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The Robots of Dawn, by Isaac Asimov
DESCRIPTION: In a remarkable eight-year period in the 1950s, science-fiction veteran Isaac Asimov cranked out nine books comprising three series that were to define so much of the entire genre in the decades following them: the "Robot" series of stories and novels, set in a period of future history in which Earth natives are facing an increasing amount of friction with the "Settler" worlds of the outer solar system; the "Empire" series set hundreds of years later, in which humanity is now scattered across the galaxy and a central bureaucracy rules it all; and the "Foundation" series set hundreds of years after that, in which this universe-wide empire collapses and is replaced by a shadowy cabal of Machiavellian historians and mind-readers, founded literally by one man who was able to "scientifically predict" all these events years before they actually happened. And then after that, Asimov spent twenty years doing a bunch of other interesting things; but then in the early '80s, he decided to revisit all three of these series and do a number of new novels for each, specifically so to shed some light on the gray patches in the timeline that transition between them, and to make it very explicit that they should all be considered one giant grand fifteen-book uber-series that lays out literally thousands of years of human history.
The new novels kicked off with a splash in 1982 with Foundation's Edge; and The Robots of Dawn came just a year after that, eventually nominated for both the Hugo and Locus awards. The series actually consists of detective stories, only set in a world thousands of years from now where robots are becoming more and more human-like by the day, and massive overcrowding on Earth has driven the locals into a series of massive underground cities, creating a schism between their agoraphobia and the fear of intimacy seen in the "Settler" societies of the outer solar system, one of many issues that are creating greater and greater conflict between these two rapidly diverging strains of the human race. Teaming a gruff human cop with a Spock-like brilliant and rational robot detective, the first two novels explore what happens to these uneasy partners while first investigating a crime on Earth (where the humanlike Settler robot, usually banned on Earth itself, is treated with contempt and fear), then while examining a murder on a Settler planet (where the few existing humans live hundreds of miles apart, mortally afraid of physical contact, and with robot staffs in the thousands who exist as their main companions and even lovers); this third novel, then, takes place on an experimental planet called Aurora that claims to have found a balance between these two extremes, where our heroes Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw investigate a case of "roboticide," or the willful murder of an artificially intelligent creature. Like all the novels in the series, the story is quickly paced and a fun but thought-provoking read; and by using a subplot concerning the competing arguments over what the future of space settlement is destined to be, plus a surprise ending that ties into all six of these '80s books Asimov put out, this plus the final Robot novel three years later help walk us very gently right into the first book of the Empire series, The Stars, Like Dust from way back in 1950. It's a triple accomplishment we should all be in awe of -- not just two masterful strings of related books that came out thirty years apart, but done in a way so that it all ties together into one massive whole -- and any completist of this series will be glad to have a copy of this inexpensive but increasingly important title from Asimov's late career.
CONDITION: Text: Fine Minus (F-). Very similar to how it appeared new, except for light yellowing on the inside covers where the supportive thread is glued underneath. Dust jacket: Good Plus (G+). Clipped price, crinkled spine edges, half-inch tear at bottom-left front, interior spine starting to yellow.
PROVENANCE: Purchased by Jason Pettus at Buckets O' Blood bookstore in Chicago, April 2012.