sort of a mystery, and definitely scifi, and has a bit of a bleaker feel, like this book. Also there are robots!
--Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams: because it's the only other scifi mystery I can think of right now. I like this one a lot better than CoS though, because it's funny and incredibly weird. (I like the TV series quite a lot too, though I gather not everyone did. But there's even a murder involving a robot in one episode! So crossover to CoS there!)

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