• The Good: Unique combination of the mystery and scifi genres
  • The Bad: Whodunnit detective narrative is good but not great
  • The Literary: Highly effective worldbuilding

New York City detective Elijah Baley is once again called off Earth to investigate a murder. This time it’s to the Spacer world Aurora to solve a roboticide, if not exactly a murder. The prime suspect is the robot’s maker Han Fastolfe, a gifted roboticist who had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to commit the crime. But Baley and his robot partner, R. Daneel Olivaw must prove him innocent.

I’ve come to really look forward to Lije Baley and his adventures. After the tremendous short story collection I, Robot, I was slightly underwhelmed when the next book in the Asimov robot series was a murder mystery novel. Now, three books into Earthman Baley’s relationship with Robot Daneel Olivaw I’m getting misty eyed at their reunions to solve murders.

One of the great things about these novels is the protagonist. Baley is always a fish out of water. He has his own biases and physical weaknesses, but he excels in noticing human and — eventually — robot behavior. He’s an underdog who somehow always comes out on top. He’s really fun to root for.

In this installment, Baley is called to investigate the murder of one of the two most unique robots ever created on the planet Aurora. These two robots are indistinguishable from humans, one of which is R. Daneel Olivaw, and one of which is the recently shut down. Auroran politics are divided on how the galaxy should be settled and who should be allowed to go, and the primary suspect for the murder is also the strongest proponent for Earth. So there’s just a little pressure to find evidence against Fastolfe.

Also in attendance is Gladia, who was the prime suspect of the murder in the previous book. Her life in shambles, she relocates to Aurora to start again, so she and Baley reunite. There was a hint of romance between Baley and Gladia previously, but there’s full-blown infidelity in this book. Unfortunately, I am quite uncomfortable with the fact that Baley never seems to think of his wife back on Earth, except that she might feel some disgrace if anyone found out. If only Asimov allowed for one paragraph to set up their estrangement or divorce priority to the affair.

Mostly, I’m in awe with how easy and fun these books are. Asimov’s writing feels effortless. The mystery is good, and the big ideas and hopeful scifi are there too. Highly recommended for fans of robots and anyone interested in a gateway series into science fiction!