Isaac Asimov, the grandfather of science fiction, sends his
detective Elijah Baley, usually called Lije or Partner
Elijah, and his human-like robot partner Daneel Olivaw, whom
we first met in Caves of Steel, to the planet Solaria to
solve a murder in The Naked Sun, the second book of his
trilogy on worlds populated with humans and robots.
It’s an open and shut case since the customs of this
particular planet trim the suspect list down to one.
However, it’s not quite what it appears to be. Baley shows
the Solarians that easy assumptions and a reliance on
received knowledge can lead to false conclusions as he leads
them through the fundamental but necessary steps of
detection: motive, means, and opportunity.
Baley must wrestle with his own demons, too. He is on a
planet where the inhabitants are not enclosed in a
Plexiglass-like bubble as on Earth, but live their lives
under a naked sun. Baley must conquer his own fears in order
to solve the case. Asimov always has his main characters
conquer fear and prejudice so they can move to the next
level in their development.
Although it appears at one point that Baley is trying to
push Daneel to the side, Asimov shows us how both the human
and the human-like robot must combine strengths to find the
murderer. Daneel beats Baley in a game of wits to point the
way to methods the murderer may have used to kill the
Asimov does not disappoint. There are mind games for those
interested in logic and reasoning, and complex human
interaction and character development for those interested
in literature. There’s even a hint of a love interest for
the usually quite faithful Baley. The Naked Sun is a fine
novel with a surprising ending.