I didn't enjoy this quite as much as The Caves of Steel, but I liked it. Baley and Daneel travel to Solaria to solve a murder. It's a human-settled world with a culture that is strange to both of them, and fairly strange in itself. It takes Baley a long time to figure out anything about their culture, and his investigation of how things work there makes up the bulk of the novel. He's out of his element, just as in book one.
The Solarians come across as arrogant, but it never seems like they actually should be proud of what they've achieved. Because of the way they live, they don't understand the basics of many concepts, like normal (on Baley's Earth and also in reality) police procedures. The Solarians often expect the force of their personalities or their importance within Solarian society to convince Baley that they're innocent of the murder. It's interesting to consider this planet as a kind of libertarian paradise, especially with the way things are in the US right now. I really like that Baley clearly considers sociology an important science and values the opinions of sociologists.
Unfortunately, Daneel is not in this book much. I like his interactions with Baley and I missed them here. I really don't like the way Baley treats him or other robots. I do think Asimov was alluding to real, historical slavery here, with Baley referring to all the other robots as “boy,” which made me cringe every time. I don't believe I'm supposed to sympathize with the way Baley treats robots. But they still don't really seem humanoid, or not in the way that fictional robots like Data or Bender are humanoid. So I can't really hate Baley for his attitude, because it isn't completely analogous to real human bigotries.
The mystery's solution (major spoiler) was pretty unsatisfying to me. I did predict right away that the robots were somehow guilty but I think that I was meant to come to that conclusion, since a reader doesn't have the characters' mental constraints about whether robots can follow Asimov's laws or not. I thought the robots had been manipulated somehow, which was sort of true, but it's more accurate to say that the murderer used robots to set up a situation in which a human, Gladia, would commit the actual crime. The way Baley acts towards women is always pretty bad, but here, he does not even hold Gladia responsible for her crime. According to him, several men and Solarian society all manipulated Gladia into killing her husband. But she actually did it, and I don't sympathize with Baley protecting her. Every criminal has reasons for their crimes. I understand that Leebig was guilty of a worse crime (working towards galactic domination), but then, the story's conclusion meant that the murder investigation actually did work as the Solarians expected it to work; they all turned against Leebig, because he threatened their way of life. So it was Leebig's loss of his peers' support that brought justice here, not Baley following normal police procedures.
At one point, Baley spends a few hours with a woman he considers ugly. She's no more or less likable or three-dimensional than any of the other side characters in the book. Afterward, Baley longs to see the beautiful Gladia, to cleanse his mind of the first woman's ugliness. Yikes. I am not sure if these views are meant to be Baley's or if it's just because this book was written in the 1950s. I guess it was probably progressive at the time that female characters had plotlines at all. I strongly dislike the misogyny in these books. So although I'm very curious to find out what happens to Baley and Daneel on Aurora, I'll probably take a break before continuing with this series.