Review of The Caves of Steel (1954)


Isaac Asimov (writer).

Read in 2017.

A massive hit of nostalgia after reading a lot of Asimov in junior high and very little of it since. I loved the competent mix of almost idyllic yet dysteleological technofuturism with almost apocalyptic hyper-urban living, estranged from nature, clearly above ecological carrying capacity and infected by “Medievalist” nostalgia for the reader’s era. The UN’s 2015 set of projections has us hitting Asimov’s stated population figure of 8 billion around 2023, rather sooner than his 5000 CE. This is a world where the green revolution apparently happened—there are fields outside the city and not just yeast farms—but only very slowly. The noir detective story is a bit hackneyed in its most suspenseful scenes and coincidences but it flows well enough, and even the sexism turns out less severe than I’d feared from the use of the word “man” in the first scene. The biblical exegesis is an affectation of the period in the author’s life before he admitted he was an atheist.

References here: Fang of the Sun Dougram (1981), The Stories of Ibis (2006), Blade Runner 2049 (2017).

text fiction