Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Naked Sun (Classic SF Book)

A Murder. A Fetologist. Robots. Robotics. Obscenities. Seeing vs. Viewing. Sociology. Galactic Conquest.

The Naked Sun, the second book in Isaac Asimov’s Robot Series, is another Science Fiction/Mystery hybrid. Asimov uses the Laws of Robotics and the sociology of Solaria, the planet where a murder takes place, as clues to help point to the who, how, and why of the murder. The book has a bit of the feel of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. It also takes an interesting look at how a culture evolves.

Briefly, Earth detective Elijah Baley is once again called on to solve a murder, this time on the Outer World of Solaria, a planet that has not had a murder in recent times. Lije is to be the first Earthman to go to an Outer World in centuries. The government on Earth wants him to bring back any information—weaknesses—that might help it gain an advantage over the Outer Worlds. R. Daneel Olivaw, a robot, is once again sent as Lije’s partner. The government of Aurora, who sent Daneel, appears to have its own political agenda. Solaria is a sparsely populated planet, filled with robots. The human inhabitants live most of their lives without having any contact with another human being. In order to solve the murder, Lije must understand the culture as well as overcome his own prejudices and fears. As the story unfolds, Lije learns that there may be more at stake than what he was first led to believe.

Like The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun has a simple storyline compared with today’s standards. The story is still enjoyable. One of the things that I found especially interesting is what people find obscene or repulsive. On Solaria having direct contact with another human being is obscene but having direct contact with the soil is not. Lije is repulsed by nature and by the idea of keeping time based on where the sun is in the sky. What disappointed me about the book was the relative lack of camaraderie between Lije and Daneel, which seemed to be blossoming in the earlier book.

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