It was just a dusty, old tin-can of a robot—with no guarantee. But Jeff only needed it to teach him Martian Colony Swahili before he got expelled from the Space Academy.

Jeff Wells didn’t really know what he had purchased.

He didn’t realize that the robot had been constructed by a genius half a century ago—from the salvaged parts of a damanged alien spacecraft.

He didn’t know about the robot’s amazing technological skills—such as antigrav and a strange capacity for human emotions—among other things.

Jeff Wells didn’t really know what he was getting himself into…

Ah, the Norby books.

I must confess to not being much of a fan of the Norby books. Granted, they’re juveniles and better suited to a younger audience (and, in fact, my seven-year-old daughter fell in love with them when I suggested she read them), but even so they have never terribly appealed to me.

The novels are mainly the work of Asimov’s wife, Janet, and her style is rather unlike his. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “bad,” even if I were wont to make that kind of judgment. Certainly Janet has written a number of pieces which I rather like. I think the problem is that I usually encounter her writing intermixed with Isaac’s. The two styles are very distinct, and switching back-and-forth frequently can be jarring. I think I tend to dislike Janet’s prose somewhat irrationally as a result, and that has an effect on my enjoyment of the Norby books.

The Norby books chronicle the adventures of Jeff Wells, a fourteen-year-old cadet at Space Academy, his mixed-up robot Norby (who has a mysterious past and mysterious powers), Jeff’s older brother Fargo, Fargo’s girlfriend Albany Jones, the Wells’ all-purpose pet Oola, and so on. (The series gains characters as it progresses.) The stories are meant to be funny as well as exciting, and involve Norby accidentally getting Jeff into one fix after another as they try to solve problems big and small. Norby, it turns out, can travel through hyperspace and through time, which provokes all kinds of complications.

As for why they don’t work with me, I’m not entirely sure. As I say, I have problems with Janet Asimov’s writing style due to no fault of hers. I tend to find the plots on the chaotic side, which may be another factor. Nor do the characters seem well-drawn and sharply defined, and I’m not sure why that’s the case.

In any event, the Norby novels are among the few Asimov books which adults are not likely to enjoy. They are, however, a lot of fun for children.

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