The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel  - Isaac Asimov Like Prince Hamlet, Asimov's protagonist Elijah Baley unexpectedly finds himself in a world turned upside down. In Shakespeare, Hamlet awakens to a kingdom that is ruled by his once-uncle-now-father, as his father's ambitious brother Claudius ascends to the throne and becomes kings, and ascends Hamlet's mother Queen Gertrude to become Hamlet's new father. A horrible existential crisis ensues.

With Asimov we find a New York City cop awakening to the reality that his new partner is a dreaded robot, his job is close to being jeopardized, and his wife is part of a revolutionary group. While robots are as clearly discernible from humans as any visual interpretation made in the early 1950s, Baley's new partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, is an accurate replica of the human form, essentially confronting Baley with a notion not easily conceivable to humans at the time. Like Hamlet, Baley spends the first part of the story being completely ineffective, trying to grasp the idea that the world has transformed almost overnight, that the relationship between the hated Spacers (humans who have long since colonized nearby planets) and the desperate Earth dwellers has moved to a whole new plateau, and in order for civilization to survive, there must be collaboration between two parties that have done their best to exist independently from each other. Elsinore, the Danish royal castle, is its own isolated community, similar to the cave of steel that is NYC, and while Spacers and Earthmen are heading toward a kind of union between separate states, with Prince Fortibras ascending the throne at the play's end, Norway and Denmark unite.

There are other obvious similarities. Like Hamlet, Baley must also organize theatrics as part of the murder investigation, and while Baley's partner is an android, Hamlet's partner is a ghost. R. Daneel Olivaw was built as the spitting image of his creator, Dr. Sarton, and helps lead Baley on his investigation. The ghost of King Hamlet is the spitting image of the former king, and helps launch young Prince Hamlet's own investigation.

For my full-length review, please visit Casual Debris.