The author of over 400 books, Isaac Asimov has distinguished himself as a leading scientific writer, historian, and futurist. His books have covered every subject from mathematics to humor. Among his most popular books are THE CAVES OF STEEL, THE FOUNDATION TRILOGY, and the recent PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION.

In this collection, which spans the body of his fiction from the nineteen-forties to the mid-eighties, are all of the classic themes Asimovian, from the scientific puzzle, to the extraterrestrial thriller, to the psychological discourse, all introduced in an important essay written expressly for this collection.

“Robot Dreams,” the title story, was a Locus poll winner and Hugo and Nebular Award finalist. The cover of this book and over a dozen black-and-white plates represent the book illustration debut of Ralph McQuarrie, known worldwide as the most influential designer of science fiction films. He has been responsible for the look of such movies as STAR WARS and STAR TREK IV.

This is a miscellaneous collection, intended largely to showcase a series of Asimov robot-inspired drawings by Ralph McQuarrie. The title story was written specifically for the volume and was inspired by the cover painting.

I am not one who particularly cares for illustrated sf books (I tend to find the illustrations distracting), so although I don’t dislike McQuarrie’s work, it doesn’t really add anything to this collection for me. (On the other hand, his visual impression of Asimov’s robots is rather more robotic than my own.)

As for the stories themselves, it’s a mixed bag. They tend, actually, not to be robot-related, although there are a few (”Little Lost Robot,” “Sally,” and a few others). There are a number of good stories, including two of Asimov’s three favorites (“The Last Question” and “The Ugly Little Boy”). There are a number of medium stories, however (”Jokester,” “Strikebreaker,” “The Last Answer”) and some real clunkers (”Does a Bee Care?,” “Eyes Do More Than See,” “True Love”). The only title unique to this collection is, in fact, “Robot Dreams” itself, which isn’t all that terrific a story. One can do better in terms of Asimov anthologies.

The overall impression, then, is decidedly less than it might be. This is a collection really only for those who love the illustrations or who feel a compelling need to own everything they can by Asimov.

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