Book review : The caves of steel (Asimov)

The caves of steel

Done ! I finally finished this book. I had started it a long time ago, just after reading The naked sun, its immediate sequel in the robot series of Asimov. When I read The naked sun I got completely hooked by the robot character in the book “R. Daneel Olivaw”. So even if I started in the wrong order I decided to discover the series and start from the beginning by reading The caves of steel. Personally I preferred by far The naked sun and I will probably write a review about it more detailed than this one. But until I find the time to do that, here are my impressions about The caves of steel.

I like reading books or viewing cultural material where technology is romanticized because it gives me another perspective on how to approach technology, it’s always inspiring.

Just to give some background, it’s the story of a murder investigation and the book focuses on the duo of Baley, a human investigator and Daneel, his humanoid robot partner. And it’s always funny to read Daneel’s words or reactions, or to read Baley’s thoughts about Daneel.

Some quotes in this book are worth sharing because unexpectedly the robot series is very humorous, here are some parts that really made me laugh during my reading:

[Baley] Where’s your justice circuit, Daneel? Is this justice?

[Baley] You were adjusted to detective work by the simple installation of a justice -desire circuit.

[Daneel] There is a definite alteration in your mental aura.

[Baley] What does cerebroanalysis tell you about me?

[Daneel] You are disturbed.

[Daneel] There is nothing about her cerebro-impulses that would indicate a pathological addiction to lying.

[Daneel] A particularly strong drive has been inserted into my motivation banks; a desire for justice.

[Daneel] Might I suggest that it would be more logical to let Bentley (Baley’s son) do that. It is a form of risk and he is less valuable.

[Baley] You don’t understand Daneel. Among us it is not customary for a man to send his young son into possible danger, even if it is logical to do so.

Then there is this part where the investigator Baley talks to a robots expert and asks him why the robots adopted the human form, I like his explanation, it’s the basics of design :

[Baley] But why the human form?

[Robots expert] Because the human form is the most successful generalized form in all nature. We are not a specialized animal, except for our nervous system and a few odd items. If you want a design capable of doing a great many widely various things, all fairly well, you could do no better than to imitate the human form. Besides that, our entire technology is based on the human form. An automobile, for instance, has its controls so made as to be grasped and manipulated most easily bu human hands and feet of a certain size and shape, attached to the body by limbs of a certain length and joints of a certain type. Even such simple objects as chairs and tables or knives and forks are designed to meet the requirements of human measurements and manner of working. It is easier to have robots imitate the human shape than to redesign radically the very philosophy of our tools.

Then about Curiosity :

He had known well enough then the qualities that marked off a man from a machine. Curiosity had to be one of them. A six-week-old kitten was curious, but how could there be a curious machine, be it ever so humanoid?

[Baley] Curiosity is the name we give to a desire to extend one’s knowledge.

[Daneel] Precisely. Aimless extension of knowledge, which is what I think you mean by the term curiosity, is merely inefficiency. I am designed to avoid inefficiency.

And the last sentence of the book really made me smile :

Baley, suddenly smiling, took R.Daneel’s elbow, and they walked out the door, arm in arm.

In the introduction Asimov writes :

I wanted to write a story in which a robot would be portrayed lovingly.

:) Well done !