Summary from the back of the paperback edition:
A millennium into the future two advancements have altered the course of human history: the colonization of the galaxy and the creation of the positronic brain. Isaac Asimov's Robot novels chronicle the unlikely partnership between a New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together.The novel blends science fiction and mystery. This was the goal of the author as stated in the introduction in my edition of the book: "I sat down to write a story that would be a classic mystery and that would not cheat the reader — and yet would be a true science-fiction story."
Our hero is New York City police detective Elijah Baley. His boss, the Commissioner of Police, has instructed him to go to Spacetown to investigate a murder, a very unexpected request.
I was captivated by the descriptions of the world Asimov has invented. The introduction to Spacetown is especially well done. I liked the chapter titles, such as "Introduction to a Family." There the reader learns not only Baley's family life, but also living conditions in the City.
This novel presents a picture of a very overpopulated earth where the basics of life are regulated to be able to support the huge population. The relationship between the earthlings and the Spacers was not immediately clear and Asimov reveals this gradually throughout the book.
As the investigation moves along, Baley makes a couple of false guesses about the identity of the culprit, and each time we learn more about the overall situation in his job and family life and the prevailing culture on earth. As new facts are revealed to him, he fights against the logical conclusions because it challenges his view of life on earth.
The story raises philosophical issues: How the regular residents of earth react to the perceived superiority of the Spacers, and why they are fearful of robots. A big issue is robots taking over jobs of humans, and in today's world, that is still a concern.
This review at SF Reviews.net describes it well:
The Caves of Steel goes beyond the boundaries imposed by genre convention. More than merely an entertaining whodunnit, this novel is ultimately about humanity's need to overcome the fears and prejudices which senselessly prevent our own betterment as a species. For 1953, it was a revolutionary idea. Today, it might seem old hat, but, if ongoing racial strife is any indication, it's an idea we still sorely need.I read this book as a part of the 2013 Sci-Fi Experience at Stainless Steel Droppings.
here to see other blogger's reviews and related posts.
I am also submitting this post for The Vintage Science Fiction Month not-a-challenge at the Little Red Reviewer. For that event participants will be "talking about time travel, laser guns, early robotics, first contact, swords and sorcery, predictions for humanity and the authors who came up with it all. Haphazardly, the defining year for 'vintage' is 1979."
Both Margot at Conversations of a Mystery Novelist... and Sergio at Tipping my Fedora recommended this novel to me. I am grateful to both of them. Margot has an In the Spotlight post on this novel, which goes into much more detail.