RANDALL GARRETT'S REVIEWS IN VERSE: #1 Isaac Asimov's "Caves of Steel"
(First published The Original Science Fiction Stories March 1956, copyright not renewed. Illustrated by Garrett himself.)
Many people today may not be aware of this brilliant, but short, series of parodies in verse that this undeservedly forgotten author penned in the mid-fifties.
(Warning, plot spoilers!)
In the future, when the towns are caves of steel
Clear from Boston, Massachusetts, to Mobile,
There's a cop, Elijah Baley, who's the hero of this tale. He
Has a Spacer robot helper named Daneel.
For it seems that there's some guys from Outer Space
(They're descendants of the Terran human race),
And all over Terra's globe, it seems they're giving jobs to robots,
Which are hated by the people they replace.
So a certain Spacer, Sarton, gets rubbed out,
And the Chief says to Elijah: "Be a scout;
Go and find out just whodunit, and, although it won't be fun, it
Will result in your promotion, without doubt!"
The assignment puts Elijah on the spot.
He must do the job up right; if he does not,
It not only will disgrace him, but the robot will replace him
If the robot is the first to solve the plot.
In the city, there's a riot at a store.
R. Daneel jumps on a counter, and before
Baley knows it, pulls his blaster. Then he bellows: "I'm the master
Here, so stop it, or I'll blow you off the floor!"
So the riot's busted up before it starts,
And Elijah's wounded ego really smarts.
"Well," he says, "you quelled that riot, but a robot wouldn't try it!
Dan, I think you've got a screw loose in your parts!"
Baley doesn't see how R. Daneel could draw
Out his blaster, for the First Robotic Law
Says: "No robot may, through action or inaction, harm a fraction
Of a whisker on a human being's jaw."
Since Daneel, the robot, has a human face,
And he looks exactly like the guy from space
Who has been assassinated, Mr. Baley's quite elated,
For he's positive he's solved the murder case!
"The Commissioner," he says, "has been misled,
'Cause there hasn't been a murder! No one's dead!
Why you did it, I don't know, but I don't think you are a robot!
I am certain you are Sarton, sir, instead!"
"Why, that's rather silly, partner," says Daneel,
"And I'm awful sorry that's the way you feel."
Then, by peeling back his skin, he shows Elijah that, within, he
Is constructed almost totally of steel!
Well, of course, this gives Elijah quite a shock.
So he thinks the whole thing over, taking stock
Of the clues in their relation to the total situation,
Then he goes and calls a special robot doc.
Says Elijah Baley: "Dr. Gerrigel,
This here murder case is just about to jell!
And to bust it open wide, I'll prove this robot's homicidal!
Look him over, doc, and see if you can tell."
So the doctor gives Daneel a thorough test
While the robot sits there, calmly self-possessed.
After close examination, "His First Law's in operation,"
Says the doctor, "You can set your mind at rest."
That leaves Baley feeling somewhat like a jerk,
But Daneel is very difficult to irk;
He just says: "We can't stand still, or we will never find the killer.
Come on, partner, let us buckle down to work."
Now the plot begins to thicken—as it should;
It's the thickening in plots that makes 'em good.
The Police Chiefs robot, Sammy, gives himself the double whammy,
And the reason for it isn't understood.
The Commissioner says: "Baley, you're to blame!
Robot Sammy burned his brain out, and I claim
That, from every single clue, it looks as though you made him do it!"
Baley hollers: "No, I didn't! It's a frame!"
Then he says: "Commish, I think that you're the heel
Who's the nasty little villain in this deal!
And I'll tell you to your face, I really think you killed the Spacer,
'Cause you thought he was the robot, R. Daneel!"
The Commissioner breaks down and mumbles: "Yes—
I'm the guy who did it, Baley—I confess!"
Baley says: "I knew in time you would confess this awful crime. You
Understand, of course, you're in an awful mess!"
The Commissioner keels over on the floor.
When he wakes up, R. Daneel says: "We're not sore;
Since the crime was accidental, we'll be merciful and gentle.
Go," he says in solemn tones, "and sin no more!"
Then says Baley to the robot, with a grin:
"It was nice of you to overlook his sin.
As a friend, I wouldn't trade you! By the Asimov who made you,
You're a better man than I am, Hunka Tin!"