Earthman Elijah Baley, a detective, is sent to the planet Solaria to solve a murder. Solaria is a planet of 20,000 wealthy people who live alone on vast estates run by robots. On Earth eight billion humans live beneath the surface, in "caves of steel" and never see their own sun. Baley is stymied in his investigation by the fact that Solarians never "see" each other. They "view" one another by means of holograms and consider personal contact disgusting. Yet a Solarian has been bashed in the head and the only ones who could have killed him are his wife or a robot. Since robots are programmed to never harm a human, it seems likely that the wife did the deed. Elijah Baley, with his robot sidekick R. Daneel Olivaw, sets out to prove her innocence.
This is the sequel to Asimov's Caves of Steel, which also features Elijah Baley and the humanoid robot Daneel. Asimov's portrayal of Solaria with its cold, unreachable inhabitants living lives of idle luxury in their huge mansions is intriguing. The contrast between Earthlings, dwellling in massive underground cities in fear of their own sun and controlled by the Spacers, with the indolent, haughty and paranoid Solarians, is the real story behind an otherwise humdrum murder mystery.
Reviewed by lcs, 11/00. Other reviews by lcs.