The Naked Sun was one of my opportunistic purchases, 50p from a second hand bookstall on the way out of a shop. In fact it was another Asimov that caught my eye, the classic ‘Foundation’, which I’ve already got but I picked it up anyway and there was The Naked Sun underneath.
It was a book I didn’t recognise, even though I’ve read a lot of Asimov. Little did I know it was actually the sequel to The Caves of Steel, a book I read thirty years ago.
Like The Caves of Steel, this book is actually a detective mystery. It features the same detective Plainclothesman Elijha Bailey and once again he teams up with R Daneel Olivaw, a humanoid robot from the planet Aurora. The murder has taken place on the distant planet Solaria, where all the humans live isolated lives of privilege, with armies of robots taking care of their every need. The Solarians only interact remotely using “viewers”, amd to be in each other’s physical presence is socially unacceptable to the point that many are phobic about it. Which of course adds to the mystery, how can you murder someone without being physically present, especially as all possible remote methods would require the use of robots which cannot harm a human being?
I really enjoyed this book and it has encouraged me to go back and re-read some more Asimov. It was written in the 1950s but it still stands up today. Of course the technology of ‘viewing’ was unheard of then, today we call it Skype or FaceTime, and there is a danger that you can look at Sci Fi from the 50s and 60s on a superficial level and say it’s lost some of its speculative nature. But to do so is to miss the point. The big questions that books like this tackle are not about the future, they are about the human condition and that is as relevant now as it was then.