Here are twelve fascinating, provocative tales of time and space which reveal the unparalleled ingenuity of one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.

“Marooned Off Vesta,” the first fiction Asimov ever published, is a prime example of the versatility of his imagination. Three men in a spaceship only three hundred miles from Vesta have no way to reach it. His well-known “Nightfall” probes the reactions of a planet to the darkness of night which falls only once in two thousand years. And Asimov’s answer to “The Last Question” is so startling that it will never be forgotten. Other stories in this collection include: “C-Chute,” “The Martian Way,” “The Deep,” “The Fun They Had,” “The Dead Past,” “The Dying Night,” “Anniversary,” “The Billiard Ball,” and “Mirror Image.”

THE BEST OF ISAAC ASIMOV—a delightful introduction for those who have not yet experienced Isaac Asimov, and the pièce de résistance for his many devoted followers.

This is a somewhat misnamed collection, although that isn’t Asimov’s fault. Someone else selected a number of stories as his “best” and he was shanghaied into providing the introduction to the result. (The introduction does a coy little hiding of the fact that Asimov wasn’t responsible for the book’s contents and didn’t really agree with them.)

Some of Asimov’s best work is in here, to be sure: “Nightfall,” “The Martian Way,” “The Dead Past,” “The Last Question,” and “The Billiard Ball.” It also includes some second-tier material: “The Deep,” and “Mirror Image.”

But, strangely, it also includes both “Marooned Off Vesta” and its sequel, “Anniversary.” Granted, the latter isn’t really bad, but the former (Asimov’s first published story) isn’t exactly one of his better efforts and has little merit outside of historical interest.

More interesting about this book is the sloppiness with which it was put together. Some of the stories were lifted from Asimov’s Mysteries with the afterwords from that book intact. These afterwords may have been appropriate for Asimov’s Mysteries but were glaringly inappropriate for The Best of Isaac Asimov; the one for “The Billiard Ball” is particularly jarring. (I wrote Asimov to point this out. He said it was carelessness on the part of the typesetters and he’d try to get it corrected. Unfortunately, there were no more editions.)

Anyway, it’s an OK collection on the whole—but not quite as good as the books that Asimov himself put together over a decade later, The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov, and The Best Mysteries of Isaac Asimov. By all means, read the latter two and skip this one.

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