The Naked Sun
Dust-jacket of the first edition
|Cover artist||Ruth Ray|
|Genre||Science fiction, Mystery novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Caves of Steel|
|Followed by||The Robots of Dawn, "Mirror Image"'|
Like its famous predecessor, The Caves of Steel, this is a whodunit story. The book was first published in 1957 after being serialized in Astounding Science Fiction and Fact between October and December 1956.
The story arises from the murder of Rikaine Delmarre, a prominent "fetologist" (fetal scientist, responsible for the operation of the planetary birthing center reminiscent of those described in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World) of Solaria, a planet politically hostile to Earth, whose death Elijah Baley is called to investigate, at the request of the Solarian government. He is again partnered with the humaniform robot R. Daneel Olivaw, and asked by Earth's government to assess the Solarian society for weaknesses.
The book focuses on the unusual traditions and culture of Solarian society: the planet has a rigidly controlled population of twenty thousand, and robots outnumber humans ten thousand to one, whereas people are strictly taught from birth to despise personal contact, and live on huge estates, either alone or with their spouse only. Communication is done via holographic telepresence (called viewing, as opposed to in-person seeing).
Ultimately, it is revealed that Delmarre's neighbor and fellow roboticist Jothan Leebig was working on a way of subverting the robots' inability to kill humans, on the premise that a robot cannot knowingly kill a human or knowingly allow a human to come to harm, but can do either in ignorance. Leebig kills himself before his arrest, in Solarian fear of human contact. Although Delmarre's wife Gladia was an accomplice, Baley conceals her rôle on grounds that her emotional breakdown was under pressure the Solarian way of life, and has her exiled to the Spacer capital planet of Aurora. Thereafter Baley returns to Earth a hero. A more thorough description of the aftereffects can be found in the sequel The Robots of Dawn. We also discover the remote end-point of Solaria's development in Foundation and Earth.
Galaxy reviewer Floyd C. Gale praised the novel as "an interesting exercise in scientific detection ... Asimov appears to be laying the groundwork for a new category of science fiction, the S-F detective story".
The novel was adapted for television as an episode of the British anthology series Out of the Unknown, with Baley being portrayed by Paul Maxwell and R. Daneel Olivaw by David Collings. Broadcast on BBC2 on 18 February 1969, the story was dramatised by Robert Muller and directed by Rudolph Cartier and the music and sound effects were created by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Cast of BBC2 Adaptation:
- Paul Maxwell as Elijah Baley
- David Collings as R Daneel Olivaw
- Sheila Burrell as Under-Secretary Minnim
- Neil Hallett as Hannis Gruer
- Erik Chitty as Dr Altim Thool
- Ronald Leigh-Hunt as Corwin Attlebish
- John Robinson as Dr Anselmo Quemot
- Frederick Jaeger as Jothan Leebig
- Trisha Noble as Gladia Delmarre
- Paul Stassino as Rikaine Delmarre
- John Hicks as Bik
- David Cargill as Robot
- Raymond Hardy as Robot
- Roy Patrick as Robot
- John Scott Martin as Robot
- Gerald Taylor as Robot
The Naked Sun was one of six Asimov stories dramatised for the Out of the Unknown series. The others were The Dead Past, Sucker Bait, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Reason (as The Prophet) and Liar!
Although the episode was wiped by the BBC and no copy is known to exist, three of Delia Derbyshire's sound sequences were published on a BBC record of sound effects Out of This World, renamed as "Heat Haze", "Frozen Waste" and Icy Peak".