I thought I had read this one before, but only elements of it were familiar to me. Most of it was not. Probably because it has been over ten years since I would have read it before. Midway through I was struck by how similar Elijah Baley is to Hercule Poirot. Like Poirot, Baley uses his "little grey cells" to comprehend the psychology of the murder and solve the mystery. However, Christie is able to do this in half the number of pages that Asimov takes. Of course, her Victorian sensibilities limit the amount of sex to a bare mention.
Once some brisk expository introduction of his future societies is taken care of, Asimov's novel feels far more like a "normal" detective novel than like a science fiction one. However, this goes to show just how seamlessly and persuasively he folds in the sci-fi elements of the worlds he creates, because the science fiction aspect is definitely not simply decorative. The robotic and human characters are engaging and full of life, and the gradual unraveling of the mystery (as well as the exploration of the society of the planet Aurora) is very engrossing.
But for me the big weakness of the novel is the way that Elijah Baley's leaps of intuition are so vast and confident that they nearly have the feel of deus ex machina artificiality. The reader does come to understand how Elijah put the pieces together thus and so, but the dots being connected are so few and far between (unlike the workmanlike exposition of say, Conan Doyle) that it still feels more than a little strained.
The final key to the mystery, although it's extraordinarily intriguing in its implications, is popped out rather abruptly and awkwardly, and not much explored to make sense of it (at least this will come, however, in the sequel).
A puzzling case of roboticide takes New York dectective Elijah Baley from Earth to the Planet Aurora, where humans and robots have till now, always coexsisted in perfect harmony.
Only the gifted roboticist Han Fastolfe had means, the motive, and opportunity to commit the crime - but Baley must prove the man innocent. For the murder of Jander Parnell is closely tied to a power struggle that will decide who will be the next interstellar pioneers in the universe.
Armed with only his own instincts, his sometimes quirky logic, and the immutable three laws of robotics, Baley sets out to solve the case. But can anything prepare a simple earth man for the psychological complexities of a world where a beautiful woman can easily have fallen in love with an all-too-human robot?
This is the third in the Robot Trilogy, and merges in with the Foundation Series in Robots and Empire. As usual, with Asimov, you have to pay attention when you read his books, this one is no exception. If you liked the Robot series, you will enjoy this book.
Spread over 30 years, these books comprise Asimovs robot detective stories starring Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw. (The R. stands for Robot) All are murder mysteries of a sort that are premised upon a paradox that is caused by the three Laws of Robotics that regulate the behavior of robots. In each, Baley solves the dilemma and smoothes over inter-galactic tactility but manages to allow the culprit to escape castigation.