For the legions of Isaac Asimov fans who have been enjoying his short fiction for over half a century, but just can’t keep up with the Good Doctor’s appearances in print, here is the definitive Asimov collection.

This volume, first in a series of handsome collectors’ editions, contains 46 science fiction stories—many now classics of the genre. As Dr. Asimov points out in his Introduction, many also hold a personal meaning for him, including “The Last Question” (his favorite short story of all), “The Ugly Little Boy” (his third-favorite, a real heart-tugger), “Sally” (which reveals his true feelings about automobiles), and “Nightfall,” which readers and the Science Fiction Writers of America have voted the best science fiction story of all time.

By turns erudite and fanciful, provocative and just plain fun, the stories collected here illustrate the rich diversity of Isaac Asimov’s remarkable talent. To read any one of them is to understand immediately his enormous and ever-expanding popularity. To have them gathered in a single collection is a welcome and long-overdue treat for all lovers of science fiction, be they longtime Asimov fans or readers just discovering his imaginative new worlds for the first time.

Asimov completed the manuscript for I. Asimov: A Memoir in early 1990, including a complete listing of his books through that date. Books published afterwards were sometimes listed in the printed copies of I. Asimov, and sometimes not. Among those left out were The Complete Stories, Volume 1 and The Complete Stories, Volume 2, the former published in late 1990 and the latter in early 1992. Ed Seiler’s research indicates, however, that Asimov did consider this volume, at least, to be an “official” book.

The original intention was to publish a series of volumes which would eventually include all of Asimov’s published short fiction. Alas, but the series seems to have petered out with volume 2; no further volumes have been published since.

Volume 1 essentially represents a rebinding of three of Asimov’s earlier anthologies: Earth is Room Enough, Nine Tomorrows, and Nightfall and Other Stories. The book itself claims, “This volume contains the complete contents of the previously published collections Earth Is Room Enough, Nine Tomorrows, and Nightfall and Other Stories”—but this is a bit of a lie. “I Just Make Them Up, See!” and “Rejection Slips” from Nine Tomorrows are missing—two funny bits of light verse—and of course all the autobiographical commentary from Nightfall and Other Stories is gone. Although I occasionally find the commentary distracting, it’s still useful and adds to the value of the book, so with it and the two poems gone, I’d definitely say that the Asimov fan would be better off to own the three individual collections than this one omnibus.

On the other hand, The Complete Stories, vol. 1 was briefly available in soft-copy for the Macintosh, which was something while it lasted. The soft-copy form even included the comic verse missing from the printed edition.

This is nonetheless a worthwhile collection with some of Asimov’s best materiel: “The Dead Past,” “Franchise,” “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” “The Feeling of Power,” “I’m in Marsport Without Hilda,” “The Last Question,” “The Ugly Little Boy,” “Nightfall,” “Hostess,” “C-Chute,” “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” There is no shame in owning it—just get the other three books anyway, that’s all.

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