From the back of my book:
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 was in part inspired to start the series of novels that feature Elijah and Daneel by conversations with John Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction. This excerpt is from the Introduction to The Naked Sun, titled "The Story Behind the Robot Novels."
On the beautiful Outer World planet of Solaria, a handful of human colonists lead a hermit-like existence, their every need attended to by their faithful robot servants. To this strange and provocative planet comes Detective Elijah Baley, sent from the streets of New York with his positronic partner, the robot R. Daneel Olivaw, to solve an incredible murder that has rocked Solaria to its foundations.
Campbell had often said that a science-fiction mystery story was a contradiction in terms; that advances in technology could be used to get detectives out of their difficulties unfairly, and that the readers would therefore be cheated.Asimov set out to prove him wrong with The Caves of Steel (my review here), published in 1954. The Naked Sun followed in 1957. Both books were serialized in magazines first.
I found The Naked Sun especially interesting because Elijah is out of his element on the planet of Solaria. Not only is he on a different planet, but the culture and the development of this planet are very different from the direction that humans on earth have taken. He and the people of Solaria have very little in common and many of the people he needs to interview have contempt for the people of earth and for him.
In the future that Asimov has depicted, the people of earth have protected themselves in huge domes and never (or rarely) experience wide open spaces or the outdoors or even elements of nature. They have developed a fear of being exposed to these experiences. The humans who have settled on other planets in the galaxy are referred to as Spacers, and each group has developed in different ways. The Solarians seclude themselves from other human contact. Even husbands and wives meet face to face only at appointed times. Humans usually meet with each other by "viewing", which sounds something like a sophisticated type of holographic projection. They can play games or eat a meal together, but not be in the same room physically.
The Solarians consider the society that has developed to be near perfect, and have a small population whose every need is met by specialized robots. Thus they don't even have a police force to deal with crime. Elijah is assigned to this case at the request of a Solarian, but comes into the situation with very little knowledge, and gets little cooperation from the Solarians in his investigation. Robot Daneel, again assigned as his partner, does understand much more about the culture of Solaria, but he is from a very influential planet, Aurora, and does not share all of his knowledge with Elijah. The investigation of the crime is thus very different and challenging for Elijah.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I recommend it highly. The way this book is written, the reader can come into it without knowledge of the first book (I had forgotten a lot about that book myself). The next book in the series, The Robots of Dawn, was not published until 1983. I will be getting that one sometime to follow up on Elijah and Daneel.
John at Pretty Sinister Books wrote an excellent evaluation of this book in this post, which includes some lovely book covers.