The Robots of Dawn is the third (and last) story featuring plainclothesman Elijah Baley (though he also appears in Robots and Empire, as a memory). Elijah is about to take on the most challenging investigation of his career. Not only will he lose all the privileges earned by previous successful investigations if he fails, but nothing less than the fate of Earth seems to rest on his shoulders…

Baley must be shipped to Aurora, where Dr Fastolfe (which he has previously met in Caves of Steel) is accused of having “killed” Jander, a robot whom he himself designed, and who was the only other humaniform robot beside Daneel. Jander belonged to Gladia Delmarre, a Solarian woman whom Elijah is partial to, and who moved to Aurora (see The Naked Sun). Even though the termination of a robot is not usually considered as murder, Fastolfe is accused of a darker motive behind his deed, a motive linked to the future of space colonization, and that could have consequences for both Aurora and Earth.

In the ship, Baley is a bit worried because of his agoraphobia, but he is reassured by the presence of his former partner and friend, R. Daneel. Daneel is here to protect him, along with another, more primitive robot named Giskard, who belongs to Fastolfe. Indeed, Fastolfe fears for Elijah’s safety, because of the anti-earthmen feeling that predominates on Aurora. Moreover, the prospects for a successful outcome to Elijah’s investigation are almost non-existent: by his own admission, Dr Fastolfe is the only person capable of “killing” R. Jander, although he claims he did not do it. How will Elijah solve this conundrum?

In The Robots of Dawn, along with following an interesting classical whodunit, we learn a little bit more about Asimov’s robots and their endless subtleties, as he draws the thin, permeable line between robots and human beings. We also get a better picture of the sociologic aspects of his different societies. The parallels we can still make today between his societies and our various parts of the world are numerous, proving once more Asimov’s visionary skills. However, Asimov is much better when dealing with mass psychology: his psychology of individuals appears rather simplistic and reductive at times, mostly when it comes to women…

In order to get the best of the novels, read them all (after I, Robot which serves as a good introduction) in order…

Rating: 4/5