BOOK REVIEW – ISAAC ASIMOV – THE NAKED SUN 1957 PANTHER SCIENCE FICTION.
One of Asimov’s greatest novels, and one that doesn’t seem the slightest bit dated. A sequel to The Caves Of Steel, this sees detective Eelijah Baley taken reluctantly from the underground city he finds comforting, to the other side of the galaxy, to solve a murder on a Sun drenched distant World, Solaria.
Reunited with his android partner, Daneel Olivaw, on who Star Trek’s Spock may well have been modelled. The story becomes a complex Agatha Christie style whodunit complicated by inter-species prejudice, Solarian isolationism (people only talk through remote tele-screens, and rarely meet. They mostly despise Earthlings too. The planet is dominated by robots, which grossly outnumber humans.
Elijah finds that he is overcoming his agoraphobia, but also starts to fall for the chief suspect in the case. Worse, he finds flaws in the famous Asimovian Laws of Robotics. Robots can be tricked into unwittingly assisting in harm against humans despite their non-harm rulings, and the robots raising children cannot bring themselves to smack an unruly child.
The conflict between the social orders of the two worlds is brilliantly handled, as is the human manipulation of robots into acts they do not wish to participate in. Baley even deceives Olivaw to be able to put himself in dangers the robot would never permit. Ultimately, Bailey grows to love the open air, and stars above, seeing his own planet’s bunker mentality as a trap not as different from that of Solaria as may be imagined. He hopes to see Earth re-enter the space race once more.
As to the suspects, one seems to have both committed the murder and not done it, so the double ending is very well presented, but Bailey could well be knowingly allowing a killer a chance to gain new freedoms.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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