The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov
The Naked SunElijah Baley has been summoned to the country’s capital. He is a detective in New York City. But he is wanted for a special assignment off world. His services have been requested off world on the Spacer planet Solaria. The unthinkable has happened there – a murder. They had heard of Baley’s services in an earlier murder case involving a spacer. The security members on Solaria decided he could solve their problem.
Baley doesn’t want to accept the case, but has no choice. This means leaving his safe, closed in environment, boarding a spaceship, and going to a planet that lives in the open air. He has never been out of doors, and is nervous to consider such a move. Again, he has no choice, and will receive a promotion upon his return.
When he arrives on Solaria, he discovers that he has been assigned a partner from Aurora, another of the Spacer planets. It is his former partner, R. Daneel Olivaw. The Solarians know an Auroran has joined Baley. They don’t know his partner is a robot.
The situation of the murder is explained quickly to Baley and Olivaw. But Baley doesn’t understand. Only one person could have committed the murder. Yet that same person couldn’t have. Solarian society had evolved into a solitary life. Humans rarely came face to face with each other. Instead almost all their interaction and communication is through electronic means. Robots vastly outnumber the humans and take care of all tasks needed, from farming or mining to all the household tasks. Humans live a life of solitary luxury.
The only exception to the no contact norm is for a husband and wife to share a home and occasionally have to see each other. Even those “disgusting” events are kept to a minimum. Accordingly, only the victim’s wife appears to have had the opportunity to kill him. Yet no weapon was found and no motive is apparent. The household robots responded almost immediately to her shouts and faint, so there was little chance of her hiding a weapon and bludgeoning her husband.
Baley now has to prove why she didn’t do it, as he feels she didn’t. He has to learn the social culture and customs of Solaria. And he has to face his biggest fear – the outside world.
In this sequel to Caves of Steel, author Asimov gives us a wonderful “how was it done” or “locked room” type mystery set in a realistic science fiction setting. The description of the evolution of the Solarian culture is quite believable. Given the culture and robotics, the murder looks as if it was impossible. Then, the final glue to hold the story together are the robots and the laws of robotics. These are important for the final solution in The Naked Sun.