The Naked Sun

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Originally published in 1957, this is the second of Isaac Asimov's robot-mystery novels. It marked the beginning of a hiatus in his output of adult science fiction novels, as he turned his primary writing efforts into non-fiction for awhile.

It's an odd future. Although interstellar travel has been invented, it's restricted to the Spacers, who have control of 50 planets. They maintain a semi-hostile relationship with Earth. But a murder of a "fetologist" on the planet Solaria causes the humanoid robot detective, R. Daneel Olivaw, to arrange for his old Earthman partner, Elijah Baley, to join the investigation.

Asimov does a fine job of world-building. Earthmen have adapted to a completely enclosed urban existence, most never even seeing the outdoors, let alone venturing there; the very notion gives them the creepy crawlies.

Solaria has developed a different set of phobias. Humans are vastly outnumbered by robots, who do nearly all the work. The human population is strictly capped at 20,000; nobody can be born unless someone dies. And the Solarians lead a totally isolated existence, to the point that physical proximity to another human makes them uncomfortable, even frantic. Baley's efforts to track down the perpetrator are hampered by his total unfamiliarity with Solarian society. But eventually, he determines the culprit, and rough justice is delivered.

Daneel is unfortunately absent through much of the book; when he shows up, he's relatively passive. I would have enjoyed more Daneel, but it's tough to argue with a book that's sold bajillions of copies.

Last Modified 2012-09-27 9:22 AM EST

Another Thin Man

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From the title, Another Thin Man, you might think that the filmmakers were getting a little tired of their creation. Would anyone today do that? Another Indiana Jones? Another Transformers?

But it's only the third entry in the series, and they went on to make three more. And this one is pretty good. To keep things interesting, Nick and Nora have had a (human) baby, Nickie Junior, and he's peripherally involved in the plot.

Nick and Nora are called out to the Long Island estate of wealthy Colonel Burr MacFay, played by professional Pompous Old Fart, C. Aubrey Smith. He announces that someone's out to kill him, but it's masked by other paranoid ravings and general obnoxiousness, irritating everyone. He might as well be wearing a nametag: "Hi! I'm this movie's victim!"

As usual, there's a dizzying array of suspects, hoods, socialites, and servants. This was one of the first movies with the immortal Sheldon Leonard, and (unsurprisingly) he's one of the hoods. Also as usual, Nick navigates half-sloshed through the detecting process and unerringly comes up with the correct culprit.

Shemp Howard has a bit part! "Hey, is that Shemp? I think that's Shemp!"

Last Modified 2012-09-27 9:21 AM EST