us and (or in) nature
The Caves of Steel is set three thousand years into the future. Humans live on Earth in completely enclosed underground cities while their robot servants work in mines and farms in the open country.
In this future world nature has become totally scary and unfamiliar. Even more than in the present time!!! Many people today regard a camping trip as the worst punishment imaginable. Whenever they see insects they reach for the insecticide. But still people go out, breathe the air and may notice the presence of a few trees and birds flying around.
In the Caves of Steel people never go outside. They live in a crowded airconditioned environment where there is no difference between day and night. Like a typical shopping mall. What matters are efficiency and economy.
Baley looked back through the steamy haze and the noise and … thought of a visit to the City Zoo … he had been excited. After all, he had never actually seen a cat or dog before. Then, on top of that, there was the birdcage!
… There is something about the first sight of living objects hurtling through the air that is incomparably startling. It was feeding time in the sparrow cage and an attendant was dumping cracked oats into a long trough (human beings had grown used to yeast substitutes, but animals, more conservative in their way, insisted on real grain).
But as usual in this kind of story there is a group of rebels who want a different life.
‘What do you medievalists want?’
‘Back to the soil’ said Cloussar in a stifled voice… ‘It doesn’t matter how long it takes, but let’s get started out of these caves we live in. Let’s get out into the fresh air’.
‘Have you ever been out into the fresh air?’
Cloussar squirmed. ‘All right, so I’m ruined too. But the children aren’t ruined yet. There are babies being born continually. Get them out, for God’s sake. Let them have space and open air and sun.’
I’m pleased and relieved to be able to say that the story ends on an upbeat hopeful note.