Book Review: The Robots of Dawn

Because everything written after this book gets the Robot series involved with Asimov’s weird, canon crossover with the Foundation series (which I love and also do not wish to destroy), this is the last of the Robots books I will be reading and reviewing for at least some time. Strap in for this classic review!

The Book

51p4stbegul._sx301_bo1204203200_The Robots of Dawn
Author: Isaac Asimov
1983
Amazon Link

This book, as well as many of the sequels that I don’t plan on reading, was at my library, so I snagged a copy.  I’ve genuinely enjoyed, at least to some extent, all of the series’ previous installations.

Just so you have a short version of the review, I’ll tell you now that this 4th book in the series was a massive disappointment, but still far from the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Non-Spoiler Review

I was only disappointed in this book because the previous two installations were quite enjoyable.  I would say this one wasn’t awful, but some of the parts fell pretty flat for me.

First, let me admit that I don’t like romance or even romantic subplots.  This is probably one of the reasons I like Asimov’s earlier work – he knew he sucked at romance and avoided it.  Well, when he got older, he also got bolder, and I get the distinct feeling he still sucked at writing romance anyway.  Associated with the romance, as well, were clear and open references to what may be my least favorite book of all time, Stranger in a Strange Land.  Complete with sexual awakening and a hint at ‘teach them real sex and make a sex cult.’

Beyond that, Asimov still does a marvelous job with consistency in his worldbuilding.  The world in which Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun took place was still vivid, vibrant, and present in this installation.  Baley’s agoraphobia (fear of outside, so you don’t have to look it up) was still ever-present.  I relish reading about the Baley character, and I enjoyed learning about the new planet of Aurora.

Still… the final solution to the murder mystery, as well, made me groan.  I’ll talk about that more in the spoilers review, but it was bad.  It made me groan to the point that I almost put the book down with only 6 pages to go.  After I ate supper, however, I was able to come back and gag myself through to the end.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The mystery of the book wasn’t done very well, at least in comparison to the earlier works.  Thanks to things like the romantic subplot got in the way, and the lengthened status of the book made the singular offending sentence – the one which Baley’s entire theory hinged on – easy to forget after another 100 pages of reading.  It wasn’t pointed out at the time of the offending interview, either, which made it feel less impressive a stunt.

Still, the part that got me was the very ending, where Baley actually solved the crime, not the one where he satisfied political needs.  In it, he reveals that the murder was committed by a psychic robot.  Wat.  WAT.  This was 7 pages from the end of the 500 page book and you’re going to bring in PSYCHIC ROBOTS now?!  Horse hockey.

Yes, he called back to that one episode in i, Robot wherein there was a legendary, psychic robot, and made it happen.  Simultaneously, he revealed all sorts of what I found to be BS motives, crossovers with his Foundation series and Empire series, and just altogether destroyed the entire book.  I had suspected that particular robot of the crime due to some of the facts, but the way Asimov had Baley solve the problem was so dissatisfying.

Next week:

I’ll be re-reading one of my favorites, The Remains of the Day.  You should stay tuned, and READ THE DAMN BOOK too!

17 thoughts on “Book Review: The Robots of Dawn

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I almost always try to do non-spoiler versions because I know how people are! But I have to talk about endings somewhere, so I give myself the part that’s destructive about the plot.

      (Also, writing reviews allows me to go back to what I’ve written and remember more of what the book was about).

  1. crispina kemp says:

    I read this… so, so long ago. I was still getting my head around robots, so I was able to accommodate his premise, no probs. Sci-fi, and science, has moved on… well, to say more I’d delve into cliches.
    What boggles my head is the way publishers allow an imperfect climax. We hear so much about publishers and editors saying, No-no-no, that won’t do. And I do know of writers who have been bullied into writing romance scenes cos that’s what the publisher wants.
    I write fantasy for an adult readership, but I don’t do sex scenes. Yet I’ve a feeling if I were to go the traditional publishing route, I’d be required. Cos it’s required of fantasy for adult readership. Having said that, I do cover issues such as paedophilia.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I’m not really sure what was going on in this book. I think the main reason it’s so much worse than the earlier additions is because he wrote it 30-ish years after the other ones, at a time when people decided he was great and anything he wanted to write would get published. I really do think his later works were his “unpublishable crossover fanfics” of his earlier works.

      And yeah, I agree that too much sex focus is in the modern publishing industry – it’s definitely an important part of the human experience, but not everything needs to literally be “Game of Thrones.” I mean, look at the titles of newly published fantasy books – if it’s not reminiscent of “Thrones” (i.e. “Court of Thorns and Roses”), then it has the word “Bone” in it (I think because of “The Bone Season”). I personally thought GoT was somewhat overrated in terms of storytelling ability, and that killing off MCs shouldn’t be a trend. And, along with everything else I’ve said, GoT also makes it so that sexy times are more expected in fantasy, including those things such as rape and incest, and I’m not a big fan of that trend.

      Anyway, you might disagree, but I find GoT to be the bane of a lot of stuff…

      • crispina kemp says:

        Yet GoT is a fairly recent phenomenon (okay, so the books were written back in the 1990s but they didn’t immediately create this GoT industry, the TV progs did that). While the press for sex predates that. I remember reading a particular fantasy book… don’t remember which (and I’d always liked fantasy for its lack of sex) only to encounter, zooming in from out of nowhere, and no real reason for it, a steamy scene. Just the one in all the book. Because the publishers had insisted. It was a female author, and you could just tell she was awkward with it.

    • joanne the geek says:

      Sex scenes are awkward to write as you can easily fall into very bad or florid prose. In fact some of the most shocking pieces of prose I’ve read where often sex scenes.

      I do include sex scenes in my writing, but I try to be brief and prefer to leave it to the reader’s imagination.

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