The Naked Sun (1957) by Isaac Asimov
“Robotic Law #1: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”
A murder has occurred on Solaria, a planet run almost entirely by robots. The few people that live there are disgusted by the thought of human contact yet one of their own has been beaten to death.
Elijah Baley, a detective from Earth is called in to solve the crime. Along with his robot partner Daneel, Baley uncovers a sinister conspiracy that could change the relationship between humans and robots forever.
Upon arriving on this new world, Baley has the arduous task of both solving the murder and adapting to the colloquialisms and social custom of the Solarians whom are a pompous, isolated people that for the most part despise Earthmen.
Asimov sets the stage for this detective, dystopian sci-fi novel very well. We are introduced to the futuristic sunless Earth and the case of murder on Solaria in the opening chapter before sailing across the stars to this new, seemingly utopic world run by machines.
Detective Baley is a strong main character that embodies the deductive process of questioning, reasoning, and hypothesis formulation the novel relies on to progress the story and keep the audience engaged.
The idea of Solaria is an interesting setting – a high-tech society run mostly by servant machines and a small population of isolated individuals that communicate primarily through ‘viewing’ using sophisticated 3D-holographic conferencing technology.
A major criticism about the novel I had is that the dynamics of the story bordered on static and repetitive at times. As a primarily deductive crime drama the novel stands well, however I couldn’t help but wonder when the action would kick off as the momentum hits a ceiling of stagnation that it never manages to overcome and the final chapters rush into a lacklustre climax.
Overall I would say The Naked Sun is primarily a detective novel with sci-fi elements and while it’s not the strongest of Asimov’s robot series it provides enough food for thought to merit picking it up.
~Giuseppe Gillespie August 2022