Inferno is the second Asimov universe book written by Roger MacBride Allen. Much like Asimov’s Robots and Empire and Caliban, its what I will call an “issue book”. In Robots and Empire the issue at hand was that having a long life results in risk adversity and therefore the stagnation of society as a whole. In Caliban the issue was the over protection of humans by robots, and the ultimately corrupting nature of living in a society built on slavery (even of machines), as well as stagnation caused by the risk adversity of the robots themselves. In this second Allen book, the issue is the exploitation of the “new law” robots who ultimately become the new slaves in return for a chance at freedom later. This exploitation is a criminal offence, so of course they end up with a society in which pretty much everyone has dirty hands of some form.
Overall this was a good read, and probably a better book than Inferno. I certainly found it easier to read and more enjoyable. I read the majority of the book on a single set of flights between the US and Australia because it was such a good read.
Its interesting that the Amazon reviews for this book are mostly negative, and I can see the point they’re trying to make. There are certainly opportunities for Prospero’s psychology and the overall political situation created by the massive disruption of the society to be explored more. Additionally, the murder mystery is resolved very rapidly at the end of the book after crawling progress during the majority of the book. Then again, that’s just like Caves of Steel and Naked Sun, which both are resolved rapidly at the end of the book and gloss over issues which aren’t core to the story. I guess you can chose to tell a story many different ways, and just because Allen didn’t chose to tell it the way that the Amazon reviewers thought he should doesn’t make his choice incorrect.