Tag Archives: mysteries

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by William Dufris; 15 hrs 47 min on 15 discs): This time around, Baley is sent to Daneel’s home planet of Aurora, the first and most arrogant of the spacer worlds, to solve the “murder” of Jander the robot. Along the way he must deal with his own crippling agoraphobia, the Auroran prejudice against Earthmen, and foreign sexual mores. That last bit was the most unexpected: the lengthy and detailed discussions of sex and sexual practices, compared and contrasted among Earth, Aurora, and Solaria. I had trouble not thinking about Asimov’s doofy muttonchops, turning these passages even more surreal. It was certainly a well-written book with lots of interesting speculation into human societies, but it is easily my least favorite in the series. That said, it was particularly fascinating to read this after reading Foundation, as this was clearly a sort of prequel to it, from the talk of a galactic human empire to the introduction of psychohistory as a field of study. Taking into account the references to Susan Calvin (of I, Robot fame), I start to wonder just how many of Asimov’s books take place in the same universe.

A note on the audio: There isn’t nearly enough Daneel in this book, and I think Dufris’s excellent voice acting made me miss him all the more.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by William Dufris; 7 hrs 40 min on 6 discs): This time around, Lije Baley is sent to solve a murder case on another planet. I just want to note that sometimes dated SF can be really amusing. In this case, I was entertained by the notion that the “expressway” between DC and NYC takes ten hours. But that’s neither here nor there. As an Earthman, Baley is used to crowded underground cities and always being surrounded by people, be it in the cafeterias for meals or in the public restrooms. The planet Solaria is the opposite: the planet is home to only 20,000 people, each of whom has a private estate and lives more or less as what we would consider a recluse. While three-dimensional holographic “viewing” is a perfectly acceptable means of being social, being in the physical presence of another human being has become thought of as utterly distasteful. Most of the story deals with the society itself, coupled with Baley’s struggles with agoraphobia. I was fascinated by all the different characters, even if the murder mystery felt somewhat artificial. After all, I was more interested in the science fiction part of the story, and in that respect Asimov never lets me down.

A note on the audio: Dufris continues to entertain. I especially love the dichotomy between gruffly emotional Baley and ever-placid Daneel.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by William Dufris; 7 hrs 48 min on 6 discs): Lije Baley is a regular plainclothesman in far-future New York City sent to investigate a murder of a Spacer (that is, a person born on one of the many colonized planets). His partner is R. Daneel Olivaw, a disconcertingly human-like robot. Baley is a product of his environment, and like many of his displaced fellow humans he distrusts and dislikes robots in general. Though the social differences between Earthmen, Spacers, and the reader’s own society are the main draw of the book, the story itself is very much a 1950s-style detective story. If you like hard SF, you probably already know to read Asimov, but if you’d like your futurism with some mystery mixed in, this is a good place to start.

A note on the audio: Dufris is an excellent voice actor. Sure, his female characters are more or less in hysterics all of the time, but that’s how it was written. And how most women in 1950s hard-boiled detective novels were written as well.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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