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The Robots of Dawn (The Robot Series) Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1994
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About the Author
Isaac Asimov began his Foundation series at the age of twenty-one, not realizing that it would one day be considered a cornerstone of science fiction. During his legendary career, Asimov penned more than 470 books on subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare to history, though he was most loved for his award-winning science fiction sagas, which include the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction Writers of America, Asimov entertained and educated readers of all ages for close to five decades. He died, at the age of seventy-two, in April 1992.
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R. Daneel Olivaw, Elijah's fellow detective, sadly fades into the background and loses the significance he had in "The Caves of Steel." Perhaps that was an unavoidable decision as the burden of the investigation rides on Baley's shoulders. Gladia makes a welcome return and gains more depth than she had as the femme fatale in "The Naked Sun." Dr. Han Fastolfe also returns and his benevolent exterior may veil a more callous and malignant character: A future Dr. Frankenstein if you will.
The people of planet Aurora itself are well plotted out with their culture, politics and mores, along with their notion of an ideal society and its influence on the future of Earth.
The one detriment to "The Robots of Dawn" is the pace of the narrative which is too heavy on detail which bogs down the story. It is sometimes didactic and it does not trust the reader to make the intuitive creative leaps that would help the story along at a vigorous pace.
All said, "The Robots of Dawn" is a positive view of humanity's future but does not shy away from its quandaries and challenges. The conceit is a much needed vision for a modern Earth that, in its own way is beginning to resemble The Caves of Steel described in the first book. Asimov's vision of a star-spanning species is championed in real life by such luminaries as Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. May reason and wanderlust prevail as it does in all of Asimov's novels.
In 'Dawn', Asimov imagined Baley as a middle-aged man, most comfortable when surrounded by people and the teeming city. He works hard for the measly privileges given to a civil servant. If he could get over his fear of outdoors, maybe he could emigrate to a new world; Earth is experiencing high unemployment. So, visiting the leading Spacer world of Aurora might lead to opportunities. The space flight is uninspired but once there, we are given decent character descriptions and scenes are detailed. The single POV writing drags at times, repeating some emotions, puzzling over inane details of Spacer society, meals, and robot actions.
The plot is split among Baley's search for perpetrator, relationship with several suspects, and his foibles (including storms). After a vehicle breakdown, he is walking for help in the dark:
'And then he remembered that lightning might hit trees and might kill people. He could not remember that he had ever read a description of how it felt to be hit by lightning or if there were any measures to prevent it. He knew of no one on Earth who had been hit by lightning....
His teeth were chattering and he was trembling.
Another flash. Not a bad one. For a moment, he caught a glimpse of his surroundings.
Trees! A number of them. He was in a grove of trees. Were many trees more dangerous than one tree where lightning was concerned?
He didn't know.
Would it help if he didn't actually touch a tree?
He didn't know that, either. Death by lightning simply wasn't a factor in the Cities and the historical novels (and sometimes histories) that mentioned it never went into detail.
He looked up at the dark sky and felt the wetness coming down. He wiped at his wet eyes with his wet hands.
He stumbled onward, trying to step high. At one point, he splashed through a narrow stream of water, sliding over the pebbles underlying it.
How strange! It made him no wetter than he was. ' (p. 352)
Like a good mystery tale, there are twists until the very end. Baley offers advice for several characters to take. This time, Asimov writes a sweet romantic interlude.
The real impact of this book is to discuss the programming of humanoid robots, impersonal video conferencing, and especially, the need for humans to move population off Earth and settle new worlds. He interrogates people who knew the robot's owner, interacted with it, and the man who designed it. In between, he battles his fear of the outdoors, of strange technology, and nature, learning to depend on robots for information and partnership.
Published long after the first two books, this links to the future Empire and sets the stage of Foundation series. In the future, Human settlements will grow into that empire and robotic design lead to Psychohistory. And Daneel Olivaw will appear again....
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1) I expand my vocabulary with every chapter
2) His stories are rich and unpredictable
3) His characters grab my heart and don't let go