Author: Isaac Asimov
Description: The best of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction stories are amazing. The first volume of his Complete Stories earned five stars from me. Just running my eye down the table of contents I often could remember the stories just from the titles, even though it had been decades since I first read them–that’s how much of an impression they made upon me. These stories? Not so amazing. These are all lesser known stories–Asimov himself said they were chosen because as of the date this book appeared they were his least anthologized. They’re arranged in order of original publication from 1950 to 1973, and most are very short–he says in the introduction they average around 2,500 words.
I’d read this book before, years and years ago, but I only remembered two of the 24: “The Monkey’s Finger,” a humor piece about writing and the creative process, and “2430 AD,” among the saddest works I’ve ever read by Asimov, about the last zoo on Earth. I tend to think of Asimov as a fairly sunny writer, optimistic about the future. Not as much as Arthur C. Clarke perhaps, or even Heinlein, but it’s striking actually how many of these stories reveal a very gloomy outlook. Several stories involved a nuclear doom and are pretty heavy-handed in its message. Asimov himself in the introductions to the stories says so–he said at the time watching the nuclear arms race between America and Soviet Union he felt bitter and hopeless about humanity’s future. He said of the date of this anthology, he still felt pessimistic but for different reasons. He doesn’t say what those reasons are, but given what’s represented in this anthology and elsewhere I’d guess he was worried about overpopulation and the environment.
Otherwise the stories are the usual stuff of science fiction: dinosaurs, supercomputers, robots, space travel, time travel. Besides the two stories mentioned above, I especially liked “Each One an Explorer” with among the most unusual aliens I’ve ever read. The title story is pretty cute too. There were only a couple of stories I found complete clunkers–notably “Shah Guido G” with it’s groaner of a pun. I also did love the little biographical asides that followed each story, so for an Asimov fan I do think this book is worth the read. But this isn’t what I’d recommend as an introduction.
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