The Caves of Steel is a novel by Isaac Asimov . It is essentially a detective story and illustrates that science fiction is a flavor that can be applied to any literary genre.

The book was first published as a serial in Galaxy Magazine, October to December 1953. A Doubleday hardcover followed in 1954. A television adaptation was made by the BBC and shown in 1964: only a few short excerpts still exist. In June 1989, the book was adapted by Bert Coules as a radio play for the BBC, with Ed Bishop as Elijah Baley and Sam Dastor as R. Daneel Olivaw.


In this novel, Isaac Asimov first introduced Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw , who would later become his favorite protagonists. They live roughly three millennia in Earth's future, a time when hyperspace travel has been discovered, and a few worlds relatively close to Earth have been colonised — fifty planets known as the "Spacer worlds". The Spacer worlds are rich, have low population density (average population of one hundred million each), and use robot labor very heavily. Meanwhile, Earth is overpopulated (with a total population of eight billion), and strict rules against robots have been passed. The eponymous "caves of steel" are vast city complexes covered by huge metal domes, capable of supporting tens of millions each. The New York City of that era, for example, encompasses present-day New York City, as well as large tracts of New Jersey. Asimov imagines the present day's underground transit connected to malls and apartment blocks, extended to a point where no one ever exits to the outside world. Indeed, most of the population cannot leave, as they suffer from extreme agoraphobia. Even though the Robot and Foundation series were not supposed to play in the same universe until much later, those "caves of steel" resemble the planet Trantor. In The Caves of Steel and its sequels (the first of which is The Naked Sun), Asimov paints a grim situation of an Earth dealing with an extremely large population, and of luxury-seeking Spacers who limit birth so that each may have great wealth and privacy. Asimov, who was agoraphobic, did not himself find the lack of daylight grim. He mentioned that a reader asked him how he could have imagined such an existence with no sunlight. He related that it had not struck him until then that living perpetually indoors might be construed as unpleasant.

Plot summaryEdit

The book's central crime is a murder, which takes place before the novel opens. (This is an Asimovian trademark, which he attributed to his own squeamishness and John Campbell's advice of beginning as late in the story as possible.) Roj Nemmenuh Sarton, a Spacer Ambassador, lives in Spacetown, the Spacer outpost just outside New York City. For some time, he has tried to convince the Earth government to loosen its anti-robot restrictions. One morning, he is discovered outside his home, his chest imploded by an energy blaster. The New York police commissioner charges Elijah with finding the murderer. Elijah must work with a Spacer partner, a highly advanced robot named R. Daneel Olivaw who is visually identical to a human, even though Elijah, like many Earth residents, has a low opinion of robots. Together, they search for the murderer and try to avert an interstellar diplomatic incident. One interesting aspect of the book is the contrast between Elijah, the human detective, and Daneel, the humanoid robot. Asimov uses the "mechanical" robot to inquire about human nature. When confronting a "Medievalist" who fears that robots will overcome humankind, Elijah argues that robots are inherently deficient. Being precision-engineered calculating machines, they can have no appreciation of art, beauty, or God; robots can understand only concepts expressible in mathematics. Nevertheless, in the concluding scene, R. Daneel exhibits a sense of morality. He argues that the captured murderer be treated leniently, telling his human companions that he now realizes the destruction of evil is less desirable than the conversion of evil into good. Quoting the Pericope Adulteræ (to which Elijah had earlier introduced him—the Bible not being well known in the Spacer worlds), Daneel tells the murderer, "Go, and sin no more!"

Character historiesEdit

Below is a list of all the major and minor characters in the book, in order of appearance, with plot detail. Elijah “Lije” Baley A plain-clothes police officer who works on Earth. He is called to solve the murder. Vince Barrett A young man whose job was taken over by R. Sammy. R. Sammy A robot assigned to the Police Department Julius Enderby New York City’s Commissioner of Police, who assigns Baley to the murder case. Jezebel “Jessie” Navodny Baley’s wife. Roj Nemennuh Sarton A spacer roboticist murdered with a blaster. Baley is assigned to investigate his death. R. Daneel Olivaw Baley’s partner, a humaniform robot created in Sarton's likeness. Bentley Baley Baley’s son. Han Fastolfe A roboticist from Aurora, a Spacer world, who believes Spacers and Earth dwellers must work together to colonize the galaxy and survive in the future. Dr. Anthony Gerrigel A roboticist at Washington whom Baley called. Francis Clousarr A New Yorker who was arrested for inciting a riot against robots two years ago. He was one of the men who was at the shoe store incident and in the crowd who chased Baley and Daneel.


Reviewer Groff Conklin praised the novel for the way Asimov "combine[d] his interest in robotics with his consuming preoccupation with the sociology of a technology-mad, bureaucratically tethered world of tomorrow."[2] Boucher and McComas praised The Caves of Steel as "Asimov's best long work to date," saying that it was "the most successful attempt yet to combine" the detective and science fiction novel.[3] P. Schuyler Miller called it "as honest a combination of science fiction and detection as we've seen."[4] In 2004, The Caves of Steel was nominated for a retroactive Hugo Award for Best Novel for 1954.

Television adaptationEdit

Story Parade – The Caves of Steel Genre Science fiction Written by Terry Nation Directed by Peter Sasdy Starring Peter Cushing John Carson Country of origin United Kingdom Original language(s) English Production Producer(s) Eric Tayler Running time 75 minutes Broadcast Original channel BBC2 An adaptation of The Caves of Steel was made by the BBC and broadcast on BBC2 on 5 June 1964 as part of an anthology strand called Story Parade, which specialized in adaptations of modern novels. It starred Peter Cushing as Elijah Baley and John Carson as R. Daneel Olivaw. The adaptation was the brainchild of Story Parade story editor Irene Shubik, who was an enthusiast of science fiction and a fan of Isaac Asimov in particular, once referring to him as “one of the most interesting and amusing men I have ever met”.[5] Shubik had previously devised and story edited the science fiction anthology series Out of This World, which had adapted Asimov's short story Little Lost Robot in 1962. The adaptation of the novel was handled by Terry Nation, who at this time had recently found fame and fortune as the creator of the popular Dalek monsters for the science fiction series Doctor Who. The screenplay was generally faithful to the plot of the novel. The only major deviation was the conclusion – in the television version the murderer commits suicide when he is unmasked, although in the novel he agrees to work to convince the Medievalists to change their ways. The other major change is that the roboticist Dr. Gerrigal is a female character in the television version. Director Peter Sasdy later directed a number of Hammer horror films as well as the Nigel Kneale television play The Stone Tape. The Caves of Steel garnered good reviews: The Daily Telegraph said the play “proved again that science fiction can be exciting, carry a message and be intellectually stimulating”[6] while The Listener, citing the play as the best of the Story Parade series, described it as “a fascinating mixture of science fiction and whodunit which worked remarkably well”.[7] The play was repeated on BBC1 on 28 August 1964. As was common practice at the time, the master tapes of The Caves of Steel were wiped some time after broadcast and the play remains missing to this day. A few short extracts survive: the opening titles and the murder of Sarton; Elijah and Daneel meeting Dr. Gerrigel (Naomi Chance) and Elijah and Daneel confronting the Medievalist Clousarr (John Boyd-Brent). The success of The Caves of Steel led Irene Shubik to devise the science fiction anthology series Out of the Unknown, during which she oversaw the adaptation of six more Asimov stories, including The Caves of Steel’s sequel The Naked Sun. Cast of BBC2 Adaptation: Peter Cushing as Elijah Baley John Carson as R Daneel Olivaw Kenneth J. Warren as Commissioner Julius Enderby John Wentworth as Dr Han Fastolfe Ellen McIntosh as Jessie Baley Ian Trigger as R Sammy Stanley Walsh as Simpson John Boyd-Brent as Francis Cloussar Naomi Chance as Dr Gerrigel Hennie Scott as Bentley Baley Richard Beale as Controller Richard Beint as Shop Manager Patsy Smart as Customer

Other adaptationsEdit

In 1988 Kodak produced a VCR game entitled "Isaac Asimov's Robots" that contained a 45-minute film loosely based on Caves of Steel. It featured many of the characters and settings from the novel, but an altered plotline to fit the needs of a VCR game. In 1989 BBC Radio 4 broadcast an adaptation by Bert Coules, directed by Matthew Walters and starring Ed Bishop as Baley with Sam Dastor as Olivaw. Cast of BBC Radio 4 Adaptation: Ed Bishop as Elijah Baley Sam Dastor as R Daneel Olivaw Matt Zimmerman as Commissioner Julius Enderby Christopher Good as Dr Han Fastolfe Beth Porter as Jessie Baley Ian Michie as R Sammy Vincent Brimble as Simpson Elizabeth Mansfield as Frances Cloussar Brian Miller as the Shopkeeper Boris Hunker as Bentley Baley Susan Sheridan as City Announcer

Cultural referencesEdit

In a codec conversation in the video game Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Otacon references Caves of Steel when explaining his desire to create the Metal Gear Mk. II and a world run solely by technology.[8]

In the episode "First Law" from the show Numb3rs, a character named Daniel Oliver Robertson is murdered, and the prime suspect is an AI named Baley. Robertson works for a company named Steel Cave. His wife is named Jessie.[9]