fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov science fiction book reviewsThe Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

The Robots of Dawn is the third book in Isaac Asimov’s trilogy about investigator Elijah Bailey and his robot sidekick R Daneel Olivaw. In the first book, The Caves of Steel, the pair met and solved a murder mystery on Earth. In this far-future Earth, a fearful populace lives in domed cities and never ventures outside. In the second book, The Naked Sun, Elijah faces his fears and actually leaves Earth to solve a murder that occurred on a planet that has such low population density that the inhabitants have evolved a disgust for their fellow humans. When Elijah returns to Earth, he’s determined to use his new-found courage to inspire others to go outside the domes and even think about leaving Earth someday. He thinks that colonizing other planets is the only way that the human race on Earth can survive.

In this final volume, The Robots of Dawn, we find Elijah working outside the dome and hoping that his son will be one of the pioneers who will lead humans out into the galaxy again. Then Elijah gets called into headquarters where he’s told he has to go to another colonized planet (Aurora) to solve yet another murder mystery. This time, however, it’s a robot who has been murdered. The prime suspect, a famous roboticist, admits that he’s the only person who could have committed the crime, yet he claims he’s innocent. If Elijah and R Daneel can’t prove him innocent, it will have bad consequences for Elijah’s career and for Earth’s ability to launch themselves into the galaxy. Daneel is also in mortal (if I can say that) danger.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsAs was the case with the previous novels in this trilogy, I enjoyed the murder mystery. It’s complicated and takes a lot of effort to solve, especially because Elijah is working in a political and social culture that he doesn’t understand. (Although this actually lets him see some things more clearly.) I also appreciated some of Asimov’s inventions (virtual reality bathrooms — cool!) and the discussions about language (e.g., how specific words can change our perception of events), art, affection (e.g., the importance of human touch), sex, jealousy and love (e.g., how cultural attitudes about sex change how we feel about love — very interesting). By the way, The Robots of Dawn was written in 1983, 27 years after The Naked Sun, and this frank discussion of sex is new for Asimov (and not at all romantic).

Asimov fans will be particularly interested in how this novel connects with his earlier robot stories (Susan Calvin is mentioned) and his famous FOUNDATION series. The accused roboticist is motivated to build a model of the human brain so that he can pursue the concept of “psychohistory” that underlies the FOUNDATION novels. Asimov is interested in the evolution of the human brain and the resulting changes in human behavior. As a neuroscientist and psychologist, I love to think about these things but I just can’t believe in any of Asimov’s ideas about the future of humanity. This has been a problem for me with this entire series and the FOUNDATION series, too. I find it interesting, but I just can’t believe it. However, I realize that I’m probably just taking it too seriously because it happens to be my area of expertise. So maybe shame on me. Maybe I just need to chill.

I listened to the audio version read by William Dufris who, again, does a great job. He always does a great job.

ROBOT (R. Daneel Olivaw) — (1954-1985) Publisher: A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history:  the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain.  Isaac Asimov’s Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.  Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions.  But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer.  The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start.  Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner:  R. Daneel Olivaw.  Worst of all was that the “R” stood for robot–and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim!

Isaac Asimov R. Daneel Olivaw 1. The Caves of Steel 2. The Naked Sun 3. The Robots of Dawn 4. Robots and Empire Isaac Asimov R. Daneel Olivaw 1. The Caves of Steel 2. The Naked Sun 3. The Robots of Dawn 4. Robots and Empire Isaac Asimov R. Daneel Olivaw 1. The Caves of Steel 2. The Naked Sun 3. The Robots of Dawn 4. Robots and Empire Isaac Asimov R. Daneel Olivaw 1. The Caves of Steel 2. The Naked Sun 3. The Robots of Dawn 4. Robots and Empire


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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