The planet Solaria could destroy Earth in two seconds flat…

And probably would—eventually.

Solaria was powerful and power-hungry. It had taken over two hundred years to develop the ultimate weapon—a massive army of robots that could obliterate Earth and rule the universe in a matter of days.

But now that would have to wait.

One of Solaria’s most eminent scientists had suddenly been found brutally murdered. Only Earth’s most famous detective, Elijah Baley, could solve the dark, baffling mystery. Solaria demanded his help.

Baley didn’t want to go. But how could he refuse?

Earth’s very existence was at stake.

Although this is the second Elijah Baley/Daneel Olivaw novel, it’s actually the first I read. It’s also one of the very first Asimov books I purchased, and one the circumstances of whose purchase I happen to remember vividly. It was the summer 1973, and I was with a group of friends at a Boy Scout activity which was held at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. We happened to go to the bookstore one day and while there I picked up this promising-looking novel by Asimov which I had not yet read. (I also bought a book by some guy name Heinlein, probably Stranger in a Strange Land, which prompted the clerk to repeat to me a rumor that Heinlein had died while writing it and his wife had finished it.)

I would rate this book as barely inferior to The Caves of Steel. It contains, as does the earlier books, one of Asimov’s most vividly rendered societies and some memorable characters, including Gladia Delmarre, who comes back for two later appearances in Asimov opera. I do find the use of the old mystery cliche of gathering all the suspects together for the dramatic denunciation of the killer a bit unnecessary, but my only real complaint with the book is the ending. It’s cheap. Gladia did-but-didn’t-do it. Cheap, cheap.

Other than that, the book is nearly flawless and definitely represents Asimov at his peak of fiction writing.

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