The Naked Sun [Book Review]

The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)
by Isaac Asimov

Kindle Edition, 271 pages
Published (first published January 1st 1956)
Read from April 23 to May 05, 2015
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Science fiction and murder investigation: I love this combination. This is the second book of the Robots series and I read it 3 years after reading “The Caves of Steel”. I am not sure why I took so long to start reading this one, but I not disappointed. It was a great contrast if compared to the first one where the detective Elijah Baley was investigating a murder case on Earth with underground cities and crowded spaces.

The Naked Sun takes place in an Outer World planet called Solaria which has only 20 thousand humans that live with 200 thousand robots. Elijah Baley is once again working with R. Daneel in the investigation. The culture, habits and taboos are completely different in Solaria, where humans are not used to seeing each other, instead, they socialize through “viewing”, something resembling a uber high-tech-quality with immersion Skype talk. Like all good detective stories, there was no obvious motive, opportunity or weapon on the crime scene. There are many elements in the story that reminded of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, which I love.

Of course, Asimov’s delightful ability of discussing ethics and laws related to robots are present:

He said, “I suppose I should have asked if any robots were present?” (Damn it, what questions does one ask anyway on a strange world?) He said, “How legal is robotic evidence, Daneel?” “What do you mean?” “Can a robot bear witness on Solaria? Can it give evidence?” “Why should you doubt it?” “A robot isn’t human, Daneel. On Earth, it cannot be a legal witness.” “And yet a footprint can, Partner Elijah, although that is much less a human than a robot is. The position of your planet in this respect is illogical. On Solaria, robotic evidence, when competent, is admissible.”

Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun, pg. 80, loc. 1215-1221. Kindle Edition

And above all the murder mystery the book brings interesting reflections and questions on the human need for robots, the limits of artificial intelligence and our values as human beings.

Robots and compulsory labor

In the introduction of his novel “The Naked Sun” Isaac Asimov wrote about the origins of the word “Robot”, which is very  interesting:

“Mechanical human beings are to be found in ancient and medieval myths and legends, and the word “robot” originally appeared in Karl Capek’s play R.U.R., which was first staged in 1921 in Czechoslovakia, but was soon translated into many languages. R.U.R. stands for “Rossum’s Universal Robots.” Rossum, an English industrialist, produced artificial human beings designed to do the labor of the world and to free humanity for a life of creative leisure. (The word “robot” is from a Czech word meaning “compulsory labor.”) Though Rossum meant well, it didn’t work out as he planned: the robots rebelled, and the human species was destroyed.”

Isaac Asimov, The Naked Sun, pg. 4, loc. 60-64. Kindle Edition

Robot Rebellion scene from R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) 1928-1929

Source: Computer History Museum

How Kindle changed my relation to books and my latest “donation haul”

Donation haul

Well, I am a Kindle owner since December 2012. When I acquired my first Kindle I had to literally “import” it from Amazon, since they weren’t available in my country back then. And, needless to say, I could have bought two (maybe three) Kindles with the amount of money I’ve spent to get it legally here in Brazil (you know, lots of taxes…).

My first Kindle was the 6″ fourth-generation one, without touchscreen. Since then, I started reading every single day. That resulted in a total of 30 books read in one year (2013). That was a major milestone for me!

Reasons why I started “devouring” books:
Extreme Portability: A new world opened up for me! I could then read anywhere I went, during my bus rides, waiting at bus stops, waiting in lines… and I could read two, three, four books simultaneously. I could make notes and highlight passages of the books without feeling guilty about it! I don’t know if reading a lot can be called an addiction, but even if it is, I think it’s a good addiction 🙂
Online access/digital content: I started having access to a huge library of titles, old and new. I joined online bookclubs (I’m a huge fan of Goodreads) and I have discovered many interesting authors and series.
Less than one year after the purchase of my first Kindle (August 2013 to be precise) I felt I needed an upgrade: I needed the new shinny touchscreen Kindle that could tell me how much time I would take to finish that chapter and that whole book. Oh, and also the built-in light seemed a great advantage.
So, today I am a happy owner of a Kindle Paperwhite and I’ve completely forgot about paper books. And that leads me to my latest “donation haul” composed of paper books. I decided that all those books I had resting on my bookshelf were lonely and abandoned. So why not give them a chance to be read a thousand more times?

There is a project in my city where people can donate books so that they are available for others inside the city’s bus terminals. The idea is to let books and magazines available to be read while waiting for the public transport, on the bus or during the course of the trip. The objective of the project is the “democratization of culture”. So that was the perfect place for my lonely paper books!

And, also, that helped my “decluttering project” that is currently in (very slow) progress.

So I’ve donated 35 books so far. It was not that easy, because there is sentimental value on some of them, I can’t deny that. But I simply let go and thought that others will have the chance to enjoy them 🙂

Among them are George R.R Martin’s series of a Song of Ice and Fire (book 1 to 4), Ken Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End”, the Stieg Larsson’s  Millenium trilogy (“The girl with the dragon tattoo”, “The girl who played with fire” and “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest”, Anne Rice’s “Interview with the vampire”, “The Vampire Lestat” and “Merrick”, Stephen King’s “The Stand”, Isaac Asimov’s “The Caves of Steel”, “Robot Stories” and “Foundation” and others…

Here are some images of my donation haul:

Although I enjoy paper books, I don’t feel like I need to own the physical aspect of them. I don’t need to have a beautiful bookshelf full of books at my house.
I believe that the digital content today is a paradigm shift. We don’t know how long it will last, but we have now new ways of producing and distributing content, and I, personally have not bought a physical book in 2 years.

And that’s okay, I don’t miss them at all!