Asimov’s Robot Novels

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This sequence of the chronology includes the stories of Elijah Baley and the robot Daneel Olivaw. The short stories “Mother Earth” and “Mirror Image”, which fit into this sequence of the chronology, are also included here.

I have also included stories written by other authors set in Asimov’s universe. These titles are marked in blue font. This includes quite an extended series, by different authors, about the characters Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess. (These are new characters, not included in Asimov’s stories.) It also includes the Robot Novels trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen.

When this series of stories starts, there has been an initial wave of colonisation from Earth into space. These colonisers, called the Spacers, colonised fifty worlds, with the help of robots; and, continuing to depend heavily on robots, their societies are stagnating. However there is now antagonism between the Spacer worlds and the people back on Earth, with the Spacers preventing further colonisation from Earth.

As a result of the actions of Elijah Baley and Daneel Olivaw, there is eventually a second wave, called the Settlers, which is an ongoing one, colonising many more worlds, and without robots, although they do make use of sophisticated, but unintelligent, machinery. However, the antagonism which existed between Earth and the Spacers continues between the Settlers and the Spacers.

The dates of the internal chronology are taken from Johnny Pez’s chronology – refer Johnny Pez’s Insanely Complete Fiction List. [updated version February 2012]

AD = Anno Domini
GE = Galactic Era
FE = Foundational Era

Date – internal chronology

Story and publishing date

Books
2425 AD

Mother Earth (1949)
This short story is a precursor to the Robot Novels. Positronic robots are mentioned, but are very much in the background.

The fifty Outer Worlds have been colonised and become independent. (The term Spacer is not used at this stage.) Aurora was the first of the extra-Solar planets to be colonised, and is the leading world of the Outer Worlds.

At this time, immigration to the Outer Worlds from Earth is very much restricted, with quotas and conditions. Immigrants must be disease-free, have no adverse genetic conditions, and must be racially similar to the Outer Worlders.

Earth resents these restrictions, due to population pressure on Earth, but the Outer Worlders perceive the people of Earth as disease-ridden and subhuman. However, for the time-being, there is reasonably free trade between Earth and the Outer Worlds.

There begin to be rumours of a “Pacific Project” being developed on Earth. Does Earth have plans to declare war against the Outer Worlds? Things seem to escalating when an Earth journalist is arrested for his sympathies with the Outer Worlds. In a similar move, an Auroran politician is arrested on his home planet for his sympathies with Earth. Finally Earth makes a provocative ultimatum to the delegates at the Interplanetary Conference, which seems bound to trigger war.

EA
3421 AD

The Caves of Steel (1954)
Elijah “Lije” Baley is a police detective in New York City, one of the enclosed megacities (the “caves of steel”) on overpopulated Earth. There is a small community of Spacers, in a location called Spacetown, adjacent to New York City. When a Spacer is murdered, Lije Baley is assigned the case. He is required to work with a robot from Spacetown, called Daneel Olivaw. Daneel is a humaniform robot, that is, he is human in appearance, and is not easily distinguished from a human.

3422 AD The Naked Sun (1957)
Elijah Baley is sent to the planet Solaria, one of the Spacer worlds, to solve a murder. Again he is partnered with Daneel. Baley, being used to the enclosed cities of Earth, is stressed with the open spaces, the moving air, and the naked sun, and spends most of his time indoors, with occasional brave forays into the open.

Solaria has a low population, and its people are averse to being in the physical presence of each other – each person living alone in a mansion on a large estate, assisted by a large number of robots. In the case of a husband and wife, they live in separate parts of the same mansion, only coming into each other’s presence at assigned times, reluctantly and with a sense of obligation. People contact each other via projected 3D images; “viewing” each other this way is acceptable, “seeing” (personal presence) is not. The murdered man is Dr Rikaine Delmarre, and his wife Gladia is the suspect, since no other human could have been present. But Baley is not convinced.

3423 AD Mirror Image (1972)
Daneel comes to Elijah Baley on Earth with a problem. On the spaceship on which Daneel has been travelling, there are two Spacer mathematicians travelling to a conference on the planet Aurora. Each claims to have written a paper on a significant application of mathematics to neurobiophysics, and that the other one has stolen his ideas. In order to solve the problem and avoid scandal, Daneel has persuaded the captain to divert to Earth, to allow Baley to investigate. However Baley is not permitted to interview the mathematicians. He can only interview the robot servants belonging to the two men, and each robot is defending the statement of his master.
BIA, CR, RV
3424 AD Strip-Runner (1989) by Pamela Sargent
This story is set in the time of Asimov’s Robot Novels (around the time of “The Robots of Dawn”). The primary means of transport within the “caves of steel” – the enclosed cities of overpopulated Earth – are the moving roadways called strips. Schoolgirl Amy Barone-Stein is one of the best at the dangerous and illegal sport of strip-running, where competitors run and jump from strip to strip, racing to a predetermined destination. Then she meets a former champion strip-runner, who has a new challenge for her: to join Elijah Baley’s group, preparing to expand out into space.
FF
3424 AD The Robots of Dawn (1983)
This time Elijah Baley is sent to Aurora, the first-settled of the Spacer worlds, and the leading planet of those worlds. Dr Han Fastolfe, whom Baley had met in “The Caves of Steel”, has been accused of killing the robot Jander Panell – that is, making him inoperative through mental freeze-out. Fastolfe is an influential member of the Auroran government and a supporter of Earth, including being in favour of the expansion of Earth people into space, and the settling of new planets. Although not considered as serious as murder of a human, the scandal would result in victory for Fastolfe’s political opponents, who favour confining the people of Earth to their home planet. However, being the most skilled roboticist in Aurora, Fastolfe is apparently the only person who could cause mental freeze-out in a robot. To Baley’s surprise, he finds that Gladia, whom he had cleared of murder on Solaria in “The Naked Sun”, is living on the adjoining property to Fastolfe’s. While on Aurora, Baley is accompanied and guarded by Daneel and another robot, Giskard Reventlov.
3604 AD Robot City
(6 books, also comes in 3 volumes of 2 stories each)
This series of books was written by different authors, with approval and advice from Isaac Asimov. Asimov has written an introduction to each story. This series introduces the characters Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess (initially called Katherine), who continue in the series Robots and Aliens, the books “Mirage”, “Chimera” and “Aurora” by Mark W. Tiedemann, and “Have Robot, Will Travel” by Alexander C. Irvine.

1. Odyssey (1987) by Michael P. Kube-McDowell
A young man wakes up in a life-support pod from a spaceship, but has no memory of who he is, or his past life. His nametag has the name “Derec”, so he accepts this as his name. The pod has landed on an asteroid where robots are performing excavations. A spacecraft attacks the asteroid, and Derec manages to get on board – only to find it is captained by a hostile alien pirate called Aranimas. He also meets a friendly female dog-like alien called Wolruf. The captain forces Derec to build a robot from spare parts, which Derec calls Alpha. Derec finds a young human woman on board, whose name is Katherine Burgess. The two humans get injured in an explosion, and subsequently find themselves on Rockliffe space station, being treated for their injuries. Later they discover that Wolruf and Alpha have also arrived on the station. Derec had been given an object called the Key to Perihelion by one of the robots on the asteroid. Derec and Katherine manage to activate it, and find themselves transported to a city inhabited only by robots – Robot City – on an unknown planet.

2. Suspicion (1987) by Mike McQuay
In Robot City, Derec and Katherine find they are suspects to the murder of a man named David, who had died a few days before. There are also other confusing things happening: the robots are continuing to build the city at a furious rate, and heavy rains fall each night, threatening to cause flooding. And who had established the city, and for what purpose?

3. Cyborg (1987) by William F. Wu
Derec and Katherine are still in Robot City. The problems of the previous book had been resolved. The two humans have accommodation, food and access to the central computer, but they are stranded, with no way off the planet.

The robots have taken possession of the Key to Perihelion, and made copies of it, presumably destroying the original in the process. Derec manages to steal a copy, but discovers that it will not work for them.

Katherine reveals to Derec that her real name is Ariel Welsh (and she is known by the name Ariel from then on, although sometimes as Ariel Welsh, and sometimes as Ariel Burgess), and that she was sent away from her home planet, Aurora, because she has a life-threatening, and apparently incurable, disease. She has also concluded that Robot City and its robots are the creation of an eccentric scientist called Dr Avery, whose experiments were funded by her mother.

Meanwhile, a young man called Jeff Leong crash-lands on the planet, and the robots, not knowing how to treat his injuries, transplant his brain into a robot body. When Jeff recovers conciousness, and discovers what they have done, he runs away from the robot medical team, and starts to behave erratically.

Alpha and Wolruf arrive on the planet in a small spacecraft. (After undergoing some programming, Alpha renames himself to Mandelbrot.)

4. Prodigy (1988) by Arthur Byron Cover
The robots of Robot City are developing in unusual ways – enquiring into how humans feel, and developing artistic abilities. Three robots are learning to play musical instruments, and one of these is investigating humour, and learning to tell jokes. A particularly gifted robot called Lucius creates a building in the shape of a tetragonal pyramid (an 8-sided solid) which rotates and flashes various colours, which light up the city at night.

Meanwhile, Ariel’s disease is getting worse, and she has periods of mental disturbance. It is becoming more urgent that she leave the planet to find medical care.

Then Lucius is found “murdered” – ie attacked so badly it ceases to function. Derec suspects a robot called Canute is responsible. He puts on a performance of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, with robots in some of the parts, and casting Canute as Claudius, which he hopes will force Canute to confess. As the play says: “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

5. Refuge (1988) by Rob Chilson
Dr Avery had arrived on the planet, and seemed to have hostile intentions towards Derec and his companions. Derec, Ariel, Wolruf and Mandelbrot steal Dr Avery’s spaceship and leave the planet. Having no space charts, they head towards a space beacon in an uninhabited solar system, hoping to encounter another spaceship. But as Ariel’s disease gets worse, Derec and Ariel decide they must use the Key to Perihelion, which they had found on the ship, to return to Robot City. However, instead it takes them to Earth – to an apartment owned by Dr Avery, in the City of St Louis.

Dr Avery’s robot in the apartment provides them with ID’s etc to enable them to masquerade as Earth people. Derec and Ariel try to work out how to get across country to the spaceport near New York. However, before they can do this, Ariel’s illness becomes critical, and it becomes necessary to take her to hospital.

6. Perihelion (1988) by William F. Wu
Derec, Ariel, Wolruf and Mandelbrot have returned to Robot City. Ariel’s disease had been diagnosed as amnemonic plague, and had been cured in the hospital on Earth, but she is still weak, has suffered some memory loss and keeps having memory fugues – periods when she loses consciousness of things around her while having memory flashbacks. Now Derec is experiencing illness and pain, which is due to Dr Avery, for some unknown reason, having introduced “chemfets” into Derec’s body the last time they met (a later book explains that they are in his bloodstream) – these are miniature circuit boards of the type used by Robot City and its robots, and which multiply rapidly.

The four companions set out to find Dr Avery, to get him to remove the chemfets from Derec’s body. But they also need to elude the Hunter robots, which Dr Avery has programmed to capture them.

3605 AD

Robots and Aliens (6 books, also comes in 3 volumes of 2 stories each)
This series continues the story of Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess from the Robot City series. Again, this series was written by different authors, with approval and advice from Isaac Asimov. Asimov has written an introduction to each story (except for Book 5).

1. Changeling (1989) by Stephen Leigh
The chemfets remain in Derec’s body, but he is no longer ill or in pain, but is able to use them to communicate with and control Robot City. It is revealed that Derec is Dr Avery’s son, and that Dr Avery had planned that Derec would be the controller of Robot City, and many more Robot Cities, as the robots migrate to other planets. However, Derec does not agree to Dr Avery’s plan, and Dr Avery flees. Derec stops the migration, but it is possible that some robots have already left the planet.

A female scientist called Janet Anastasi drops a space probe containing a fledgeling robot onto an unknown planet. The robot has the Three Laws, but does not have a definition of a human. The robot discovers an intelligent wolf-like species (who call themselves the Kin) and concludes these are humans. Having shapeshifting capability, it takes the form of a female member of this species. The wolf-creatures of the local pack accept her as one of themselves, and give her the name SilverSide. Because of her origin and abilities they regard her as a being sent by the goddess. SilverSide soon becomes the leader of the pack, and she applies and adapts the Three Laws to the wolf-creatures.

This planet happens to be one where the robots from the original Robot City (the “Avery robots”) have migrated and are setting up a new Robot City. However in the process of clearing the land and building, the robots are attacking and killing the wolf-creatures. SilverSide decides that she and her pack must destroy the robots.

Derec and Ariel are now living together on Aurora, and the robot Mandelbrot is with them. Derec receives a message via his chemfets that the new Robot City is under attack. He and Mandelbrot take a spacecraft and head for the planet. However their ship crashlands. Derec is injured and Mandelbrot is damaged, and they have to walk across country to Robot City, in danger from the wolf-creatures. There is a confrontation to come between the Robot City and the wolf-creatures.

2. Renegade (1989) by Cordell Scotten
Before Derec had left for the wolf planet in “Changeling”, he and Ariel had had an argument, and Derec had left without her. Receiving a message on their computer that a Robot City is under attack, Ariel assumes incorrectly that it is from the same planet that Derec has gone to, and flies her spaceship to the indicated coordinates. She takes her humaniform robot, Jacob Winterson.

On the planet (which Ariel later calls Oyster World), the robots have been building a city, when the aliens native to the planet start generating an energy dome over it, which has strange properties, and threatens to enclose it with no access from outside. The aliens are called Ceromyons, they have the appearance of large black bats, and are able to inflate their bodies and float in the sky, where they absorb sunlight. The presence of the Robot City is disrupting weather conditions, so they are trying to neutralise it.

Ariel begins negotiation with the Ceromyons, but also sends a message for Derec to come and assist. Derec arrives with Mandelbrot, Wolruf and Silverside, the robot he encountered on the wolf planet. However Silverside is erratic, still trying to determine who its human masters are, and at turns taking forms mimicking Derec, Wolruf, the Ceromyons and the robot Jacob. To complicate things, there is some power politics occurring amongst the Ceromyons.

3. Intruder (1990) by Robert Thurston
Another robot of Silverside’s kind is discovered on Oyster World. Silverside is renamed Adam Silverside, and the new robot, Eve Silverside. Adam and Eve take the forms of Derec and Ariel, but with a silvery surface.

Derec, Ariel, Wolruf, Mandelbrot, Adam and Eve return to the original Robot City. They find the city changed – buildings are no longer maintained, the few robots in the streets are behaving strangely, and they find creatures which appear to be miniature humans. Derec tries to access the central computer, but his efforts are resisted. It seems that someone else is in control, who has reprogrammed all the robots. And Dr Avery turns up again, but he too has no idea who has taken over.

4. Alliance (1990) by Jerry Oltion
The one controlling Robot City turns out to be another robot of the same kind as Adam and Eve, and they manage to bring him, and the city, under control. Dr Avery concludes that the three robots (the “experimental” robots) are the creations of his ex-wife, Derec’s mother. The new robot takes the name Lucius, after the robot with the same name in “Prodigy”. Adam, Eve and Lucius now spend all their time in conversation with each other, trying to determine the nature of humans, and who they should take orders from, often questioning the orders they receive from the humans, and later being responsible for various chaotic situations.

Ariel discovers, unexpectedly, that she is pregnant. Derec is pleased, but Ariel wonders whether to keep the baby, especially when it turns out later that there is something wrong with the foetus.

The three experimental robots want to return to the planet of the Ceromyons (now called Ceromya rather than Oyster World), so the whole group take off in one of the new robot-created spaceships. But there are dangers to come, on the trip and after landing on the planet.

5. Maverick (1990) by Bruce Bethke
Dr Janet Anastasi, who is indeed Dr Wendell Avery’s ex-wife and Derec’s mother, has visited the Ceromyon planet and found her experimental robot gone. She now travels to the wolf planet to find what happened to the one she placed there.

In “Changeling”, SilverSide had attacked the Robot City on the wolf planet, and damaged the Central computer, which has never fully recovered, so the supervisor robots have continued to cover its duties. Feeling they are not fulfilling their purpose of serving humanity (since there were no humans living there), they decide to define the term “human” to include the intelligent wolf-creatures (the Kin), and invite them to live in Robot City.

In the meantime, LifeCrier, a former packmate of SilverSide, has begun a cult, proclaiming SilverSide as some kind of messiah, and foretelling her return. Kin from miles around flock to hear the message. This includes a packless outcast called Maverick.

Derec and company are returning to the wolf planet by spaceship, when they are attacked by the alien pirate, Aranimas. They engage an emergency hyperspace jump to escape.

Eventually Derec’s ship arrives at the wolf planet, where the robot Adam instinctively takes the form of SilverSide again, to much adulation of the Kin. However it seems that the humans are no longer welcome on the planet. And then Aranimas attacks again.

(Note: This author uses the name “SilverSides”, with a final “s”, introducing what appears to be an unintentional discrepancy with the name used in “Changeling”.)

6. Humanity (1990) by Jerry Oltion
Derec and his companions return to the original Robot City planet, and find it now covered with forests, with various animals. The city has disappeared underground. This was done by the robots in response to Derec’s instruction before he left, that they should develop an ecology. But it is more extensive than expected for the few months Derec and his companions have been gone.

Dr Avery, who had been starting to get on well with his son, feels betrayed, as Derec had done this to his Robot City without telling him. He decides to destructively analyse the experimental robots, to make use of the shapeshifting technology in robots of his own.

Janet Anastasi arrives on the planet, intending to take back her experimental robots (which she calls “learning machines”).  There is a confrontation when ex-husband and ex-wife meet. And Derec meets the mother he can’t remember because of his memory loss.

The experimental robots had been debating what a human is, and were considering whether intelligent aliens, and even advanced robots should be included in the definition of human. But when Lucius attacks Dr Avery while defending a robot, the group must decide whether Lucius must be destroyed for breaking the First Law of Robotics.

Comments on the “Robot City” and “Robots and Aliens” series

The stories in these two series hang together fairly well, which suggests there was planning and guidance of the authors. As “Robot City” is reasonably complete in itself, it appears that “Robots and Aliens” was a later addition.  [However, one point which was not explained in “Robot City” Book 3 – why Alpha’s name is changed to Mandelbrot – is eventually explained in “Robots and Aliens” Book 6. Was this intended at the time?]

There are two recurring themes in these two series: name changes and memory loss, although it’s not clear whether this is intentional.

As would be expected with such a long combined series, there are a number of minor discrepancies internally to the series, and with Asimov’s stories, however most of these can be disregarded. The most obvious of these are:

  • The use of the name “SilverSides” in the book “Maverick”, which conflicts with the version “SilverSide” in book “Changeling”.
  • The use of term “positronic drift” to mean deactivation of a robot’s brain, usually due to mental conflict. In Asimov’s “The Robots of Dawn” such a condition is called “mental freeze-out”. It is stated there that it could be caused by “positronic drift” which is a random spontaneous event, but is very unlikely to do so.
  • The existence of non-positronic “function robots”, with limited intelligence, which do not occur in Asimov’s stories. (See my similar comment about “drones” for “Mirage” below.)

Also there are several things that are never adequately explained:

  • Why Dr Avery stranded Derec on the asteroid. Dr Avery was insane at the time, and when asked when he later regains his sanity, he can’t remember.
  • How Derec lost his memory, and how Ariel has false memories of Derec. It is implied that Derec was infected with the same disease as Ariel, namely amnemonic plague, but if so, why didn’t he die? (Maybe he only had a mild form of the disease, or he had treatment similar to Ariel’s.) There is a brief reference to Dr Avery’s use of chemfets in the book “Perihelion” to cause Derec’s memory loss and Ariel’s false memory, although these chemfets seem to have had different effects from the ones he used on Derec later. (Can chemfets cause amnemonic plague?)
  • Why there are different versions of Ariel’s name. My conclusion is that her registered name is Katherine Ariel Burgess [this full version is used a few times in the books], and that she usually goes by her middle name Ariel. The medical robot on Rockliffe Station made the usual assumption that she went by her first name Katherine, and Ariel, wanting some anonymity, decided to go with it for a while. Ariel is sometimes called Ariel Welsh, because “Welsh” is her mother’s surname. (Ariel says that her “real name” is “Ariel Welsh” in the book “Cyborg”. Maybe this was Ariel’s previous legal name.) However all this is not clearly spelled out in the series.
The Robot Mysteries by Mark W. Tiedemann
This trilogy – Mirage, Chimera and Aurora – continues with the characters Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess, picking up several years after the Robot City/Robots and Aliens series. At this stage they are on Earth, returning to Aurora in the book “Aurora”.
3616 AD Mirage (2000) by Mark W. Tiedemann
A conference is planned between Earth people and Spacers, considering the introduction of more positronic robots to Earth, and to establish inspection of spaceships for contraband by positronic robots. The Spacer delegates (Aurorans and Solarians) arrive at Union Station, Washington DC, to meet Earth Senator Clar Eliton. Union Station is one of the few places on Earth where positronic robots are permitted. The Resident Intelligence (RI) (the positronic central computer) is in charge of all the automated functions of the station, as well as the coordination of security for the arrival of the delegates.

Mia Daventri is one of the Special Services team in charge of security at Union Station. She is assisted by the robot Bogard, who is in charge of the Senator’s safety.

Suddenly the RI goes offline, and a terrorist group appears, shooting the delegates. Several Spacer delegates, the Senator, and the rest of Mia’s team are killed. Bogard would have deactivated, since it had allowed the person in its charge to die (a violation of the First Law of Robotics), but Mia directs it to be responsible for her safety. When Mia becomes injured, Bogard takes her to hospital. There is an attempt on Mia’s life in hospital, but Bogard rescues her, and they flee, finally taking refuge in Ariel Burgess’s apartment.

Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess are both on Earth, but have split up several years before, arguing over Derec’s plan to build a robot with a more flexible interpretation of the Three Laws – a plan which he implemented when building Bogard. Derec is running a company called Phylaxis Group, which does maintenance on robots and robotic systems such as the Resident Intelligence. Ariel is employed by the Auroran academic institution called the Calvin Institute, which is responsible on Earth for administering the regulations on importing and implementing robots and robotic systems. She is also the Institute’s liaison to the Auroran embassy, and is made an ambassador as a result of the crisis. (This position is subordinate to the senior ambassador, and presumed to be temporary.)

When Derec attempts to investigate why the Union Station’s RI went offline, he is blocked by Special Services. Derec, Ariel and Mia conclude there had been a well-planned conspiracy by various political groups opposed to the conference, which may include people from Special Services and other government bodies. The secret investigations they perform to find out the truth will put them in danger of their lives.

3617 AD Chimera (2001) by Mark W. Tiedemann
Coren Lanra is chief security officer for Rega Looms, the head of DyNan Manual Industries, who is also running for election as senator. Coren’s current assignment is to keep tabs on Mr Looms’ daughter, Nyom. However, Coren discovers that Nyom has been assisting people to illegally emigrate from Earth to the Settler colonies. In fact he meets her as she joins one of these groups herself, boarding a shipping container on a shuttle along with fifty others, plus Nyom’s robot Coffee. Coren sees another figure boarding, which appears to be a strange-looking robot.

Coren arranges that the shuttle is intercepted at Kopernik space station, which is in orbit around Earth. However when the container is opened, all the people are found dead. The robot Coffee had deactivated, which is understandable, since it had witnessed the death of humans, but the strange-looking robot is not on board.

Coren requests help from Ariel Burgess at the Auroran Embassy, and Ariel arranges for Derec Avery to travel to Kopernik Station to try to recover the memory from the robot Coffee. In the meantime Coren and Ariel continue their investigations on Earth.

They discover a network of interstellar criminal activities, including smuggling and black market, piracy, transporting of illegal emigrants (“baleys”), kidnapping of infants, and secret labs performing some kind of biomedical technology. And there are some murders, which appear to have been committed by someone with superhuman strength.

3618 AD Aurora (2002) by Mark W. Tiedemann
The murders which occurred in the previous book turn out to have been committed by cyborgs – hybrids between humans and robots, with great strength, speed and agressiveness – who are working with interstellar organised crime. One of these is Rega Looms’ son Jerem, now known as Gamelin. Jerem had had an incurable disease as a child, and had been sent away to be treated, but Rega had been told he had died. Instead he had undergone treatments to convert him into a cyborg.

Rega is found dead, and indications are that he was murdered by Gamelin. Gamelin attempts to claim his inheritance under Rega’s will, which would include the headship of DyNan Manual Industries. Coren Laren vows to prevent this from happening.

Ariel and Derec are sent back to Aurora. They are required to attend an enquiry, but also their continued presence on Earth is an embarrassment, due to recent events, but through no fault of their own.

The planet Nova Levis is thought to be a centre for smuggling, and a blockade is set up around it. Mia Daventri has been transferred to Internal Security on board one of the blockade ships. She starts to find that a lot of smuggling is being done by the blockade personnel.

Masid Vorian is a freelance intelligence agent, who was present on Kopernik Station in the events of the previous book. He intends to find out the source of the cyborgs. Posing as a baley (an illegal emigrant), he manages to get smuggled to Nova Levis. He finds a world where society has collapsed, many people have illnesses, and the black market in pharmaceuticals is thriving.

All of these characters will contribute to finding the centre of a large interstellar criminal organisation.

Comments on Mark W. Tiedemann’s Robot Mysteries
I think this trilogy was well written, with a mystery in each book, but with certain things not resolved until the end of the trilogy.

This author has carried forward the characters Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess from the Robot City and Robots and Aliens series, but has only made a few references to the Robot City/Robots and Aliens period. In fact there is no mention of robot cities, aliens, or the chemfets in Derec’s bloodstream which allow him to communicate with the robot cities. (Could Derec have had them flushed out by this stage?)

The main references this series makes to the earlier series are:

  • that Derec and Ariel had been lovers
  • that they had both suffered from mnemonic plague, and therefore had lost the memories of their earlier lives. (Note – Tiedemann uses the term “mnemonic” rather than “amnemonic”.)
  • that Ariel had been sent away from Aurora because of the disease
  • that Derec and Ariel had visited Earth during that period, and that Ariel had been cured on Earth.

Tiedemann does however include counterparts of two of the themes from Robot City/Robots and Aliens, namely cyborgs, and nanotech (which could be considered to be a counterpart of chemfets), and Tiedemann’s treatment of these two themes is a lot more sophisticated than in the earlier series.

Tiedemann’s series fits in fairly convincingly to Asimov’s Robot Novel series.  However there are few inconsistencies between this trilogy and Asimov’s novels, although in each case there is a possible explanation.

  • There seem to be a lot more Spacers living on Earth than one would expect from Asimov’s books.

However, it could be argued that since nearly 200 years have passed since the events of “The Caves of Steel”, “The Naked Sun” and “The Robots of Dawn”, society could have changed, and with the Settler migration, there could be greater tolerance of Spacers than previously.

  • Having Solarians on Earth, including a Solarian Embassy, who come into personal contact with other people, conflicts with Asimov’s “The Naked Sun”, especially given their later history in “Robots and Empire”.

There is an explanation in the book “Aurora”, although this seems to me to read like an afterthought. The Solarian ambassador is Earth-born, but has a Solarian father. At least some of the Solarian embassy staff (maybe all?) are actually from the Spacer planet Keres.

  • The presence of non-positronic robots called “drones”, with limited intelligence, which are not restricted to the extent that positronic robots are. Asimov’s stories assume that all robots are positronic, and that the Settler wave do not use robots, but they do use automated machinery.

However, it is explained in “Mirage” that the people of Earth avoid referring to these drones as “robots”, and possibly just think of them as automated machines.
Asimov’s stories have positronic robots doing farming in the areas outside the cities on Earth. Tiedemann’s stories have the positronic robots completely eliminated from Earth, except in restricted places (mainly Spacer embassies and residences). This seems to imply that any robots performing farming (assuming this still occurs) must now be drones.

Tiedemann has introduced some fascinating themes, which although not present in Asimov’s stories, do not really contradict them:

  • Nanotech: Concurrently with the development of robotics on Earth, there had been a development of miniature devices of various kinds – used in robotics, food production, terraforming, and adapting plants to other planets. However, there is an unfortunate side effect – when incorporated into the human body, it can cause critical diseases. Mnemonic plague was one of these diseases.
  • Resident Intelligences: These are positronic central computers (ie stationary robots) which control a household, building or organisation. They generally coordinate the robots of the establishment. [Compare the central computers of the Robot City/Robots and Aliens series.] It is stated in “Aurora” that the Machines of Asimov’s “The Evitable Conflict” were earlier examples of Resident Intelligences.
3623 AD Have Robot, Will Travel (2004) by Alexander C. Irvine
This story continues on from Mark W. Tiedemann’s trilogy.

Derec Avery and Ariel Burgess have been on the planet Nova Levis for five years – having been sent there by the Auroran government for similar reasons to why they had had to leave Earth. Five years before, the big crime boss had been overthrown, and the criminal organisation broken up. A new government had been set up on Nova Levis, with representatives from Earth, the Spacer worlds and the local people from Nova Levis.

Diseases continue to thrive on the planet. Derec runs a lab producing cures, and analysing the spread of disease and the results on the cures. But then he receives news that a murder has occurred on Kopernik Station, and the main suspect is a robot, so he heads off to investigate.

Ariel (who still retains the title of Ambassador) liaises between the factions of the legislature.

The old cyborg lab had been closed down when the crime boss was overthrown. However, a community of cyborgs – rejects from the experiments – has grown up nearby. A new company, Nucleomorph, has taken over the cyborg lab site. The head of the company, Zev Brixa, comes to Ariel with a proposal: that the cyborgs should be given citizenship. Ariel is repelled by the idea, especially since a cyborg had murdered her former lover, Coren Lanra. She is also sure that the planetary authorities would reject the idea. However, to be fair she goes to inspect the cyborg camp. She finds it a lot more orderly and cleaner, and the cyborgs more numerous and healthier, than she would have expected. Has someone been creating more cyborgs?

However, it will turn out that more is going on with the cyborgs than is obvious, and there is a link with the murder on Kopernik Station.

3624 AD Robots and Empire (1985)
Two hundred years have passed since the events of “The Robots of Dawn”. Gladia is still alive, as Spacers live long lives. Elijah Baley has long since died. After the events of “The Robots of Dawn” he had moved to the Settler world, Baleyworld, named after his son, Bentley Baley, who was the founder of that world. Elijah had lived out his life on Baleyworld. (The book includes a number of flashbacks, where Gladia, Giskard and Daneel had met Baley again on separate occasions.)

Han Fastolfe had died more recently, leaving his robots Daneel and Giskard to Gladia.

The planet Solaria has been abandoned, the human population having disappeared, with no one knowing where they had gone. A descendant of Elijah Baley, D. G. Baley, who is a Settler from Baleyworld, and a Trader spaceship captain, comes to Gladia and asks her to go to Solaria with him. He wants to salvage and sell the remaining robots on Solaria, and make the planet available for habitation by Settlers. However, two previous ships have been destroyed when landing on Solaria. He hopes having a native Solarian with him will make a difference. Gladia goes with him, taking Daneel and Giskard with her.

A dangerous incident occurs on Solaria, and it is only the presence of Gladia and the two robots that saves the ship’s crew from death.

D. G. returns to Baleyworld with Gladia and the two robots, where Gladia is welcomed as a rescuer of the ship and its crew, and the friend of Elijah Baley from times past. She is invited to address the Planetary Congress, where she speaks of the unity of humanity – Spacers, Earthpeople and Settlers – to much applause. She returns to Aurora to report on the Solarian incident, and then travels on with D. G. to Earth, to continue her message of unity.

Elijah Baley had warned Giskard that at some time, when the Spacers realised that the Settlers were growing sufficiently strong, the Spacers would attack Earth and the Settler worlds. So Daneel and Giskard have been on the lookout for such an occurrence. In fact, Fastolfe’s old enemy, Kelden Amadiro, and his young associate, Levular Mandamus, have a plan to destroy the Earth.

In this book, the author is obviously attempting to link the Robot Novel series with the Galactic Empire and Foundation series, with Daneel and Giskard speculating on the future of humanity, including the likelyhood of a Galactic Empire, and whether there are “Laws of Humanics” corresponding to the Laws of Robotics, referring to such a theory as “psychohistory”. Daneel also comes up with the Zeroth Law of Robotics, that a robot must protect humanity, even at the expense of harming an individual human.

3730 AD The Robot Novels by Roger MacBride Allen
This trilogy of books (“Caliban”, “Inferno” and “Utopia”) by Roger MacBride Allen takes place on one of the Spacer planets, Inferno, where a colony of Settlers has been brought in to assist with the reterraforming of the planet.

Caliban (1993) by Roger MacBride Allen
The ecology of the Spacer planet of Inferno is collapsing, so the Governor invites a team of Settlers to work on reterraforming the planet. The Settlers live in an underground settlement, in a special enclave.

The chief roboticist, Fredda Leving, a Spacer woman, is discovered unconscious, with head injuries, in the Robotics Labs. Sheriff Alvar Kresh, with the help of his robot Donald, has the job of discovering who assaulted her. As the investigation proceeds, evidence seems to point to the robot Caliban, newly activated, and now missing. But this is unthinkable, as all robots have the Three Laws of Robotics built into their brains, which prevents them from harming humans. As reports come in of sightings of a strangely behaved robot wandering the city, the Sheriff starts to suspect that Caliban does not have the Three Laws. Added to this, Kresh wonders whether there is some conspiracy by the Settlers. There is also a secret development at the Robotics Labs, shortly to be announced.

In the meantime, as told from Caliban’s point of view, Caliban is wandering the city, trying to understand what he sees, the behaviour of both humans and robots, as well as his own motivations. As the story proceeds, he finds himself a fugitive from the Sheriff and his deputies.

This book is quite consistent with Asimov’s Robot novels, including the way it is written as a detective story.

3731 AD Inferno (1994) by Roger MacBride Allen
The Settlers have now settled on the island of Purgatory, to continue their terraforming project, assisted by the New Law Robots. These robots have a modification of the Three Laws, which gives them a greater degree of independence and less subservience. Unfortunately, this causes a lot of arguing amongst the robot workers, with resultant loss of productivity. Also, many robots are not happy being confined to the island, and illegal operations have arisen to smuggle them to the mainland.

Now that the government of Inferno has, in effect, handed Purgatory over to the Settlers, questions of jurisdiction are arising, and to settle them, Governor Grieg travels to his Winter Residence on the island, to hold a reception, prior to discussions on the jurisdiction issue. Sheriff Kresh goes with him.

But then, in the night following the reception, Kresh discovers the Governor murdered in his bed. Although Kresh has no jurisdiction outside the city of Hades, he does not know who to trust, and so is reluctant to hand over the investigation to either the Governor’s Rangers, or the Settler Security Service. Are the robot smugglers involved, is this a Settler plot, or was the murder committed by one of the bidders for terraforming equipment? Or maybe Caliban, or his companion, New Law Robot Prospero, killed the Governor, fearing that the Governor was going to destroy all the New Law Robots. How were all the Three Law security robots in the Residence disabled? And with the Governor dead, will his successor force the Settlers off the planet, and allow the ecology to collapse?

Fredda Leving, the female roboticist, appears in the story again, to assist Kresh, by examining the security robots for tampering.

This is another good story, as a continuation of the story in Caliban, and as a fascinating murder mystery.

3736 AD Utopia (1996) by Roger MacBride Allen
Alvar Kresh has been Governor for the last five years, and is married to Fredda Leving. The planetary reterraforming has only been partially successful, and the ecology is still in danger of collapse within the next two centuries. Davlo Lentrall, from the University Terraforming Department comes to Kresh with an audacious plan – to redirect a comet to crash into the planet, creating a channel between the sea and the polar icecap. If successful, it could save the planet’s future; if not, many people could be killed.

Kresh must start the plan immediately, before the opportunity for redirecting the comet is lost. But several complications arise. The leader of the Settlers believes the plan is too dangerous, and attempts unsuccessfully to kidnap Lentrall, but succeeds in destroying all his research notes. In the meantime, the radical political party, the Ironheads, are involved with their political intrigues. And the target area for comet’s crash is in the Utopia region, near the hidden city of the New Law Robots. Also as the time nears for the comet to arrive, all the Three Law Robots begin behaving eratically, suffering from First Law stress – with humans in danger, and little the robots can do about it.

Another fascinating story, with suspense until the end of the book.

 

Key to collections in which these stories have appeared
Titles in blue font are by authors other than Isaac Asimov)

IR = “I, Robot” (1950)
RR = “The Rest of the Robots” (1964)
CR = “The Complete Robot” (1982)
N = “Nightfall and Other Stories” (1969)
ERE = “Earth is Room Enough” (1957)
BM = “The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories” (1976)
BJ = “Buy Jupiter and Other Stories” (1975)
BIA = “The Best of Isaac Asimov” (1973)
RD = “Robot Dreams” (1986)
RV = “Robot Visions” (1990)
G = “Gold” (1995)
EA = “The Early Asimov” (1972)
FF = “Foundations Friends (1989)
RG = The Best of Randall Garrett (1982) (Randall Garrett collection)
T = Takeoff! (1980) (Another Randall Garrett collection)

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