Isaac Asimov's Utopia
By Roger MacBride Allen
Utopia takes place five years into the reign of Alvar Kresh as the governor of Inferno, who is now married to robotisist Fredda Leving. The re-terraforming effort is doing fairly well, but many believe still doomed to failure. The plot centers around a plan created by an Infernal named Dalvo Lentrall to use a comet, named comet Grieg after the old governor, to dig a channel creating a northern sea.
Norlan Fiyle, who has been working as an intelligence broker, found out about this plan early and informed the settlers, the ironheads, and the new law robots of the plan. The issue is complicated by the fact that the plan calls for the comet to land essentially on top of the new law robot city of Valhalla.
Tonya Welton, the leader of the settlers on Inferno, is upset by this plan having seen similar plans fail in the past. She orders her security people to grab Dalvo and destroy his work. Although they were successful in destroying his data, the attempt to capture Dalvo himself failed due to quick thinking on the part of Justen Devray, now the commander of the combined Inferno police, and the help of Dalvo's robot Kaelor.
Unfortunately, the location of comet Grieg is lost. Dalvo and Fredda Leving attempt to extract this information from Kaelors memory, but he ends up killing himself rather than release the information which might cause harm to humans. Dalvo's guilt over the death of his robot eventually leads him to oppose the comet plan all together. Eventually though, Jadelo Gildern, who had previously stolen the data from Dalvo's office provided governor Kresh with the missing data.
While trying to decide whether to implement the comet plan, Kresh pays a visit to the terraforming control system. The system consists of a robotic unit, called unit Dee, working with a non-sentient Settler unit, unit Dum, they are collectively referred to as the twins. We learn that in order to avoid first law conflicts, unit Dee is being lied to and told that the entire terraforming project is really an elaborate simulation and that no actual human beings are involved. Significant care must be taken to ensure that Dee does not learn the truth. We are also given confirmation that Dalvo's plan, if successful stands a good chance of repairing Inferno's ecology. The comet project is given the go-ahead and work commences to evacuate the areas near the impact site.
As the impact approaches, Simcor Beddle and Jadelo Gildern develop a plan to use a burrowing bomb, normally used for geological surveys, to destroy Valhalla before the new law robots have time to finish evacuating. On the way there though, Simcor's aircar is attacked, his robots killed, and written on the door is a demand to stop the comet and deliver money into a bank account or Beddle will die.
Kresh's robot Donald, who heard of this incident, forced by the first law to act, contacts robots in the area to perform a search, and tells Dee that she is being lied to about the simulation. This causes Dee to shut down, leaving the people on the ground with few options for the final steering of the comet.
Meanwhile, Devray tries to find Beddle. He tries putting money in the account mentioned in the demand and finds that it is automatically transfered to one of Gildern's accounts. Devray brings in Gildern, and also questions Fiyle, from whom he learns about Beddle's plan to destroy the new laws. Caliban turns himself in preemptively. The three talk while in jail, and Caliban manages to deduce what has happened to Beddle and rushes off to save him. While flying there, Caliban sends out a hyperwave message to tell the other robots that are searching to go back and that the situation is under control. Caliban goes to Valhalla, where he finds several new law robots dead and Prospero holding Beddle prisoner, with a setup where if Beddle tries to leave it will set off the bomb. Propero was attempting to kill Beddle avoiding the new first law. Caliban is left with a choice of who to let live, and kills Prospero, saving Beddle sortly before the comet hits.
In the meantime, Dee finally wakes up and asks to talk to Kresh. She verifies that she was in fact being lied to. She asks Kresh if he believes Caliban's message about saving Beddle. When Kresh says that he does believe it, Dee decides that she can manage the comet without first law conflict.
Written on 25th August 2008 by Ant .