The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

Our world is facing an existential crisis. The general populace does not consider the gravity of the existential threat. Instead, they are considered with more immediate matters like robots taking their jobs.

Cover for Isaac Asimov's book "The Caves of Steel". The cover shows two men in a futuristic cityscape setting, one of the men is holding a gun in his hand.

It could be the premise of a book written and set in today’s world. In this case, however, it was the setting for Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel. A book set thousands of years into the future, but written more than seven decades ago — first published in 1953.

Reading Caves of Steel today gave me an eerie vibe. It presents a distinct and clear sighted vision of the future, and it hits close to home in several aspects. While reading, I could not shake the notion that what we consider the challenges of our time are, instead, timeless challenges.

Or is it the other way around? Did Asimov’s work become seminal to the extent that it shaped the world in Asimov’s image? Well, that remains to be seen. But his influence on the genre and tech is indisputable. His three laws of robotics have become canon in the tech industry.

Back to the book, Caves is a detective story. With just over 200 pages, it is a short and entertaining read. It features a small, but interesting selection of characters. What Asimov does very well is hinting at and then, gradually, revealing the vastness of the world in which the story is set.

The main characters are Elijah “Lije” Baley and his temporarily assigned mechanical partner R. Daneel Olivaw. The “R” in this case stands for — you guessed it — robot. A murder has taken place in the earthly residential area of the humans who now reside on other planets, a.k.a. the “Spacers”. Baley and Olivaw are tasked with solving it. 

What unfolds is an intense, albeit fairly predictable story. There is no question that the main ingredient here are Asimov’s visions for the future. 

All in all, I enjoyed the book and it was a nice introduction to Asimov’s worlds. I’m looking forward to exploring them more in depth in the coming months.

Rating: 3/5


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