What are The Caves of Steel? Starting with the title, Asimov builds a fantastic futuristic world for his characters where the cities of earth are enclosed in giant “caves” of steel. They never go out of their cities, out into the open country, anymore. No one remembers what it feels like to have wind blow on their faces or to watch the sunset. All the things that Asimov thinks up from there are each unique and as interesting as the last.
Since becoming a fantasy writer, I’ve been striving to read broadly, to read other sci-fiction and fantasy books. I think it is very important to know what other books are out there in the genre(s) you are writing in, what others might think about the genre you are writing in, which topics have been covered and how. Up until this book, I’d never read anything by Asimov. Asimov the number one name you hear when you mention science fiction. Even though I might not be able to add to the broader discussion of The Caves of Steel because this book has been in print since 1953 and almost anything that can be said about the book has already been said, let’s dive in and see what we can learn from the great sci-fiction author.
There is one thing I should point out before I tell you all the things I liked about the book. Asimov has the characters talk about a passage from the Bible. It makes sense that they wouldn’t understand what it was about because it is clear they haven’t studied it and much knowledge was lost between the “Medieval Times” and the times of “the Caves of Steel.” But I would like to point out how the author totally got his interpretation of Jezebel wrong because he left out the bigger context of the story.
Moving on, I loved the experience of reading this book. It’s sort of hard to explain, but I feel like this book was written in a time when things were much simpler. I was trying to describe this feeling to a friend and said, “I think I’m more intrigued with the sci-fi world he created than I am with the characters. It’s almost surreal that the thing keeping me reading isn’t the characters 😮.” This was said having reached chapter 10. I think this carried through to the end of the book. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are great too. They just aren’t the driving factor that they are in today’s books. This perhaps slower story was refreshing for me. I feel like my days are filled with non-stop fast-paced things and this was something I could pick up, read a chapter, and put back down without hindering my other activities and being really enjoyable that way too. Just reading a chapter in itself was enjoyable. It didn’t matter what happened in the chapter though the plot was well designed. Simply to immerse into the world on every page was enough.
You may or may not be aware that this was the first book that melded science fiction with another genre, murder mysteries. This I think was the start of something great. By saying that sci-fi and potentially other genres like fantasy are all inclusive opened up so many doors and possibilities. I liked how even though TCoS was a murder mystery, because it was sci-fi, the story itself was a distraction to the answer. I didn’t even try guessing who the murderer was until I knew who it was! Whereas, when I read Agatha Christie’s murder mystery back in March, I was guessing and looking at all the clues from every angle I could to try and solve the mystery. Yes, it was a lovely mystery, but this book was something new. It was as if I forgot it was a mystery to be solved until our detective was solving it. This in and of itself made me enjoy the puzzle pieces falling into place all the more. I laughed out loud when I read the last sentence, which brings me to the last thing I want to talk about.
The ending. I loved Asimov’s ending! It wasn’t a cliffhanger, but it also didn’t take several pages to wrap everything up. Perhaps that’s the nature of a murder mystery but Elijah solved the mystery in such a way as to tie off any loose threads so that there was no need for further explanation. I want to study this more. How did he pull this off and how might I emulate it? I’ve been thinking about writing a mystery of my own for several years now. If you have any tips you’ve learned from reading this book let me know in the comments below. It may be that I write this mystery as my NaNo book.
That being said, I don’t know if I’ll be able to do NaNo this year 😦 What with the effects of Covid, I’ve barely been able to keep blogging. This post, according to my previous schedule is half a month late. Which is why I’ve decided to not do November’s book of the month. I haven’t even started October’s book A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H. G. Parry. Be prepared for that book’s post to be in November sometime. Also, you may be wondering about our second book of the month for September: On Writing and Worldbuilding, Vol. 1 by Timothy Hickson. I started reading it and decided that there was so much to unpack in it that I will have to do several posts about it. I hope you don’t mind if I delay those until 2021. I think it will be worth it in the end.
Part of the reason I decided to wait to publish my first book until the whole trilogy was written is because I am a mom of three beautiful children and I had no idea how fast or slow I would be at finishing the books. While I feel really close to having Smells of War queried, it is still several months away before I will start to query agents. Because, for the unforeseeable future, I am helping my kids with online schooling. I hope you will be patient with me as I figure out how to carve out more time to work on my edits and possibly put it on hold while I write a mystery. I have a feeling that writing a new story before I finish the first might be good for my writing brain. But I haven’t made a decision yet.
Enough about my thoughts and plans. I want to hear about your thoughts concerning The Caves of Steel! Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Or was it too slow for you? Also, do you have plans for NaNo? How has this pandemic affected your writing and reading life?