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The Caves of Steel

[The Caves of Steel] The Caves of Steel
by Isaac Asimov
Published by Doubleday, 1954
Amazon.com: paperback
Amazon.ca: paperback
Amazon.co.uk: paperback
Recommended by: Greg Slade

The Caves of Steel is not, perhaps, Asimov's best-known work. (Out of the hundreds of books he published, it's most likely that the Foundation trilogy deserves that honour.) Nor is it his first novel, although it was published fairly early in his career (in 1954.) Still it makes an excellent entré to Asimov's work, partly because it was a good seller in its own right, and partly because it weaves together so many of the themes which characterised Asimov's writing. First, it's a robot novel, and explicitly discusses Asimov's "three laws of robotics." Second, it's a story following the thoughts and actions of individuals, but the shadows cast by those characters play out over the vast sweep of galactic "history." Third, it touches upon many of the Asimov's common themes, such as the choice between birth control and abundance or uncontrolled population growth and scarcity. Fourth, as Asimov wrote mystery stories as well, it is fitting that one of the few good science fiction detective novels should be his. Finally, Asimov's interests roamed widely, and included the Bible, upon which he wrote a two-part work called Asimov's Guide to the Bible (which is also available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk), So it should come as no surprise that the protagonist, whose name is Elijah, and his wife, whose name is Jezebel, should have an extended discussion about the Bible, and the relationship between their namesakes. (Nor, knowing Asimov's opinion of Christianity, should it come as a surprise that Elijah is considered to be the "bad guy.")

Asimov has long been a favourite of mine, although I tend to prefer his early works to his later ones. Rereading The Caves of Steel for this review confirmed that opinion. Some of his ideas about the future seem dated now, but on other things he was remarkably prescient. No survey of science fiction can possibly be complete without including at least some of his work.

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