For Asimov fans the world over, The Complete Stories, Volume 1 began a tradition for readers who have enjoyed the Good Doctor’s short fiction for more than half a century but just can’t keep up with his prolific appearances in print. Now, with Volume 2, the definitive Asimov collection continues.

Containing forty science fiction stories, this is the second volume dedicated to collecting Dr. Asimov’s complete output of short fiction. As he points out in his introduction, many carry personal meaning for the Good Doctor, including “Galley Slave” (concerning his loathing of book galleys), “Light Verse” (inspired by a headache and a good dinner), and “The Bicentennial Man,” Asimov’s personal favorite from this collection.

Thought-provoking, imaginative, and always entertaining, the stories herein display Dr. Asimov’s mastery of the short story form. Recently named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, he is an author whose work has proven timeless. The Complete Stories is the perfect introduction to Asimov’s personal universe, for both the new reader and the established fan seeking reacquaintance with longtime favorites.

I’m not sure what was the rationale behind the selection of stories for this final volume in the aborted “Complete Stories” series—in the case of The Complete Stories, Volume 1, it was clear enough: It was the complete contents (more or less) of Earth is Room Enough, Nine Tomorrows, and Nightfall and Other Stories.

Here, however, we get bits and pieces previously published in The Rest of the Robots, Asimov’s Mysteries, The Martian Way and Other Stories, The Early Asimov, and so on. So far as I can tell, there is no one anthology all of whose contents are found herein, but as a rule, it tends to be the better stories. (This was probably a very bad idea, since it means that the pool of top-notch Asimov short sf is pretty much drained, had Volume 3 been published, it would have contained mostly the dregs.)

Basically, all of Asimov’s best short fiction which are not in I, Robot, the Foundation books, or The Complete Stories, Volume 1 are here: “The Bicentennial Man,” “The Red Queen’s Race,” “Galley Slave,” “Pâté de Foie Gras,” “The Martian Way” and so on. (There are a few of Asimov’s best still missing, but not many. “Sucker Bait” springs to mind.) There are also some real stinkers: “The Monkey’s Finger,” “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” I still give it very high ratings for the Asimov fan because of the good material here, but the non-Asimov fan might be better advised to curl up with a copy of The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov.

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