The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel

by Isaac Asimov

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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.  

Like most people left behind on an over-populated Earth, New York City police detective Elijah Baley had little love for either the arrogant Spacers or their robotic companions. But when a prominent Spacer is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Baley is ordered to the Outer Worlds to help track down the killer.  

The relationship between Life and his Spacer superiors, who distrusted all Earthmen, was strained from the start. Then he learned that they had assigned him a partner: R. Daneel Olivaw.  Worst of all was that the “R” stood for robot—and his positronic partner was made in the image and likeness of the murder victim!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307792419
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/13/2011
Series: The Robot Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 177
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Isaac Asimov began his Foundation series at the age of twenty-one, not realizing that it would one day be considered a cornerstone of science fiction. During his legendary career, Asimov penned more than 470 books on subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare to history, though he was most loved for his award-winning science fiction sagas, which include the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction Writers of America, Asimov entertained and educated readers of all ages for close to five decades. He died, at the age of seventy-two, in April 1992.

Date of Birth:

January 20, 1920

Date of Death:

April 6, 1992

Place of Birth:

Petrovichi, Russia

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Columbia University, B.S. in chemistry, 1939; M.A. in chemistry, 1941; Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1948

Read an Excerpt

Lije Baley had just reached his desk when he became aware of R. Sammy watching him expectantly.
The dour lines of his long face hardened. “What do you want?”
“The boss wants you, Lije. Right away. Soon as you come in.”
“All right.”
R. Sammy stood there blankly.
Baley said, “I said, all right. Go away!”
R. Sammy turned on his heel and left to go about his duties. Baley wondered irritably why those same duties couldn’t be done by a man.
He paused to examine the contents of his tobacco pouch and make a mental calculation. At two pipefuls a day, he could stretch it to next quota day.
Then he stepped out from behind his railing (he’d rated a railed corner two years ago) and walked the length of the common room.
Simpson looked up from a merc-pool file as he passed. “Boss wants you, Lije.”
“I know. R. Sammy told me.”
A closely coded tape reeled out of the merc-pool’s vitals as the small instrument searched and analyzed its “memory” for the desired information stored in the tiny vibration pattern of the gleaming mercury surface within.
“I’d kick R. Sammy’s behind if I weren’t afraid I’d break a leg,” said Simpson. “I saw Vince Barrett the other day.”
“He was looking for his job back. Or any job in the Department. The poor kid’s desperate, but what could I tell him? R. Sammy’s doing his job and that’s all. The kid has to work a delivery tread on the yeast farms now. He was a bright boy, too. Everyone liked him.”
Baley shrugged and said in a manner stiffer than he intended or felt, “It’s a thing we’re all living through.”
The boss rated a private office. It said JULIUS ENDERBY on the clouded glass. Nice letters. Carefully etched into the fabric of the glass. Underneath, it said COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, CITY OF NEW YORK.”
“Baley stepped in and said, “You want to see me, Commissioner?”
Enderby looked up. He wore spectacles because his eyes were sensitive and couldn’t take the usual contact lenses. It was only after one got used to the sight of them that one could take in the rest of the face, which was quite undistinguished. Baley had a strong notion that the Commissioner valued his glasses for the personality they lent him and suspected that his eyeballs weren’t as sensitive as all that.
The Commissioner looked definitely nervous. He straightened his cuffs, leaned back, and said, too heartily, “Sit down, Lije. Sit down.”
Baley sat down stiffly and waited.
Enderby said, “How’s Jessie? And the boy?”
“Fine,” said Baley, hollowly. “Just fine. And your family?”
“Fine,” echoed Enderby. “Just fine.” It had been a false start.
Baley thought: Something’s wrong with his face.
“Aloud, he said, “Commissioner, I wish you wouldn’t send R. Sammy out after me.”
“Well, you know how I feel about those things, Lije. But he’s been put here and I’ve got to use him for something.”
“It’s uncomfortable, Commissioner. He tells me you want me and then he stands there. You know what I mean. I have to tell him to go or he just keeps on standing there.”
“Oh, that’s my fault, Lije. I gave him the message to deliver and forgot to tell him specifically to get back to his job when he was through.”
“Baley sighed. The fine wrinkles about his intensely brown eyes grew more pronounced. “Anyway, you wanted to see me.”
“Yes, Lije,” said the Commissioner, “but not for anything easy.”
He stood up, turned away, and walked to the wall behind his desk. He touched an inconspicuous contact switch and a section of the wall grew transparent.
Baley blinked at the unexpected insurge of grayish light.
The Commissioner smiled. “I had this arranged specially last year, Lije. I don’t think I’ve showed it to you before. Come over here and take a look. In the old days, all rooms had things like this. They were called ‘windows.’ Did you know that?”
Baley knew that very well, having viewed many historical novels.
“I’ve heard of them,” he said.
“Come here.”
Baley squirmed a bit, but did as he was told. There was something indecent about the exposure of the privacy of a room to the outside world. Sometimes the Commissioner carried his affection of Medievalism to a rather foolish extreme.
Like his glasses, Baley thought.
That was it! That was what made him look wrong!
Baley said, “Pardon me, Commissioner, but you’re wearing new glasses, aren’t you?”
The Commissioner stared at him in mild surprise, took off his glasses, looked at them and then at Baley. Without his glasses, his round face seemed rounder and his chin a trifle more pronounced. He looked vaguer, too, as his eyes failed to focus properly.
He said, “Yes.”
He put his glasses back on his nose, then added with real anger, “I broke my old ones three days ago. What with one thing or another I wasn’t able to replace them till this morning. Lije, those three days were hell.”
“On account of the glasses?”
“And other things, too. I’m getting to that.”
He turned to the window and so did Baley. With mild shock, Baley realized it was raining. For a minute, he was lost in the spectacle of water dropping from the sky, while the Commissioner exuded a kind of pride as though the phenomenon were a matter of his own arranging.
“This is the third time this month I’ve watched it rain. Quite a sight, don’t you think?”
“Against his will, Baley had to admit to himself that it was impressive. In his forty-two years he had rarely seen rain, or any of the phenomena of nature, for that matter.
He said, “It always seems a waste for all that water to come down on the city. It should restrict itself to the reservoirs.”
“Lije,” said the Commissioner, “you’re a modernist. That’s your trouble. In Medieval times, people lived in the open. I don’t mean on the farms only. I mean in the cities, too. Even in New York. When it rained, they didn’t think of it as waste. They gloried in it. They lived close to nature. It’s healthier, better. The troubles of modern life come from being divorced from nature. Read up on the Coal Century, sometime.”
Baley had. He had heard many people moaning about the invention of the atomic pile. He moaned about it himself when things went wrong, or when he got tired. Moaning like that was a built-in facet of human nature. Back in the Coal Century, people moaned about the invention of the steam engine. In one of Shakespeare’s plays, a character moaned about the invention of gunpowder. A thousand years in the future, they’d be moaning about the invention of the positronic brain.
The hell with it.
He said, grimly, “Look, Julius.” (It wasn’t his habit to get friendly with the Commissioner during office hours, however many ‘Lijes’ the Commissioner threw at him, but something special seemed called for here.) “Look, Julius, you’re talking about everything except what I came in here for, and it’s worrying me. What is it?”
The Commissioner said, “I’ll get to it, Lije. Let me do it my way. It’s—it’s trouble.”
“Sure. What isn’t on this planet? More trouble with the R’s?”
“In a way, yes. Lije. I stand here and wonder how much more trouble the old world can take. When I put in this window, I wasn’t just letting in the sky once in a while. I let in the City. I look at it and I wonder what will become of it in another century.”
Baley felt repelled by the other’s sentimentality, but he found himself staring outward in fascination. Even dimmed by the weather, the City was a tremendous thing to see. The Police Department was in the upper levels of City Hall, and City Hall reached high. From the Commissioner’s window, the neighboring towers fell short and the tops were visible. They were so many fingers, groping upward. Their walls were blank, featureless. They were the outer shells of human hives.
“In a way,” said the Commissioner, “I’m sorry it’s raining. We can’t see Spacetown.”
Baley looked westward, but it was as the Commissioner said. The horizon closed down. New York’s towers grew misty and came to an end against blank whiteness.
“I know what Spacetown is like,” said Baley.
“I like the picture from here,” said the Commissioner. “It can just be made out in the gap between the two Brunswick Sectors. Low domes spread out. It’s the difference between us and the Spacers. We reach high and crowd close. With them, each family has a dome for itself. One family: one house. And land between each dome. Have you ever spoken to any of the Spacers, Lije?”
“A few times. About a month ago, I spoke to one right here on your intercom,” Baley said, patiently.
“Yes, I remember. But then, I’m just getting philosophical. We and they. Different ways of life.”
Baley’s stomach was beginning to constrict a little. The more devious the Commissioner’s approach, the deadlier he thought might be the conclusion.
He said, “All right. But what’s so surprising about it? You can’t spread eight billion people over Earth in little domes. They’ve got space on their worlds, so let them live their way.”

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The Caves of Steel (The Robot Series) 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 107 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't read this in years but I needed to leave a review for one of my favorite books of all-time. This book got me into reading in general, not just sci-fi. Asimov was a master of his craft, and this book could easily appeal to those who would otherwise have no interest in sci-fi because it reads well as a mystery, too. I read this a decade ago and the world that is created within still stays with me. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a big sci-fi fan and I love Asimov but this book was extraordinary and it hooked me into the trilogy. It has to be one of the best books I have ever read and recommend it to everyone. The thing that made it so enoyable was the way he combined mystery and sci-fi together, a pure masterpiece. If you do not love this book by the end then sci-fi is not your genre.
Starfire32210 More than 1 year ago
Readable over and over and over.
Eric Riley More than 1 year ago
Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel is a tribute all in itself to the author, who had not only the talent of writing a story both part science fiction and part mystery, but the gift to create something as complex as psychology - robot psychology. For once we can truly understand robots, and can view ourselves from their eyes. It is both a humbling and a disturbing image that we glimpse, but that is what makes Asimov's works so great: They are true to reality. I think this belongs in a genre of its own, along with the Foundation novels: Intellectual Thriller.
Michael Hamilton More than 1 year ago
I just read Caves of Steel this past week. It had been some time since I had read anything related to Asimov's Robots serirs; the last time being in highdchool, circa 1999. What really surprises me, though this novel was written in the 1950s, the narrative still holds up very well. Certainly, there are some items in the narrative which date the story a little bit, but these are easily over-looked. Asimov is a great writer, and can easily get you to keep turning the pages to find out whst happens next. Fun read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was a huge Asimov fan growing up and still find the books entertaining 20 years later. a lot of the novel is kind of clunky and hokey, but on the other find I find many of the ideas still very compelling. Is there something in humankind that would be resistant to getting robot assistance, even if that meant making their lives more difficult? Still a fascinating look at possible future psychology, and how the human race is in danger of undergoing a type of speciation if groups are too separate. It is also entertaining how Asimov puts so many diverse threads into one book- detective thriller, speculative future, history lesson, even a kind of love story. As an entree into the robot/galactic empire/foundation world of asimov, this book is indispensible, along with I Robot. It is fascinating how different this book is from the Foundation stories- Asimov may not have been a stylist on the level of a Ray Bradbury or Theodore Sturgeon, but he was certainly capable of a diverse array of writing styles.
Digifreke More than 1 year ago
I'd read I, Robot and, liking robots as much as I do, I was told by some friends from college that I should pick this one up. I loved it! I was expecting the first chapter or two to go like it did in I, Robot (which I couldn't put down, by the way), but once I got into chapter 3, I literally stayed up hours to finish reading it. Earth created robots, but when humanity branched out into space, the Spacers took the robots and most of Earth doesn't want anything to do with them-- and suddenly, an Earth detective is assigned a highly advanced robot to help solve the murder of the same Spacer who created that robot! A really great book if you love the futuristic, robotic side of Science Fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
So many people express their distaste of the strange genre of science fiction, including myself until reading this novel. What makes Isaac Asimov such a great sci-fi writer is that the world he creates is so visually complete that we can really picture it in our imagination. But fortunately, the grand technology of the future doesn't take center stage. It is the characters and the intriguing plot that draw us into the story. While it is a satisfying mystery, it is also a story of hope in a future filled with friction between humans and progressing technology.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I picked up this book, I never expected it to lead me to voraciously reading another 10 books after it. It's amazing how all of Asimov's works interweave with each other. From the Robot novels you should move to the Foundation Series (starting with Prelude to Foundation and then Foward the Foundation, etc.) I love how he ties both series together. A set of books that I will read over and over again and not tire of to be sure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have already read I, robot. It is awesome, and my favorite is 'Robbie'. At first, I did not know it was short stories, but then I got it. The book is beat; it fell into a bowl of juice when i took a vacation to yellowstone, and it is beat up, but it is simply an awesome book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is pretty tight. You should get the whole robot series. Asimov is awesome.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well, this is neither complex or a masterpice, yet it is a great story that is wonderfully descriptive a awesome. Science fiction, yet you may actually lear a thing or two. Read this book and find out what I mean.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful and complex science fiction mystery. Very good ending (it's always who you least suspect)!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has a very captivating, complex plot sure to impress and please any sci-fi/fantisy enthusiast. It is the best most well written science fiction book i've ever read. The creativity, details, concepts, mystey, human and robotic reactions and interactions are outstanding and come together to form A MUST READ MASTERPIECE!.
drneutron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had read Asimov's robot series way back in the 70's when I was in high school, and had enjoyed them. Then I grew up and moved on to more mature fiction. Now I'm in my forties and a group of us here on LT decided to do a group read of a classic scifi novel. And I found out that I've missed the fun of Asimov's and others' works from those days. The Caves of Steel isn't meant to be a mystery story, in spite of the central plot line. It's really about the intersection of two fundamentally different and fundamentally flawed societies, and how two members of those societies come together to work out a problem - and that's classic scifi.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story is not just sci-fi, it's a detective story set within a futuristic world, and a pretty engaging detective story at that. Sure, there are some moralistic tones throughout (i.e. there is commentary/criticism on population overgrowth, food shortages, etc), but they don't overcome the story itself.It's significantly better than other 70s sci-fi I've read recently (Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang, Hellstrom's Hive) and I will someday read more in the series.
Gkarlives on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book long after I had read The Robots of Dawn, which I loved. I was interested in finding out more about the history of Elijah Bailey that was hinted at in Dawn so I picked up this book. Unlike Dawn, there is not some earth shattering ending that puts a whole new twist into the Robots universe, but is a great story. Mr. Asimov creates strong detective plot lines along with good charecterization and world description. I liked the feel of over populated backwards earth. If anyone wants to know more about the background motivations that play out in Dawn, this story is a must.
Cecrow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic. I read his seven Foundation novels several years ago, and although I didn't care much for the 1980s prequels and sequels I thought the original trilogy was amazing. This novel, first in his Robots series, dates from that 1950s era as well and it shows in the watertight plotting, dialogue like a logician's dream, and an ending that caught me by surprise and totally satisfied. At first I was skeptical I'd enjoy a sci-fi novel presented as a murder mystery, but I should have known better. Asimov was already my favourite among classic sci-fi authors, and this further cements his standing with me. It's as good as the Foundation books and I am absolutely going to read its sequel, 'The Naked Sun'.
mohi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the best books by Asimov, and the first in the Elijah Baley books. For once, an Asimov mystery that is interesting even without the trapping of the robot universe. His only book I would love to see as a movie done in a quasi movie noir look.
morriss003 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Caves of Steel is where we first meet Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw. The book is actually a murder mystery and a work of science fiction and Asimov achieves excellence in both genres. An important facet of the book is the interaction between the robot and the human detective who dislikes robots. Asimov uses their deepening partnership to explore the meaning of humanity.
JustinMacMillan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Caves of Steel is a science fiction mystery. It is about a man, Elijah Bailey, and how he must solve the murder of a prominent Spacer, person not born on Earth, with the help of the humanoid robot R. (Robot) Daniel Olivaw. It has the large suspense of how the Spacer worlds may punish Earth for this death. The story is interesting because not only does is have a good mystery but deals with the mystery, but talks about how both the society on Earth and the Spacers worlds has stopped evolving. This is a nice element that Asimov does, having elements in the story to speak to wider issues. It shows a complex world and how the rules created for it are effective. There is a limited amount of action in the story. It is mostly about how Bailey is trying to figure out what happened and working through several theories along the way. The only real flaw is that the largest female character, Elijah¿s wife, seems to be a less interesting character than others. Still, it is a good book.
weakley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great beginning to all of the Robot/Foundation books. While technically the second book , it's the first novel in the series given that the first book is short stories. It's dated in a classic 50's scifi kind of way. People a thousand years from now still wearing Fedoras and smoking pipes. That sort of thing. But it really doesn't affect how well this story reads. You get a bit of a Sam Spade kind of feel as well with the team of Bailey and Olivaw.Glad I picked this up. I had forgotten what a great writer Asimov was.
ASBiskey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While to my mind this is not as good other books of Asimov that I have read, this is still an enjoying read. The mystery is not as complete as some of his other works, and the logic puzzles not as complete or profound. This is the start of the second Earth emigration to other worlds, following the earlier settlement of the "Spacer" worlds. This introduces the characters that continue the series and the ideas that are the central theme. I do not think this is the best book of the series, but it is a solid foundation.
melydia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lige Bailey is a regular plainclothesman in far-future New York City sent to investigate a murder of a Spacer (that is, a person born on one of the many colonized planets). His partner is R. Daneel Olivaw, a disconcertingly human-like robot. Bailey is a product of his environment, and like many of his displaced fellow humans he distrusts and dislikes robots in general. Though the social differences between Earthmen, Spacers, and the reader¿s own society are the main draw of the book, the story itself is very much a 1950s-style detective story. If you like hard SF, you probably already know to read Asimov, but if you¿d like your futurism with some mystery mixed in, this is a good place to start.
eric-k on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my classics that I seem to always enjoy rereading. I love seeing the view of the future that Asimov presents. The concept of the Cities still feels possible, even at this point in time. To me, the plot is secondary, less important than the descriptions of the environment.