The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov stood on my parents’ bookshelves when I was 15 and I looked at it almost every day without interest. It seemed on the face of it like a good idea, a detective story blended with science fiction. Fusing genres has always appealed to me. But I read a few pages of it and found the characterisation trite. I didn’t want to waste my time on it.
Maybe I made the wrong decision. Asimov was a very smart man. I know that. He wrote brilliantly about science. He also took novel-writing very seriously and he must have been doing something right because among my friends he had many fans and, although not passionate readers, they were passionate about his books.
So I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I’d read The Caves of Steel all the way through one day and maybe even other books by Asimov too.
Finally I got around to reading it this month.
I’m so glad I did because in doing so I fulfilled one of my new year’s resolutions (to read shorter books) and at the same time rid myself of a doubt that had niggled for many years.
The characterisation still didn’t grip me. The ideas were as expected. Asimov’s ideas have been around so long they are commonplace whether or not you’ve read his books. But the novel was mildly entertaining and even enjoyable in places. Asimov has great technique. He has a very logical mind and in this novel he was careful to construct a satisfying plot. I like writers who respect their readers in this way. You can see it pays dividends. Asimov has passionate fans.
But I think I made the right decision when I was 15. I was better off reading Dostoyevsky and D. H. Lawrence. I could be equally passionate in my way. I didn’t need a book about robots to teach me what it meant to be human.
Still, I really like the title of this book: The Caves of Steel.