Literature: The Robots of Dawn

The third book in Isaac Asimov's "Robot Trilogy". Elijah "Lije" Baley, now a leader in a movement encouraging humans on Earth to learn to live outside the confines of their domed cities, is summoned to the de facto capital world of the Spacers, Aurora to solve a murder mystery. Once again he will partner with R. Daneel Olivaw (the "R" stands for "Robot") and once again will he face political intrigue alongside seemingly impossible circumstances to solve the crime and get his man.

Sequel to The Naked Sun and The Caves of Steel. The Robots of Dawn features a slightly softer brand of science fiction than the previous two books in the series. It also introduces the character of R. Giskard Reventlov, who would go on to star in Robots and Empire, the sequel to the Robot Trilogy and bridging novel between that series and chronologically later parts of Asimov's greater canon.


Tropes Include:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The Earthpeople use names for the noise of the Cities like "Busy Buzz of Brotherhood" and "Hum of Humanity". Naturally, Baley misses it.
  • Aerith and Bob: Auroran names mentioned range from Han and Fanya to Santirix and Rutilan.
  • Almighty Janitor: Giskard
  • Androids and Detectives: While the actual partnering aspect is downplayed in this novel, the dichotomy between Lije and Daneel (as well as Lije and Giskard) is still in full effect.
  • Always Murder: With the twist this time - the victim is a humanoid robot, like Daneel.
    • The trope is subverted a bit: Lije Bailey assumes that nothing but a murder would be sufficient reason to allow himself, an Earthman, onto a Spacer world. When he points out that the victim was a machine and thus 'destruction of property' he is informed that the law doesn't consider it serious either (in fact, it is stated outright that there is no case at all - the robot was supposedly shut down by its owner) - but there are attempts to use the case for political reasons.
  • And Man Grew Proud: Fastolfe says that this is the way the Spacers are headed.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "How did you know that Gladia thought of Jander as her husband?"
  • Author Filibuster: Asimov (through Gladia) goes on at some length a couple times in the book on the nature of sex.
    • Also some veiled commentary on the dangers of social stasis emanating from a lack of eagerness to explore outer space.
  • Authority in Name Only: Zigzagged. The Chairman of the Legislature is officially the head of the state. He was intended to have purely ceremonial power, and is even supposed have a vote only in case of a tie. However, the Aurorans' dislike for political conflict eventually gave the post a lot of real power - as a mediator in case of political disputes.
  • Big Bad: Kelden Amadiro, Fastolfe's rival, has ill intentions toward Earth, and targets Lije and Fastolfe as symbols of his intentions.
  • Big Good: Han Fastolfe, though his demeanor is highly worrying. He does admit to having impulses to disregard certain sensibilities in the name of scientific research, but defends himself on the basis that he has not and would not follow(ed) through on them.
  • Bi the Way: Vasilia scornfully states Santirix Gremionis "offers himself" (sexually) to males and females without distinction (Aurora is close to a Free-Love Future, but apparently, sex isn't to be treated too lightly); he is later happily married to a woman for more than one hundred years.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Lije tricks Amadiro into stating he conducted experiments on Jander in front of witnesses.
  • The Butler Did It: A variation. The case is closed successfully, but nobody, except for Baley who figures it out shortly before leaving, finds out that Giskard was the one that shut down Jander.
  • Canon Welding: This book marks the beginning of Asimov welding the Robot stories with his Foundation series. Numerous references are made to "psychohistory" and humanity creating a "Galactic Empire." Also, for anyone in doubt as to whether the Lije Baily/R. Daneel Olivaw books have any connection to his other robot stories, references are made to Susan Calvin (in particular the short story "Liar"), as well as "Bicentennial Man".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Giskard came to Lije's rescue during an agoraphobic panic attack on the spaceship approaching Aurora, even though he was outside and Daneel was inside the room at the time.
    • Gladia's strong resemblance with Vasilia.
  • The Chessmaster: R. Giskard Reventlov. He used his psychic abilities to prevent Amadiro from utilizing R. Jander Panell for his plan, subtly influence Gladia, Fastolfe and the Chairman to allow Baley to work on the case, while keeping himself beyond suspicion. He did this to test and examine Baley to see for himself if Fastolfe was right in his belief that Earth's people are humanity's hope in populating the galaxy and developing a more stable society.
  • Continuity Nod: Mentions are made to Asimov's previous short stories Liar and The Bicentennial Man.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Previous books have held up Aurora as a utopian society emblematic of the "superior" Spacer culture. After a relatively brief look on Lije's part demonstrates certain aspects of that culture, he (and likely the reader) comes to the conclusion that this is so much Cultural Posturing and hogwash. It is true that the Spacers' standard of living is much higher than Earth's, but apart from the lack of poverty, there is no real evidence that the Spacers are any happier for it.
  • The Determinator: Lije. Having to face his most crippling fears may slow him down, but they will not stop him.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Sort of. Gladia has sex with Elijah when he is barely conscious, taking advantage of his mentally impaired state. The book even indicates that she "made" him do it. Beyond that, however, this is not treated as a rape, but rather as an affair between the two of them.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Santirix Gremionis, first to Vasilia, then Gladia. They both reject him but remain friends with him for different reasons.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Giskard, though not really a villainous example (he had a good reason to shut down Jander). However, the truth remains only between him and Baley.
  • Epiphanic Prison: Giskard's opinion is that Earth's people are the ones who'll have to colonize the Galaxy... because they, at least, can see the walls of their prison.
  • Everybody Smokes: Subverted, since Elijah quit after the second book.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: The story of Baley's previous investigation was made into a "hyperwave drama" and shown on both Earth and all the Spacer worlds. Consequently, everybody who he meets Baley tells him that he doesn't look like the actor playing him (who was younger and more handsome).
  • Fantastic Racism: Spacers generally despise Earthmen.
  • Fairplay Whodunnit: Similarly to the rest of the series.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The politeness of Amadiro when Baley meets him first is just creepy, and makes it clear that he is up to no good.
  • Foreign Cuisine: Baley has trouble stomaching Auroran coffee. The rest of the time, it's subverted.
  • Free-Love Future: Aurora is a completely sexually open society, so much that (according to Gladia), sex became pretty much boring with no emotional contact. Dr. Fastolfe insisted that she exaggerates (being a desperate woman who came from No Sex Allowed society), and in reality, sex is not taken that lightly. He, himself, is considered somewhat weird for being monogamous while married. On the other hand his 'current wife' is invisible throughout the crisis as he sees no reason to inflict his troubles on her - which pretty much shows how deep marital commitment isn't on Aurora. The fact that his refusal to have sex with his own daughter after raising her himself is seen as weird even by the doctor is another hint that things are... off there.
  • Guile Hero: Lije, of course. He's a detective, and has very little in the way of resources to work with.
  • Ice Queen: Dr. Vasilia Aliena, Fastolfe's estranged daughter. She's cold, calculating and dismissive of most people, including harboring a deep disdain for her father. The only one she softens around is Giskard, who was both her robot nanny and childhood friend.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lije to Gladia.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Amadiro slips up when he refers to Jander as Gladia's husband, since it proves he had been in contact with Jander. The only other person who could have told him that fact was Gladia herself, but not only was it widely known that the two were not on speaking terms, she never discussed this relationship with any outsider.
  • Ironic Name: The Spacers. Despite their proud claim to the name and heritage, most Spacers never leave the planets they are born on, despite living for centuries. In fact, they have become so risk-averse and unwilling to tolerate any discomfort that they are wholly incapable of carrying out further space exploration or colonization. They know it too, which is why Amadiro is so hellbent on creating new Spacer worlds colonized entirely by humaniform robots.
  • Lampshade Hanging: When Baley meets Gladia the first time in this novel, he says "Jehoshaphat!" (the usual thing he says when he is surprised). To this, Gladia's reaction is:
    "I knew that when I met you again, Elijah, that would be the first word I would hear."
  • MacGuffin: The Big Bad wants Daneel, the first (and, to some, best) humanoid robot for study purposes.
  • Mad Scientist: Falstofe. Vasilia describes him as one who would do anything to study human mind, including using a psychic probe on Baley (which is a dangerous process, and can damage one's mind). Actually, it was the reason he raised Vasilia himself, and also the reason of his building humaniform robots. While the only thing we got against her words are Falstofe's, it seems that it is mostly true, but he is not as ruthless as she describes him.
  • Mythology Gag: Fastolfe refers to an incident mentioned in the I, Robot books, about the robot that, through an accident, became psychic, and ended up with his brain fried when he was caught in a paradox where, whatever he did, he would harm someone. Serves as a Chekhov's Gun when it turns out that Giskard is actually psychic, and the next book states that it is because he was experimented on.
  • Nobody Poops: Baley views a lot of book-films about Aurora in order to get familiar with the culture. Yet he has a lot of problems with local etiquette, especially things concerning the use of Personals (bathrooms), since the book-films do not concern themselves about such trivialities.
  • Psychic Powers: The final plot twist is that Giskard is both the real killer and a psychic robot. He puts a lock on Lije's mind, preventing Lije from ever revealing Giskard's powers, even accidentally. This is also what makes this book softer on the Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness than its predecessors.
  • Parental Incest: Vasilia offered herself to her father once she became old enough. It appears that Auroran society is not concerned with this. In fact, the trope is largely unknown because parents do not raise their children but they send them to nurseries instead where they are raised by professionals, and most children don't know (and don't care) who their parents are.
  • Raised by Robots: Vasilia, which accounts for much of her misanthropy as well as her extreme sense of possessiveness towards Giskard, who was her childhood caregiver.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Daneel is humanoid in appearance and somewhat in behavior, but unlike on Solaria and Earth, where such a robot would be unimaginable, the Aurorans are not fooled in the least.
  • Robotic Spouse: Examined. Gladia comes to think of Jander as her husband, but keeps it secret. Despite Aurora's sexual liberalism, robots are looked at purely as tools, and an emotionally intimate relationship with one is strange enough that Gladia fears being stigmatized for it. It doesn't help that the Auroran definition of marriage implies the possibility of having children, and Jander isn't nearly that advanced.
  • Running Gag: People, on first meeting Baley, keep mentioning how he looks nothing like the actor who played him in that hyperwave drama. He's getting tired of it, especially since the whole thing was produced over his repeated objections.
  • Sequel Gap: Published 26 years after The Naked Sun.
  • Sex Bot: Unlike the Robotic Spouse trope, no Auroran ever raises an eyebrow upon learning Gladia used Jander as one.
  • Shoot the Dog: Giskard induced Jander into stasis to prevent Amadiro from completing his experimentation on him.
  • Stop Helping Me!: The robots (especially Giskard) want to intervene every time they think that Baley is being uncomfortable being outside. Baley think this as rather annoying and would rather accustom himself to such situations than be helped out by robots.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Amadiro doesn't much care who gets hurt in his quest to populate the Galaxy with Aurora colonies indistinguishable from the original.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Amadiro thinks that the only viable future is that the Aurorans colonize future worlds with the help of humaniform robots, and that Earthmen should be confined to Earth. Once his attempts to create a humaniform robot fails (even with the help of many other scientists), he tries to win by undermining his opponent's reputation.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Amadiro and Baley discuss this trope in their talk of the "robot colonies" that Amadiro's faction proposes. Robots designed to produce a planet perfect for humans would need to perfectly mimic human desires, needs, and life patterns - including aging and reproduction. Baley wonders how, exactly, a planet of such robots would differ from a planet of humans. Or how long it would take for the robots to decide that they are the real humans, and biological humans are less important. Amadiro states that even if it will happen, he would prefer a galaxy of robots to one of Earthmen, so long as these are Auroran robots.
  • White and Grey Morality: While Amadiro is clearly the bad guy, he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist at worst. He does what he does in the novel not for power, but because he honestly believes it's the best solution for his beloved homeland.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: It appears that the long life of Spacers has its own disadvantages. Mostly it makes them individualists. For example, since scientists have enough time to achieve their goals on their own, they have no motivation of cooperation between each other. They mostly keep all their discoveries to their own, slowing down scientific advancement considerably. When Falstofe manages to create humaniform robots, but refuses to use them for the purpose Amadiro wants to, he founds the Robotics Institute to counter this problem.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Amadiro attempts this in the novel. It doesn't work out for him.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Gladia and Lije have a brief but loving affair, though he's still married to Jessie. In the end they both agree there can be no truly happy outcome for them as Baley and especially Gladia will have to sacrifice too much to be together.

Alternative Title(s):

The Robots Of Dawn