The Robots of Dawn (1983) and the later book Robots and Empire (1985) connect the world of the Asimov's robots novels (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun) and short stories (I, Robot etc.) with his Foundation series. The robots in these novels, and the later Foundation series, are the only things keeping humans alive. They insure that humanity stays on the right path for its eventual spread across the galaxy. This goal is aided primarily by the robot Giskard's ability to read and alter human thought. After the events in this novel and its sequel Robots and Empire, robots disappear in Asimov's chronology for thousands of years. The robots reappear again in Foundation and Earth, one of the final Foundation books, where they assist mankind in becoming a "collective galactic mind" to prepare for a coming threat to the galaxy.
cover art from Foundation and Earth
Plot Summary (Robots of Dawn):
Elijah Baley, the hero from The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, returns again to solve a case of roboticide on the distant Spacer (see The Caves of Steel) planet Aurora in The Robots of Dawn . The robot victim Jander, who was designed after Baley's robot friend Daneel Olivaw, has been put in "roblock" and his mind has been erased. The robot's creator is first suspected as the murderer because he has political motives. A certain faction among the Spacers believe that humaniform robots like Jander should precede humans in the colonization of the Galaxy, and make the new worlds fit for Spacers. Jander's creator, Fastolfe, does not agree with this approach and is suspected of killing his robot to prove its fallibility. Baley solves the murder, absolves Fastolfe, and discovers some profound secrets in the process.
1.What is the role/function of the robot? Why was it created?
In this novel the androids are increasingly looked at as the means for galactic settlement of humanity. Humans are starting to realize that the only way they can colonize the galaxy is through the help of robots.
2.How human is it? How human is it meant to be?
Daneel and his twin (the murdered Jander) are both humaniform robots which resemble humans in all ways. Jander can even perform the sexual functions of a human male. The most important robot in this story, Giskard, is an older non-humaniform robot but nevertheless has a powerful mind.
3. What is the attitude toward it?
Robots here, as in the other robot novels, are both feared and revered. They are look upon as the future of humanity, but how they will accomplish their task is source of conflict.
4. What are the consequences of the robot in this novel?
In Baley's investigation of the crime he learns that Gladia Demarre, the wife of the murdered roboticist in The Naked Sun, had used Jander for his sexual functions and even looked at him as a lover and husband. The consequence of a humaniform and obedient robot, in this instance, is that he becomes the perfect mate. Another important consequnce of robots in this novel is the android Giskard. Giskard has a terrible secret: he can read and manipulate human emotions. With his ability he discovers that one of Fastolfe's rivals was trying to use Jander to further his motives of galactic pre-colonization by robots. Giskard must kill Jander in order to protect Fastolfe. He also allows Fastolfe to be accused so Baley will come to Aurora, and Giskard can study Baley to see if Earthmen are fit and willing to eventually colonize the Galaxy, which Giskard believes is the inevitable and right path for humanity.
The idea of a robot as a lover was new to Asimov's robot novels. Also, the idea of an android that can read human thoughts was new to his novels, and rare in science fiction. It is interesting, and presumbly desirable, that the first being with the abililty to read and control human thoughts is a robot. Fortunately, Giskard is a classic Asimov robot--a robot with seemingly only humanity's protection as its motive.