Robots and Empire marks the conclusion of the Robots series and introduces Asimov’s next series: Empire.

While the main character of the Robots series, plainclothesman, then Settler Elijah Baley, has been dead for decades, his memory is still vivid for three individuals: Gladia, the Auroran woman born on planet Solaria, who once had a brief love affair with Elijah, R. Daneel and Giskard, two robots who partnered with him on his different investigations amongst Spacers.

As Settlers and Spacers seem to live in relative peace, Daneel feels an uneasiness: while Elijah (with the help of telepathic robot Giskard, able to influence people’s decisions) is at the root of the great impulse to leave Earth and colonize other planets, he had foreseen that, if the Spacers themselves, too attached to their comfort and long lives, didn’t follow the expansion movement towards the Galaxy, they would end up feeling threatened by the Settlers, more powerful, and themselves would be condemned to decay and would want to avoid this situation at all costs. Daneel, who tries to think more and more like a human being, feels that this time has come. He thinks that far away Earth is threatened, but doesn’t know exactly what form the threat is about to take.

Meanwhile, Gladia, who has been alive for twenty-three decades, is feeling depressed. She has lost the rare people she has ever loved, and feels that her life has no sense. When a descendant of hers request her attention, she is annoyed (Spacers have no attachment to their children, to say nothing of fifth generation descendants). This man, Levular Mandamus, comes for two reasons: he wants to make sure that he was not the result of Gladia’s affair with “Barbarian” Elijah Baley, and also, he wants Gladia to be part of a mission on her old planet, Solaria, directed by Settlers: the Solarians have left and abandoned their robots. The Settlers want the robots in order to sell them, but previous vessels which landed on Solaria have been destroyed. The Settlers believe that Gladia, who is the only Solarian whose whereabouts are known, will help them avoid the same fate. The authorities of Aurora, led by Amadiro, a man whose ambition was hindered by Elijah Baley, and who for this reason, hates him and those who have been more or less connected with him, wants Gladia to go and to report.

Daneel and Giskard accompany Gladia on Solaria and, along with D. G. Baley, leader of the expedition and descendant of Elijah, they make an encounter with killing robots. But how could robots kill human beings, if they must obey to the three Laws of Robotics? This is one of the puzzle that the two robots will have to solve, without the help of Elijah’s brilliant investigative mind. They will also have to defuse a machination against planet Earth before it is too late. They just have to hope they have had enough observation time of Elijah in his short earthly life span, to be able to think like him…

Like the other installments of Robots, Robots and Empire is fascinating story. Asimov’s future is convincing and not a bit outdated. Despite some lengthy bits, this one might be the more interesting of the Robots series because it walks on the fine thread dividing robots and humans. It shows robots using what humans programed in them to take control and make their own decisions, and finally reach something very close to humanity… The other interesting aspect of the novel is also the opposition between Spacers and Settlers. Asimov tries to demonstrate that the urge to expand and conquer is probably connected to a short life span and a reliance on each other, a solid social thread. Spacers, who are reliant on robots rather than on each other, and who are too attached to their long lives to risk them, are therefore condemned to extinction…

I am eager to go on with the Empire series, but it has been out of print for a while, while the Foundation series, that follows, is still edited. I wonder why that is…

Rating: 4/5