This is book two of the five-book Robot series. I read this after reading I, Robot by Isaac Asmiov, 1950. Both books are a part of the Robot series. This is another page-turner and I read it over a weekend.
The time period is set at around 20,000 years prior to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels. The Foundation series has people colonize millions of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. This story is at the point in history where you have only fifty other worlds colonized. The events in this book describe the push towards an explosion of colonization.
The backdrop for the story is the tension that exists between Earthmen and Spacers.
The Earthmen are the people left on earth. By now the population of earth has expanded beyond capacity. Most people are eating alternate food and living in mega cities. The City described in this book reminded me of Mega City One in the 2012 movie Dredd. New York City has sprawled into the size of a large state. The massive kitchens reminded me of dorm kitchens. It has people scanning in their food cards and ordering food.
Spacers are the people whose ancestors colonized the first fifty worlds. They have advanced technology and defenses. The have a base on earth called Spaceport.
Now the murder of a Spacer happens in Spaceport. All evidence points that an Earthman did this. This is a hot button political issue between Earthmen and Spacers. The police department tries to handle this by picking detective Elijah “Lije” Bailey. The Spacers want one of their detectives to partner with Lije to ensure a fair investigation. The Spacer partner is a robot named R. Daneel Olivaw. On top of that, the robot looks exactly like the murdered victim.
The Earthmen are wary of the humanoid robots who they fear will take their jobs. You see this in in the tension at a shoe store that has employed six robots. A robot even replaces a detective at the police department. There were riots close to Spaceport when it was built. Lije needs to partner with Daneel despite his strong dislike for the robot.
As in many detective novels, Lije grows to appreciate Daneel. This book gives you not one but three plausible solutions to the murder. The book keeps you engaged. The small cast of characters helped me keep my focus on the script. I recommend that you read the short ten page introduction for this novel as well. It gives you a background about the author and the publication world of the 1940s.