Key Elements of Good Mystery and Science Fiction Literature in Isaac Asimov's "Caves of Steel"

 (2001)

G. Stolyarov II

See Mr. Stolyarov's Index of Selected Writings, Originally Published on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices.
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2001 and published in four parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007, where it received over 5,200 page views. To preserve a record of my writings following the shutdown of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, I have given this article a permanent presence on this page.

~ G. Stolyarov II, July 29, 2014

A good mystery must have numerous suspects of which one of the least likely committed the crime. It must have several red herrings designed to trick the reader into believing a false theory, but it cannot have too many red herrings, or else the mystery becomes unsolvable. A good mystery must give away what the red herrings are long before the solution is announced. This is done to at least point out the right path to the reader, and the reader may choose to follow it to obtain the solution. A good mystery must have some type of resolution which will ensure that the criminal never commits a crime again. A good mystery also has both types of evidence, physical and verbal, that the reader and the detective need to integrate in order to obtain the solution.

A good science fiction story needs to explore the possibility of a certain field in technology that is being developed in the present and give a vision of what the world would be like if this field were developed further. It must address the effects of technology on society in general, as well as prevailing thoughts, reactions, and emotions regarding this technological development and certain controversies that may be sparked in the future due to such attitudes. Such literature must be scientifically accurate, since inaccurate science fiction does not present the possibility of its world actually existing in the future.

Caves of Steel, a novel by famed science fiction author Isaac Asimov, indeed has numerous suspects, including Julius Enderby, R. Daneel Olivaw, Francis Clousarr, Jessie Baley, and Vince Barrett. One of the least likely suspects, Julius Enderby, committed the murder of Dr. Sarton, since cerberoanalysis proved him incapable of murder. However, Enderby had not intended to murder Dr. Sarton; thus, many readers are tempted to make the choice of discarding him as a suspect.

The book also has several red herrings. Among them are Baley's theories that Daneel is Dr. Sarton and that Daneel does not follow the First Law of Robotics and therefore was capable of killing Dr. Sarton. And yet there are not too many red herrings, so the reader is not confused by their abundance. The nature of a given red herring is announced almost immediately after the theory regarding it is proposed, rendering the analysis of such false leads convenient for the book's audience.

The story has a resolution; Enderby promises to promote the Spacers' ideas of Earthmen colonizing other planets in the Medievalist society. He is also shown to be incapable of murder, so he will not murder again. The Spacers leave Spacetown, knowing that their goal has been accomplished.

Caves of Steel has both types of evidence, verbal and physical, and analysis of both is necessary to obtain the solution. Verbal evidence includes the testimonies of Jessie, Daneel, Enderby, Gerrigel, Fastolfe, and Clousarr. Among the physical evidence are R. Daneel's deactivated blaster, the film showing Sarton's corpse, R. Sammy after deactivation, and Enderby's broken glasses.

Caves of Steel explores the possibility of the field of robotics and how it may affect mankind in the future. It presents two extremely different worlds, the City, where robots are feared and hated, and the Spacer worlds, where they are used to peoples' advantage and perform many useful tasks.

When these two worlds meet, a controversy inevitably occurs regarding which world is superior, and the Spacers attempt to allow Earthmen to give robots another chance and to form an integrated human/robot society.

The book explores lifestyles of the City and of Spacers and the effects of overpopulation. Allegedly due to overpopulation, the City people only live for approximately eighty years, but Spacers have a life expectancy of 350. Caves of Steel also addresses prevailing attitudes toward robots and Spacers and presents several controversial philosophies, among them the backward-oriented vision of the Medievalists and the Spacers' plan to induce Earthmen colonize other planets. The book is scientifically accurate and is governed by existing rules of science, along with those developed by Isaac Asimov, including the Three Laws of Robotics.

Caves of Steel encompasses the elements of both an excellent mystery novel and a quality science fiction story. Those who are interested in both genres of writing will greatly enjoy reading this book.

Gennady Stolyarov II (G. Stolyarov II) is an actuary, science-fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. 

In December 2013, Mr. Stolyarov published Death is Wrong, an ambitious children’s book on life extension illustrated by his wife Wendy. Death is Wrong can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Mr. Stolyarov has contributed articles to the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), The Wave Chronicle, Le Quebecois Libre, Brighter Brains Institute, Immortal Life, Enter Stage RightRebirth of Reason, The Liberal Institute, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

In an effort to assist the spread of rational ideas, Mr. Stolyarov published his articles on Associated Content (subsequently the Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Voices) from 2007 until Yahoo! closed this venue in 2014. Mr. Stolyarov held the highest Clout Level (10) possible on the Yahoo! Contributor Network and was one of its Page View Millionaires, with over 3,175,000 views. Mr. Stolyarov’s selected writings from that era have been preserved on this page.

Mr. Stolyarov holds the professional insurance designations of Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA), Associate of the Casualty Actuarial Society (ACAS), Member of the American Academy of Actuaries (MAAA), Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Reinsurance (ARe), Associate in Regulation and Compliance (ARC), Associate in Personal Insurance (API), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Accredited Insurance Examiner (AIE), and Associate in Insurance Accounting and Finance (AIAF).

Mr. Stolyarov has written a science fiction novel, Eden against the Colossus, a philosophical treatise, A Rational Cosmology,  a play, Implied Consent, and a free self-help treatise, The Best Self-Help is Free. You can watch his YouTube Videos.Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@gmail.com.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.