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Robots and Empire

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Robots and Empire cover

Cover for Asimov's Robots and Empire

Robots and Empire is a 1985 science-fiction novel written by Isaac Asimov. It is part of the Robot Series.

The main scope of this book is to reconcile two of Asimov's main series, the Robot series and the Empire series (continued later in the The Foundation Series series). That is, to understand the transition from a mixed humanity-robot universe, dominated by the increasingly robotic societies of the Spacer Worlds, to a human-only Galactic Empire.

Spoiler
This article, Robots and Empire, contains spoilers. Be forewarned, plot and/or ending details follow.
Asimov says you decide.

Plot

It has been two centuries since the events of The Robots of Dawn. 160 years since the death of Elijah Baley. Throughout that time, Earth has been conducting a massive expansion wave. The inhabitants of the new worlds, the Settlers, are shunning robots and tend to ignore Spacers. They have developed a quasi-religious reverence of Earth.

While Doctor Kelden Amadiro has eventually recovered from the defeat in The Robots of Dawn, due to Doctor Han Fastolfe's talent and Giskard Reventlov's telepathic abilities, he was unable to force the Spacer worlds to take an active position against the Settlers. Nor was he able, even with Fastolfe's help, to force the Spacers into their own expansion. The Spacers, predictably, were reluctant to leave the comfort of their worlds, and refused to accept the humaniform robots which could have built the new worlds for them.

Now, the events are reaching a critical point. Doctor Fastolfe had died in the last year, leaving his party weak, and Amadiro the most powerful Auroran politician. In addition, the youngest of the Spacer worlds, Solaria, was abandoned, forcing the other worlds to consider the possibility of their own death. However, a direct confrontation with the Settlers seems unlikely. While the Spacer worlds are still somewhat stronger, they are much less prepared for the casualties of war. Yet a hidden plot to shift the odds is at work

Part I: Aurora

Gladia, a former friend and lover of Elijah Baley, is now a middle aged (by Spacer standards) well-off woman. She spent the majority of the past two centuries married to Santirix Gremionis, but a few decades ago, the marriage was dissolved by mutual consent and with no hard feelings on either side. R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Giskard Reventlov were part of her household for many years by now; now, with Fastolfe dead, she had inherited them officially.

One morning, she is visited by Levular Mandamus, a young man who is a close associate of Amadiro. Nominally on official business, he uses the opportunity to inquire about a private matter. He is a fifth generation descendant of Gladia. While that causes some problems between him and Amadiro, he claims the latter suspects something even worse; that Gladia's son and Mandamus' ancestor is actually a son not of Gremionis, but of Elijah Baley, who, on his way to his new home on a Settler world, stopped at Aurora's orbit and was visited by Gladia.

Gladia provides some evidence, but Mandamus states none of it will suffice for Amadiro. However, he seems triumphant. Only later do Daneel and Giskard figure out the reason; the evidence was enough to convince the young man himself. Mandamus intends to gain Amadiro's favor by striking against Earth, and would not have been able to do that if he was closely related to an Earthman.

Before Mandamus leaves, he takes care of the official business. A Settler wants to talk to Gladia.

The next day, the Settler arrives. His name is Daneel Giskard (D.G.) Baley, a seventh generation descendant of Elijah. He wants to discuss the matter of Solaria. The Settlers intend to claim the now empty world - after selling to the Spacers all the robots left behind. Two ships have landed recently, intending to carry off some of the robots, but both were destroyed within hours. D.G., a captain of his own Settler ship, wants to try landing himself, and believes that having a native of Solaria with him might help. With a slight telepathic nudge from Giskard, Gladia agrees.

Part II: Solaria

D.G.'s ship ship arrives at Solaria. Upon landing, Gladia attempts to question the local robots, and it turns out quickly that no robots know where their masters went. Nor is there a single robot who knows Gladia. D.G. attempts to question the estate's overseer, a woman, but is attacked at once. The overseer turns out to be a humaniform robot like Daneel, named Landaree. Somehow, she refuses to recognize D.G. and Daneel as human beings, and while she admits the humanity of Gladia, it's not enough to override her instructions to destroy intruders. Daneel manages to fight her off for a short while, but eventually she overpowers him. At the last moment, she suddenly shuts down.

The heroes and the rest of the crew leave, after taking from two robots a device which was intended for destroying their ship. It is a nuclear intensifier; a device intended for forcing fusion reactors into explosive overloading. The Settlers have such devices, but they are much less compact, so this one would be invaluable.

They reflect upon the overseer's behavior, but cannot understand how she could have attacked D.G. despite the First Law. Daneel provides an explanation. The overseer had a modified definition of human, only recognizing as such beings who, like Gladia, spoke with the distinct accent of Solaria. D.G. finds the concept disturbing as well as highly dangerous for the Solarians themselves, since they might get attacked at the slightest accidental slip from their accent. It is therefore concluded that the Solarians had, indeed, abandoned the planet, and that it is too dangerous to remain.

The overseer's destruction is explained by Daneel as caused by the conflict between her instructions and Gladia's orders. Gladia is skeptical, but since no one can think of a better idea, it is accepted. In reality, R. Landaree was shut down by Giscard, who arrived at the scene not a moment too soon.

Part III: Baleyworld

Part IV: Aurora

Part V: Earth

Isaac Asimov Novels
Robot Series: The Caves of Steel | The Naked Sun | The Robots of Dawn | Robots and Empire
Empire Series: The Stars Like Dust | The Currents of Space | Pebble in the Sky
Foundation Series: Prelude to Foundation | Forward the Foundation | Foundation | Foundation and Empire | Second Foundation | Foundation's Edge | Foundation and Earth

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