The Universe That Asimov Built!

Isaac Asimov is a name that immediately evokes images of robots and intersteller empires, of super computers and of daring missions to distant stars. Now the master himself offers us the definitive collection of his work, twenty-eight stories—each with an introduction by the author—which are his own personal favorites, from humor to horror to hard science fiction.

So welcome now to Asimov’s universe.

I’m not sure that this collection is entirely named correctly, but it comes much closer than the earlier The Best of Isaac Asimov, whose contents Asimov did not himself select. This time around, Asimov did select the stories, and the book is rather thicker, too, so there’s room for more and the stories are of generally high quality.

Indeed, there are problems mostly in terms of what is left out: No robot stories (hence no “Reason,” “Evidence,” “Galley Slave,” “The Bicentennial Man” and so on), and no Foundation stories.

If, then, we limit ourselves to the best science fiction shorter works by Isaac Asimov which aren’t robot stories and aren’t Foundation stories, well, then, we do have a pretty apt selection here. Certainly most of my favorites are included such as “The Dead Past,” “The Last Question,” “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”, “The Feeling of Power,” “The Ugly Little Boy,” and “All the Troubles of the World.” There are a number of shorts which Asimov himself was personally very fond of (”The Immortal Bard,” “Dreamworld,” “Death of a Foy”) which one may or may not like—I tend to like them personally.

And then there are the question marks. I am not personally terribly fond of “The Last Answer,” for example, or “Found!” And I really don’t like “Eyes Do More than See” particularly, or “Ideas Die Hard.” One is aware in many cases why Asimov happened to like a particular story, but that doesn’t mean that others share his estimation.

And yet, given all that, I do have to admit that this is perhaps the best single volume of Asimov’s shorter sf. Certainly, there’s nothing in there which is actively bad (“Black Friar of the Flame,” “Half-Breeds on Venus”), and most of his very best (non-robot, non-Foundation) work.

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