Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Happened to Her Husband? -- Pylon and The Robots of Dawn

(Note: there are some minor spoilers for these two books in this post.)

William Faulkner has only two degrees of separation from Star Wars. Faulkner worked on the screenplay for The Big Sleep, which was also worked on by Leigh Brackett. And Leigh Brackett wrote the first version of the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. So -- if you think of Star Wars as the whole series of movies, Faulkner is only two degrees of separation away from Star Wars.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either a compliment or an insult to either Faulkner or Star Wars.

So maybe it's not such a leap to include my reactions to a novel by Faulkner, who is known largely for his stream-of-consciousness style and sweeping Southern historical dramas, with my reactions to a novel by science fiction legend Isaac Asimov.

But Faulkner's book is only a half step away from science fiction, anyway. Faulkner's book Pylon must -- I really can't say for sure -- be among the first novels by a "serious literary" author to deal with flying airplanes -- let alone racing them!

In fact, I was about to call this blog post "High-Speed Wrath," because Faulkner's novel Pylon reminds me of The Grapes of Wrath, except that unlike the Joads, the main characters of this book are a traveling group of people who perform at airshows. But the time period is similar: the Depression era. And the theme of travelling workers is very much the same.

But Pylon was written in 1935, four years before The Grapes of Wrath. And Faulkner has an incredibly unique vision of a specific type of itinerant worker. Faulkner's world carries with it something of the cosmopolitan. Even these traveling aviators, living from hand to mouth -- if they even get that much to live by! --, sleeping outdoors, or under the wings of their plane, if the weather's really bad, have an element of the cosmopolitan to them.

There are five characters in the group of traveling aviators. Roger Shumann, who races the "family's" airplane; Jack, who performs parachute jumps at airshows; Jiggs, the airplane mechanic; "the woman," who seems to go nameless; and "the boy," whose name is eventually revealed to be Jack Shumann.

Why does the boy have the first name of the parachute jumper and the last name of the aviator? Easy -- because nobody knows which of the two is actually the boy's father! Both Shumann and Jack sleep with the woman. She got pregnant but didn't know who made her pregnant. So Shumann and Jack flipped a coin. Shumann won the coin toss. So he got to marry the woman. But both men still sleep with the woman.

The "family" also includes the mechanic, Jiggs, who doesn't seem to have much to do with the sexual relations of the group. Jiggs is, apparently, an alcoholic. But he's doing his best to quit with the booze.

The "family" has all come to Faulkner's fictional New Orleans, a town called New Valois. A new airport has been opened up in New Valois. The airport's ceremonies include a big airshow. So the "family" has come to perform in the airshow. The ceremonies are concurrent with Mardi Gras, which New Valois, like New Orleans, celebrates with days-long festivities.

The story begins with Jiggs at a shoemaker's shop in New Valois. He's trying to drive a bargain for a new pair of boots. His boots are totally wrecked. The boots will end up costing him $22.50. He doesn't have the money now, but he promises to come back for the boots in the afternoon, when he has the money. The shoemaker holds the boots for him.

So Jiggs takes the bus up to the airport, which is on the outskirts of New Valois. At the airport, Jiggs meets up with the rest of the family. But a newspaper reporter, who also goes nameless, has seemed to latch onto the family. He takes the job of taking care of the little boy while the rest of the family is running around, doing things like taking care of the plane, racing the plane, or jumping out of a different plane.

Shumann is flying an old model airplane. Three years previous, this was one of the newest models. But airplane models are constantly changing. And now Shumann's model is basically obsolete.

Nevertheless, Shumann, who hadn't expected even to place in the race he was competing in, actually gets second place! This raises hopes for the family. They now get prize money, which they expect will pay for a hotel and food for a little while. So now they won't have to sleep outside.

But it turns out that they don't get to receive their prize money for the flight until the next day. So they're depending on the money Jack is going to make by parachute-jumping. He gets $25 for doing a jump.

However, Jiggs has set things up so he can take Jack's payment for the parachute jump. Jack doesn't know it, but Jiggs takes Jack's money and goes down into town with it to buy the boots he had put on hold at the shoemaker's shop earlier in the morning. So now Jiggs has a pair of boots -- but the family doesn't have anywhere to sleep for the night. And they won't get their money for Shumann's racing performance until the next day!

As the reporter follows the little boy, and sometimes some of the other family members, he begins to get involved with their strange story. The reporter seems to be a real literary type in his own mind, even though it appears that most people see him as being something of a mix between a Frankenstein and a tapeworm. He's very tall, very thin, pale, and sunken-eyed. He seems to react extremely slowly to everything. And once he's attached to something he's stuck to it -- like a parasite.

In fact, he would have lost his job a long time ago, except that he also had the ability to cling to his reporting job like a parasite. He has an extremely mother, too, and that helps. She followed him to his job, without him knowing, at first, and bullied his boss into basically never letting him go from the job.

It's not really clear why the mother doesn't do more to actually make the reporter do more with his own life. But she doesn't. She only makes sure that the reporter's boss, a man named Hagood, always keeps her son working at the paper. So Hagood gets frightened into becoming something of a father-substitute for the reporter.

But the reporter, as literary as he may be, is not really a good reporter. He can't seem to find or write news. He can only go into spilling rants on the emotional state of either himself or the people in the situations that he has gone out to cover as newsworthy.

To make matters worse, the reporter always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He's always around when news is made, and he's always around the most newsworthy people. He even seems to contribute in some way or another -- all the time! -- to the events that actually become news. But he can never actually write about the news that he's standing right in front of, or even making happen!

To top all this off, the reporter is always borrowing money from Hagood, even though the reporter apparently makes a decent, or at least liveable, salary. But Hagood's afraid not to lend money to the reporter, just like he's afraid to fire the reporter: he doesn't want the reporter's extremely wealthy mother to come after him.

But the reporter also has no focus. And when he comes into the city room of the newspaper office to tell Hagood his news, all he tells Hagood is the whole emotional story of the family he'd hung out with all day long. Hagood gets angry at the reporter's inability to come up with a real story, so he tells the reporter he's going to fire him if he doesn't come up with a real story tomorrow. Hagood tells the reporter to go home and get some sleep, and to be back at the airshow first thing in the morning.

But the reporter doesn't go to sleep. Instead, he goes out partying with the rest of the Mardi Gras crowd. While he's stumbling through the crowd, he runs into Jiggs, who is wearing his new pair of boots. Jiggs takes the reporter to the hotel where the family thought they were staying. They thought this until just recently, when Jiggs finally let them know he had spent their hotel money on his new boots.

The family has been nursing drinks at the hotel, where a lot of people are partying at the bar. But they really want to get some sleep. Somehow, they get the idea to go to some run-down hotel that's kind of half-brothel, where they figure they can get some sort of deal on a room, or at least find a place for the little boy to sleep. But they run into some troubles there that I can't really remember very well. And they have to go somewhere else.

During all this, the reporter has called up Hagood again and let him know that he had run into the aviator family again. He gives some long, rambling speech to Hagood. But Hagood doesn't want to hear it. He flat-out tells the reporter he's fired. The reporter, who has been "fired" by Hagood before, nevertheless manages to take this seriously.

The reporter decided to let the aviator family stay at his house while they're waiting to receive their prize money. It eventually becomes obvious that he's doing this because he's in love with the woman. He keeps on fantasizing that somehow he'll be able to sleep with the woman, just like Jack and Shumann do. But it never happens.

On the way to the reporter's house, the reporter picks up a humongous jug of absinthe, which apparently has a laudanum kicker in it! The reporter takes the aviator family home and treats them all to a party. Shumann and the woman go to bed with the little boy in the reporter's room. Jiggs and Jack stay up and party with the reporter.

At one point Hagood -- again afraid of the extremely wealthy mother -- visit's the reporter's house and tells Jiggs to tell the reporter (who is now too drunk to face Hagood) that he better show up at the airport at 10 AM the next day to cover the rest of the airshow.

Jiggs and Jack kind of bully the newspaper reporter around a little. Then they fall asleep. The reporter, who has no focus, really, and can't ever really seem to get to sleep unless he passes out altogether, gets up and goes out to a diner. He's blind drunk, and he has some kind of queasy period of philosophical introspection as the sun rises.

The next morning, Jiggs, who is a recovering alcoholic, is already back to being hooked on booze because of the absinthe he'd drank all night long. And as soon as he wakes up he starts drinking again. Shumann's kind of upset about this because he knows that his plane needs to get a major tune-up before it goes out on another race. And he's starting to suspect that Jiggs, the mechanic, will be too drunk to fix the plane.

Nobody knows where the reporter is, and they all decide to leave without him. But as they are leaving, he is coming back. But right as he comes back to his house, he passes out, completely drunk, completely smashed, and, finally, too exhausted to stay up any longer.

The family all rolls the unconscious reporter for the money he has in his pockets. But they then feel bad. So they give the passed-out reporter back all of his money except enough money to buy all of them some breakfast. The family then leaves the reporter passed out outside his door and goes up to the airport. The reporter's maid comes by later, takes a few more bucks off of the reporter, then wakes the reporter up, gets him cleaned up, and helps see him off to the airport.

Up at the airport, the aviator family works on fixing up the plane for the day's race. But Shumann and Jack both have to go to some aviator's union meeting. They think they're going to have to strike -- as if the union wants the aviators at the airshow to get paid more prize money.

It actually turns out that because, on the previous day, one of the major aviators died in an air crash. His name has to be taken off all the airshow programs. So the airshow programs all have to be reprinted. And this will have to be done with the money in the prize pool. All the prizes will be reduced by two and a half percent. Even though some aviators grumble about this, it's generally thought not to be a very big deal at all.

Shumann and Jack head back to the plane -- only to find that Jiggs has abandoned his job of fixing the plane. He's off the plane, and off the wagon: he's gone off to the airport bar to get even drunker! Now Shumann and Jack have to do a really quick job of fixing the plane before Jack does his jump and Shumann does his race!

The reporter, finally arriving at the airshow, in his perpetual state of non-focus, somehow manages to run right into the now drunken Jiggs. Jiggs is beligerent and almost gets into a fight with a few people. He almost gets both himself and the reporter arrested, by a policeman who doesn't really like the reporter to begin with.

In the meantime, Jack has done his jump and has injured himself in the process. But he's stil angry enough with Jiggs to sock him hard enough in the face to knock him out. He also manages to sock the reporter in the face.

Somehow -- I can't quite remember how -- things get minorly patched up. The reporter finds the woman and tells her that the aviator family can have his place. He's going on some out of town assignment, so he can get away from the family. He's really latched onto the family -- mostly because he's extremely sexually attracted to the woman. But he also wants to do a good deed for them. So he's going to let them stay at his place while he goes out of town.

But -- I think -- while he's trying to explain all this to the woman, Shumann's plane crashes and catches on fire. Shumann ends up being okay. But the plane is completely destroyed.

It seems like Shumann is out of the airshow altogether, and that the family is out of its most important means of subsistence: the plane. But the reporter knows someone in town, a man named Ord, who was himself a great aviator, and who now owns an airplane shop. The reporter knows that Ord has a plane that the reporter might be able to get for cheap for the family.

So Shumann and the reporter go alone together to meet Ord. Ord doesn't want to sell the plane to Shumann. There's something wrong with the plane, and he doesn't feel like it's safe to fly at all. That's why it's been sitting in his hangar all this time, instead of getting sold, while he's been perfectly fine with selling other planes.

But the reporter and, to a lesser degreee, Shumann figure they won't take no for an answer. The reporter sends Shumann back home. The reporter then hatches up a scheme for basically stealing Ord's plane.

In the meantime, Shumann takes Jiggs out and tries to get him sobered up. After Shumann and Jiggs go out to try to get some food into Jiggs, so he'll be a little more sober (it doesn't really work), they go back home.

In bed, Shumann discusses his plans with the woman. Shumann has a feeling he's going to get Ord's plane and fly in one of the races tomorrow. One is a low-risk race where Shumann's almost positive he can place and get a little bit of prize money. And one is a high-risk race, where he'll be flying against Ord himself. If the plane is really as faulty as Ord says it is, Shumann believes he shouldn't fly in the high-risk race. But the high-risk race offers more money. So Shumann figures he probably will do the high-risk race after all.

At the newspaper office, which is where the reporter basically spends the whole night, possibly -- I think -- passing out for a couple hours over his typewriter, the reporter comes up with a plan for getting the plane. He types up a fake check for the plane. He then signs his name to it. He figures he'll get Shumann to sign his name, as well as his father's name, to it.

Shumann's father is -- I think -- a farmer and a country doctor, who already mortgaged away a farm he once owned in order to help Shumann get another plane. But Shumann doesn't keep in really good contact with his family, especially since he married the woman, who Shumann's family doesn't think is a good person at all.

So the next morning, Shumann and the reporter meet and go back to Ord's farm. They watch as Ord flies his own racing plane out to the airport. They then run up to the hangar and trick Ord's assistant, by using the fake check the reporter made, into believing that Shumann and the reporter have bought the faulty plane from Ord.

Shumann and the reporter take the faulty plane on a test flight. They believe they've found the problem, which is something like a center-of-gravity problem, which they think they can solve by using sandbags and a pulley system.

So Shumann and the reporter fly the faulty plane over to the airport. Ord conducts a huge meeting with the event organizers to get Shumann barred from flying the faulty plane in the race. But the event organizers want Shumann in the race. The more planes, the merrier. Plus, Shumann will be flying one of Ord's planes. Ord is a flying legend. It was good enough that he'd be flying in the race. But now he'd be flying against one of his own planes! What could be a better crowd-pleaser than that?

Well, the race happens, and, as you'd expect, the faulty plane breaks. It doesn't just have a center-of-gravity problem. The thing basically splits right in half -- and the back half basically disintegrates!

Shumann can't land the plane safely at all. So, in the last moments of his life, he directs the plane as completely out the crowd's way as he can. He crashes the plane into a nearby lake. He can't escape the plane, and he dies in the lake.

The woman blames the reporter for Shumann's death, and she refuses to talk to him anymore. There's a huge effort to recover Shumann's body from the lake. It lasts all day, into the night, and then into the next morning.

The reporter stays near the lake -- not really because he wants to be around when Shumann's body is finally pulled out of the lake, but because he keeps on thinking he'll be able to see the woman again. But the woman does her absolute best to keep the hell away from the reporter. She really feels like if the family hadn't had anything to do with the reporter from the beginning, Shumann would still be alive.

Eventually, toward the middle of the next morning, it becomes clear that it's going to take a long time for the machines first to locate the plane, and then to actually get Shumann's body out of the plane. The lake is a completely junked mess -- people have been dumping old cars and all kinds of other junk down there for years. Now if something gets stuck there, it's seriously stuck. Shumann and his plane are no exception. It may even be impossible to get Shumann's body out.

So Jack comes along and tells the reporter, who is still doggedly hovering around the lake, in hopes of seeing the woman again, that he, the woman, and the boy are all leaving town. Jack requests that once Shumann's body is pulled from the lake, the reporter send Shumann's body to an address in Ohio, which -- I think -- is the address of Shumann's parents. Jack gives the reporter the prize money from Shumann's first flight so that the reporter can buy a coffin and pay transportation charges on getting Shumann's body to Ohio.

The reporter, now defeated, goes home. It's not quite mid-day yet. The reporter manages, yet again, to run into Jiggs. The reporter takes Jiggs home. Jiggs and the reporter get a little bit drunk, as usual.

Jiggs tries to fix his boots. They're already a bit worn out. But he figures he's going to try and sell them back to the shoemaker so he can give the money to Jack and the woman before they leave town. Jiggs himself is also getting ready to leave town, in some other outfit, of course. Jack and the woman are through with Jiggs.

But Jiggs' methods of fixing his boots are all pretty terrible. Nevertheless, Jiggs takes his boots back to the shoemaker and gets -- five dollars! This was probably a bargain, because, as far as I can tell, all the weird-ass things he did to try to get his boots back to a normal condition probably wrecked them altogether.


So Jiggs ends up getting a bunch of candies and gifts for Jack and the woman. He's planning on dropping all this stuff in a package with the rest of Jack and the woman's luggage before they get onto their ride out of town. I think it's assumed that he is no longer on speaking terms with Jack and the woman.

While preparing, with Jiggs, to drop off the packages of candies and gifts, the reporter finds out that the authorities are going to give up on pulling Shumann's body out of the lake. So now the reporter can give the money back to Jack and the woman. One little kind of surprising incident happens here, which has a bit more of a surprising repercussion toward the end of the book. So I won't mention it.

Jiggs and the reporter part ways. The reporter goes up to the airport again. He gets drunk with a bunch of reporters who are waiting for the morning to come, so they can report on something about the lake. They're all playing a poker game. Something happens -- I really can't remember what -- to make the reporter go back into town.

The reporter meets one last time with Jiggs. I really can't remember what happens at that last meeting between Jiggs and the reporter. But after that, the reporter goes off by himself again and gets blasted drunk. After he gets drunk he heads back into the newspaper office and types up an article about Shumann dying.

In the meantime, Jack and the woman have travelled a certain distance. And now it's time for the two of them to part ways. Jack gets the woman and the little boy into a cab. The cab takes the woman and the little boy to the house of Shumann's parents. The woman leaves the litte boy with the parents. A couple of tiny surprises happen here.

The book then ends with a young worker at the newspaper office picking up the typed copy of the reporter's article. The reporter has left to go get drunk again. He's left the typed copy on his desk. The young worker thinks this article is like the beginning of some literary masterpiece. At the end of the article the reporter has scrawled out a nasty article to his boss Hagood, ending even that with a request to borrow a little bit of money.

*****

Pylon -- which I'm pretty sure is one of the more undeservedly neglected of Faulkner's books -- spans a few different genres. It is a literary book. There are passages in the book which are purely poetic, incredibly well-written. But the book is also a pulp-novel, a sensational story of love and death. And -- at the same time -- the world it describes, while being easy enough to imagine as a horse-racing story or a boys' adventure story, is also "high-tech" enough for its time that it could possibly be considered to border on science fiction.

Isaac Asimov's novel The Robots of Dawn is a science fiction novel. But it's also a mystery novel -- and very much in a tradition like that of Raymond Chandler. In fact, as I was reading through this novel, I felt a lot of similarities between The Robots of Dawn and Chandler's novel The High Window.

So this genre-straddling, which Asimov is a master of anyway, is one thing in common with Pylon and The Robots of Dawn. But the other thing in common is: a dead husband.

Just again -- I realize that right here I've given away a spoiler. I'm probably going to feel worse about giving away things with this novel than I was about giving things away for Pylon. This is probably because it's pretty hard to read Pylon. So if people have help, even at the cost of spoilers, they'll probably feel grateful, not angry. But The Robots of Dawn is a mystery, and a pretty easy read.

Anyway, The Robots of Dawn is the final book in Isaac Asmiov's Lije Baley Robots Trilogy. The first two books in this trilogy are The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. This trilogy takes place in the distant future. Human beings on Earth have come to live underground, in gigantic, cave-like cities. But other planets have also been colonized by earthlings.

The people who have colonized these other planets are called Spacers. There are fifty Spacer worlds. Each of them are different. But, apparently, the two most elite of the Spacer worlds are Aurora and Solaria.

Life on Aurora and Solaria has become, in some aspects, so developed and advanced that the citizens of those planets live for three or four hundred years. They have basically freed the planet of infectious microbes, as well as the directly-shown violence that often leads to war.

But Aurora and Solaria are two vastly different planets. On Solaria there are only a very few human beings. Each human adult bascially lives in complete isolation, on huge estates just for them. They are generally served by whole companies of robots. But the robots also generally don't make their presence felt. Solarians are afraid of contact, even with each other.

There are fewer people on Aurora than on Earth. But there are still more people on Aurora than there are on Solaria. But, like on Solaria, the robot population largely outnumbers the human population. But on Aurora, human contact is accepted -- or, rather, contact between Aurorans. Aurorans have multiple sexual partners.

Sex isn't really much more than a sport to the Aurorans. Even marriage, which still exists, is only around to make childbirth official. And most couples don't even raise their children. What's more, Aurorans, who appear to be the most technologically advanced of all the Spacer worlds, which are generally all more advanced than Earth, tends to look down on all the other worlds, including Earth.

But somehow, the Earthman, Lije Baley, is called up to the planet Aurora to solve a case of "roboticide." As Lije Baley comes to see things, this is eventually the same thing as murder, in a sense. Earthmen are generally seen by the Spacer worlds as little more than barbarians. All the inhabitants of the Spacer worlds came from Earth. But the Spacers would rather forget that fact.

Nevertheless, this is the third time Plainclothesman Baley has been called in to investigate a mystery having to do with the Spacer worlds. Each time Baley's been called to solve these mysteries, it's been a mystery to him that he, an Earthman, has been called on by people who think of themselves as so superior to him.

The first mystery regarded the murder of a diplomat. It was thought that a robot had committed the murder. The second mystery regarded the murder of a man on Solaria. Again that mystery was thought to be the fault of a robot. In both these mysteries it seemed -- and ended up being -- impossible for a robot to have killed a human being.

This is because of the three laws of robotics, which Isaac Asimov came up with, I think, for his book I, Robot. The three laws are the most important laws for a robot to obey. They inform all the decisions a robot makes in the performance of its tasks. They are (paraphrased) 1. A robot cannot harm a human being; 2. A robot must obey all human orders, unless they break rule number one; 3. A robot must never harm itself, unless obeying the rule would break rule number one or two.

The first murder mystery Baley solved led Baley to consider the possibility of Earthmen going out in the universe and colonizing planets of their own. This was off limits, according to Spacer rules. But Baley began to get the idea, and spread it to other people.

The second mystery, of the murder on Solaria, strengthened Baley's interest in helping Earthmen colonize worlds. But the mystery also led Baley to meet a Solarian woman named Gladia Delmarre. Gladia's husband was the man murdered on Solaria. Gladia's relationship with her husband was terribly cold and frustratingly distant -- as were all relationships on Solaria.

Gladia simply couldn't function on Solaria. The life of complete individuality and isolation, where even husband and wife lived on separate estates, miles away from each other, was too much for Gladia too handle. She needed to live in an environment with more people. So Baley, who'd ended up befriending Gladia, managed to help Gladia move to Aurora.

Back on Earth, Baley had finally been developing real plans, with communities of people, to re-acclimate Earthmen to above-earth living, or, as Earthmen call it, being on the Outside. He was getting ready to find some way to propose to the Spacer worlds that Earthment should be allowed to colonize other planets.

But, unbeknownst to Baley, these plans were already being formulated by somebody on Aurora: Dr. Han Fastolfe, the greatest known roboticist. Aurorans were themselves drawing up plans for the colonization of other worlds. But the Aurorans thought their world-system was the best. And they didn't want any colonists, even Auroran colonists, deviating from the basic plan of creating worlds exactly like the Auroran worlds.

So one major Auroran proposal was that only Aurorans would be able to colonize additional worlds. And that the actual building out of the world would be in the charge, not of humans, but of robots. Robots would be sent out to new worlds and build out these worlds so they were exactly like Aurora. Then Aurorans could go to these new worlds and live there.

However, the building-out process would take a long time. And it was thought that the best way for all this to be taken care of would be if the robots were as much like humans as possible. Robots had developed a lot over the years. But most robots were not "humaniform." A humaniform robot is a robot that, in its form, most of its actions, and almost all of its mental processes, is indistinguishable from human beings.

But, as far as robot technology had gotten, there were only two humaniform robots in existence. One, Daneel Olivaw, had served as Lije Baley's partner in his previous two murder mysteries. The second, Jander Paneel, was the robot who'd been put out of commission -- somehow -- on Aurora. Both of these robots, normally, lived on Aurora. And both of them had been created by Dr. Han Fastolfe.

Dr. Han Fastolfe had created the only two humaniform robots in existence. And he'd determined that he wouldn't give up his secrets for creating humaniform robots. On top of this, he didn't want humaniform robots to be used in the colonization of other planets. Even worse, he advocated colonization by Earthmen, who, most Spacers thought, were simply barbarians. Dr. Han Fastolfe, a member of the Auroran legislature, had many people who would like to see him out of power, so he could not make it so that Earthmen could colonize other planets.

And then, suddenly, Jander Paneel was found, put out of commission. Murdered, as Baley would eventually come to see it. And Fastolfe's enemies began to see their chance. If they could prove that Fastolfe had put his own robot out of commission, for one reason or another, this kind of violent act would prove him not fit to sit in the legislature. He'd lose his political power. And his ability to advance colonization by Earthmen would vanish.

So, now, Fastolfe is in a tough spot. But, through Gladia's urging, he decides to call Baley to the planet to investigate. Baley comes to Aurora to investigate. Baley is attended by Daneel Olivaw, the robot who had served as his partner in the previous two investigations, and by Giskard, a non-humaniform robot.

Baley's first meeting is with Fastolfe himself, who gives him all the details. Fastolfe makes a few things clear. First of all, he's the only one who can create humaniform robots. Second, he's the only one who can create humaniform robot-brains. Third, he's the only one who understand the functioning of humaniform robot-brains well enough to have disabled Jander Paneel's brain.

Fastolfe knows he didn't kill the robot, though. He assumes that what really happened to the robot was a random disturbance in the magnetic field of the robot's brain. But random chance doesn't save Fastolfe. All Fastolfe's enemies would only argue that Fastolfe was using random chance as an excuse, to mask his real guilt. And Fastolfe would be thrown out of the legislature anyway. And then Earth would not be allowed to colonize other planets. Only Aurora would.

The case sounds hopeless. Fastolfe actually continually insists that it's hopeless. Baley wonders why on earth he'd been asked by Fastolfe to come here, if he thought the case was so hopeless. But then Baley goes to meet with Gladia. And Gladia reveals the fact that she wanted Baley to come and investigate. She urged Fastolfe to have Baley come from earth to investigate.

Gladia discusses emotions she'd felt for Baley, and why she'd wished for Baley to come back to the Spacer worlds. She'd come to understand what love was, just by a fleeting touch she'd given to Baley's cheek during their previous meeting. Life on Solaria was so isolated and loveless that even touching the cheek of someone caring like Baley almost made Gladia have an orgasm. And it would have been her first orgasm ever!

Gladia then discusses her experiences with Auroran men. For almost all of the inhabitants of Aurora, sex is more like a sport. People offer themselves for sex and are most often not denied. There's not much love in it, even though there's a lot more enjoyment of it than there was on Solaria. But what Gladia had been looking for was love -- what she'd started to experience when she'd simply touched Baley's cheek during their last meeting.

Gladia then opens up about her relationship with the murdered robot Jander Paneel. She'd come to discover that he was... completely humaniform. He turned her on. She came to love him. And he became a husband to her. She hid this fact from everybody as well as she could. She was probably right to do so. Nobody would really care, on sex-replete Aurora, whether Gladia was having sex with a robot. But thinking of a robot as a spouse would be beyond absurd. It would be almost offensive.

Gladia mentions that there is one Auroran man who hasn't stopped pursuing her. Despite the fact that, at the beginning of her stay on Aurora, she participated quite a bit in the sex play, to the point where a lot of Aurorans began to think of her as a bit too desperate for sex, this one man who kept pursuing Gladia was the man she continued to deny. His name is Gremionis.

Baley proposes that perhaps Gremionis had killed Jander. If Gremionis was so interested in Gladia, and if he'd managed to find out about Jander being Gladia's lover, not to mention being her husband, Gremionis might be jealous of Jander. Gremionis might have killed Jander out of jealousy. Although the idea seems to affect Gladia, Gladia dismisses the thought. Gremionis is an artist, not a roboticist, and Jander's death could only have been caused by an incredibly skilled roboticist.

Gladia also discusses Fastolfe a bit more. Gladia had become friends with Fastolfe. Fastolfe had a daughter named Vasilia. Vasilia had herself become a great roboticist. But now she hates her father.

Vasilia's relationship with her father was unconventional, by Auroran standards. Usually, children are sent away from the parents after birth, to be raised in a nursery. Children may or may not ever learn who their parents are. They generally don't know or care.

But Vasilia was raised by Fastolfe. This was, again, beyond unconventional. It was almost a breach of laws, and Fastolfe had to do a lot to make it work. But Fastolfe has always seen himself as in-tune with some of the older ways of living, including raising his own children.

Fastolfe came to love his daughter as a father would. But Vasilia came to love her father as a husband. Vasilia wanted her father to make love to her. There was no law against this on Aurora, as long as Fastolfe and Vasilia didn't have any children. But Fastolfe was revolted by the idea. Vasilia continued to pursue her father for sex. But when she finally understood her father would never have sex with her, she left him and became his enemy.

But now Fastolfe has become friends with Gladia, because Gladia reminds Fastolfe of his daughter Vasilia. Fastolfe feels that if he can make Gladia's life pleasant on Aurora, he will somehow have made up for the relationship he's apparently lost with Vasilia.

But these stories seem to get Baley no closer to the truth. Baley goes back to Fastolfe's house and to sleep for the night. The next morning he works, rather hard, in a lot of really fun and surprising ways, to get an actual interview with Vasilia.

The world of Aurora almost appears to be an empty world. The residences and workplaces are all so widely-spaced and hidden from view, or underground in many cases, that the planet almost seems to be uninhabited.

On top of that, Baley himself feels a great deal isolated. As an Earthman, he lives on a planet that hasn't destroyed all infectious microbes. Many people believe his simple presence around them might be able to kill them. So they avoid him. So Baley's investigation on Aurora largely feels like a series of interviews in offices and houses out in the desert.

Baley manages to back Vasilia into a corner, however, so that she'll meet with him in person. Baley, Giskard, and Daneel all go to Vasilia's office. (It's hardly uncalled for for Baley to have brought two robots with him. Everybody has robot attendants, almost all the time. In fact, Fastolfe and Gladia, who are basically neighbors, share a network of seventy-seven robots.)

Vasilia works for the Robotics Institute. This Institute is set up for the cooperation of all Auroran roboticists to work together to advance the development of robots as much as possible. Fastolfe, fearing the creation of humaniform robots for the colonization of other planets, simply for the use of Aurorans, has not become a member of the Institute. And so he's considered an enemy of the Institute. This is all the more reason for Vasilia to be a member of the Institute.

Baley learns that Gremionis, the man who'd been pursuing Gladia, had also been pursuing Vasilia for a little while. But Vasilia would never give in to Gremionis. But Vasilia managed to set Gremionis on to pursuing Gladia. Baley has his own suspicions as to why Vasilia would do this -- mainly so that Vasilia could get someone close enough to have put Jander out of commission. However Vasilia makes a pretty good argument that Gremionis would never have been able to do such a thing.

Leaving Vasilia's office, Baley stops at a public restroom along the road. Gremionis approaches Baley in the bathroom. Gremionis had been contacted by Gladia, who'd told him Baley's theory. Apparently Gladia believed Baley's story more than she'd let on. So now Gremionis was here to prove his innocence.

Baley is hungry. So Gremionis takes him to his house to eat. Gremionis tells the story of why he loved Vasilia, and why he now loves Gladia. His love for both women has to do with a fantasy Gremionis has, very unlike most Auroran's sexual desires, to be in a monogamous relationship with a woman. To have only one sexual partner, his whole life long. Vasilia and Gladia, for different reasons, seem like perfect candidates for fulfilling his fantasy.

Gremionis almost never met Jander, it turns out. And he had no idea that Jander was in a sexual relationship with Gladia. It wouldn't have bothered him, apparently. But being called jealous bothers Jander a whole lot. In fact, calling someone jealous is, on Aurora, a major crime of slander.

Gremionis vows that he, even though he's an artist and not some powerful politician, will get Baley kicked off Aurora as soon as possible. Most Aurorans already don't like the fact that Baley, as an infectious Earthman, is here. A little more bad sentiment about Baley would be sure to get him kciked off the planet.

But Gremionis, after speaking a little more with Baley, seems to forgive him. Baley calls Gladia and lets her know that he doesn't have the opinion any longer that Gremionis was jealous. Baley then calls the director of the Robotics Institute, a man named Amadiro. Again, using his wits to back Amadiro into a corner, Baley gets a personal interview with the man.

A storm has been brewing all day long. Baley, who has very seldom been outside the cave-cities of the Earth, and who has only been in one rainstorm, which was a terrifying experience to him, is not looking forward to the storm. But it seems as if he won't be able to avoid it.

The meeting with Amadiro begins rather cordially -- quite confusing to Baley. But Amadiro eventually begins to show his bitterness toward Fastolfe and his desire to get his hands on the secrets of the humaniform robots. Amadiro seems reluctant to let Baley go. Baley is annoyed with this. He wants to continue his investigations. But Amadiro seems to be stalling him.

But, as the thunderstorm begins, Baley insists on getting back to the car. Amadiro finally relents. Daneel and Giskard, still attending on Baley, have a really difficult time actually getting Baley out to the car. The thunderstorm and the driving rain are really a horrifying experience to Baley. He actually loses his presence and almost passes out altogether.

As it turns out, while Baley, Daneel, and Giskard were in Amadiro's office, Amadiro had some people messing around with their vehicle. The vehicle breaks down on the way back to Fastolfe's house. Giskard mentions that another couple of cars have been following them ever since they left Amadiro's office. (They were, I think, quite a long distance down the road. Giskard's increased sense of vision gave him the ability to tell that they were following from a very far distance.)

Baley realizes that Amadiro had sent robots after them. He wanted to capture Daneel. Daneel was, after all, the last humaniform robot. And Amadiro plainly expressed his desire to get his hands on the secrets of the humaniform robots. So, before the other cars could catch up with this now broken-down car, Baley has Daneel and Giskard leave him, so that Daneel can take refuge somewhere.

Baley is now by himself in one of the most terrifying experiences he, as a cave-city-dweller, can imagine: a thunderstorm. He stays in the car at first, because he thinks it's the only safe place.

The pursuing robots reach the car. But, as Baley assumed, they are only interested in the robots. Baley gives the robots fake directions as to where they went. The robots take those directions. But Baley now realizes that he can't be here once the robots realize that he'd given them the wrong directions.

So Baley leaves the car and runs away through the frightening thunderstorm. Baley has no idea where he's going, and he eventually passes out from shock and cold at the base of a tree.

A few hours later, Baley wakes up in Gladia's house. Giskard, having brought Daneel here for safety, then went out with Gladia, in Gladia's car, to find Baley. The car had broken down not far from Gladia's house, and Gladia and Giskard found Baley quite easily.

Baley is safe and warm. But his mental faculties are still kind of weak from the extreme terror and shock he'd experienced from the thunderstorm. This is my favorite part of the story. At this point, Baley seems to luxuriate in his weakness. Over and over again he fantasizes that he's a little baby -- an infant -- being taken care of by Gladia as if she were a parent.

Baley gets some chicken soup and ends up feeling a lot better, a lot more in control of his mental faculties. He even has enough energy to comfort Gladia a bit more. She's still very upset that she lost her "husband," so to speak. But Baley gets tired and weak again and decides to go to bed. Here he again pretends that he's a little baby -- an infant, as he says.

Apparently Gladia has been aroused by Baley's vulnerable, infantile state. And the love she felt for Baley before has now intensified. She can no longer resist. She comes to Baley's room and makes love to him. I love this idea. A man fantasizes himself to be a little baby, being taken care of by a woman, who then gets turned on by his infantile state and decides to make love with him. Add diapers, and that kind of fantasy would be right up my alley.

The next day Baley and Gladia have a terrific breakfast scene together. And then there is a final showdown scene, which is, I suppose, the closest thing an Earthman would get to a courtroom scene on the planet of Aurora. This is kind of the climax to the book. During and after the climax a few surprising things happened.

I'm kind of disappointed in this post, I have to admit. I've spent all my time summarizing these two novels. I'll get better at condensing the summaries and adding commentary. I have a lot more commentary about The Robots of Dawn than I do about Pylon, I would say.

Actually -- Pylon is such an under-read book that I wanted to give its plot as fully as I could, just so people could see what an interesting book it is. It's hard to get through sometimes, just because of the stream-of-consciousness, poetic passages. But the overall plot is really wild.

And the dialogue of the book -- well -- it's what made me think of Faulkner the script-writer. When you just look at the stream-of-consciousness passages, you wonder how in the hell Faulkner could have been a screenwriter. But when you read the dialogue, and you think of the action -- then you know why people wanted Faulkner as a screenwriter.

So I wanted to accentuate the plot for Pylon, just so maybe if people saw that alone, they might want to give the book a chance. I think, unfortunately, that carried over into my reactions to The Robots of Dawn. I read the two books almost in parallel over the past four days. And I'd read them both because, after going through Book of the Damned and Johnson's Lives so slowly, I just wanted to move through some stuff quickly.

I wanted to pick apart The Robots of Dawn on a number of levels, though. But I messed up by writing a huge summary instead. So, all I can say is, read it. I'm a tremendous fan of Asimov. And this book -- did have some weaknesses, in my opinion -- but, overall, it was a whole lot of fun, like just about everything Asimov wrote.