First entry in the four book Baley/Olivaw Series. This was followed by “The Naked Sun” (1957), “The Robots Of Dawn” (1983) and “Robots And Empire” (1985).
Baley is a plain clothes detective in a far future New York City and Daneel is his robot partner. In this vision of the future three thousand years from now cities are huge and enclosed. They are referred to as caves of steel. Living in the wide open spaces are Spacers. They’re from the fifty Outer Worlds settled by human colonists. The two groups hate each other.
Earth is packed with eight billion people while the Outer Worlds are underpopulated. They rely on robot labor. On Earth robots are despised because they’ve taken jobs away. Medievalists. a group that believes in the wold as it was in our time wants them destroyed. They usually start riots and destroy robots to get their point across.
This is a murder mystery in which the two reluctant partners investigate the killing of Dr.Sarton. He’s a Spacer ambassador who lives in the appropriately named Spacetown outside New York City. He keeps trying to get City dwellers to ease up on restrictions on robots. Unlike the usual robot, Daneel is so humanoid in appearance it’s almost impossible to tell he’s an android. Somehow Baley’s wife Jesse knows that Daneel is not human.
When Baley and Daneel go to Spacetown to investigate, Baley makes a huge blunder that makes his boss and old college friend, the police commissioner, laugh at him. Later Baley makes the same mistake again. He has a hard time working with Daneeel since he is not a fan of robots. There’s one in his office, R Sammy who replaced someone and Baley hates him. Later R Sammy is found damaged beyond repair and that can be considered murder or property damage.
The murder investigation is just one facet of the book. The real interest is in the way Asimov describes this future society and the ramifications of robots doing everything and humans living in enclosed megacities. This is a great read.
The book was a retroactive nominee for the 1954 Hugo Award. The winner was Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. Those awards were announced in 2004. After the first Hugo ceremony it was thought that it would be the last. They were back in 1955 and have continued ever since.