An Extraordinary Talk with an Extraordinary Man

Here Isaac Asimov, the renowned writer and storyteller, takes you behind the scenes to his work—and to his life—revealing the rare blend of an original mind and rich personality that has made him one of the biggest names in science fiction today.

Together with twenty-four little-anthologized stories by the grand master is his biographical commentary on each of them. They form a unique autobiography from the early 50’s right on up to the present.

Here’s Isaac Asimov the punster, in “Shah Guido G” (doling out punishment even in the title); Isaac Asimov the romantic, in “Everest” (an impromptu exercise written on a dare from a beautiful editor); Isaac Asimov the dreamer, in “A Statue for Father” (written as a plot to keep his mind off a dreaded vacation); and Isaac Asimov the extraordinary, in twenty-one other marvelously inventive tales of fiction and fantasy.

This is almost entirely a lackluster and forgettable collection. Most of the stories included are either stories from earlier in Asimov’s career so inferior that they were never deemed worthy of antholigization before (“Button, Button”, and “The Monkey’s Fingers”), or work from the great hiatus of the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s, between the time when Asimov dedicated himself to writing primarily nonfiction and the time he refound his science fiction “voice” with works like The Gods Themselves and “The Bicentennial Man.” Stories in the latter category would include the title story, “Key Item,” and “Founding Father.”

There are a couple of exceptions to this. One is “Thiotimoline to the Stars,” which, like the other thiotimoline material, is rather fun. “Take a Match” is a relatively interesting problem story, but not Asimov at this best. “Light Verse,” however, is quite good—certainly much better than anything else in the collection. And it is available elsewhere, too, so there’s definitely no need to own this very weak collection for the sake of this one truly worthwhile story.

On the other hand, the book is strewn with biographical commentary, rather in the fashion of The Early Asimov. Here, however, the material it surrounds is so embarassingly bad for the most part as to hardly make it worthwhile.

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