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Topic: Isaac Asimov - Author Discussion

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Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Subject: Isaac Asimov - Author Discussion
Date Posted: 11/22/2008 2:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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OK, I've decided to try another thread.  What do you all think of Isaac Asimov?  I have read fourteen of his books, which for his output is barely scratching the surface.  Honestly he is not one of my favorite writers, but he is worthy of dscussion.  Here's some of what I read:

Robot series - I started with The Caves of Steel and read the following books.  I enjoyed this series, with Elijah Bayly and the Robots, Daneel and Giskard.  I read them as a high school ages kid (I think) and was devouring a lot and hadn't become as "aware" in the literary sense of what good writing was.  I don't think I'd enjoy the books as much, and when I think back I have no desire whatsoever to reread them.

Empire trilogy - Pebble in the Sky, The Stars Like Dust, The Currents of Space - I read these a little later (maybe after a couple of years of college) and they seem more enduring to me.  They have a broader scope, but seem more realistic to me.

Short Stories - I must have read dozens of them in various collections, and I have to say I think this is his best form.  I especially think the Susan Calvin stories are great.


My favorite of Asimov's books is probably not SF, but the mystery, A Whiff of Death.  It takes place in and around the Chemistry department of a University.  I loved Chem in school, and was in fact a Chem major before switching to English.  Maybe that's why I thought it was so interesting.  He actually has the kids of 50 years ago performing the same experiments I remember doing. 

A couple of other books worthy of mention are The End of Eternity and The Gods Themselves.  I am not a huge fan of time travel stories in general, but it was kind of neat to see how The End of Eternity actually set the stage for all Asimov's later books.  The Gods Themselves I think gets points for originality in the parallel universe realm.

Foundation - It took me seven years to finish this book.  The overall plot was too involved.  I still do not understand it.  I haven't finished any of the others, though I have started some of them.

Fantastic Voyage - The worst of his books I've read.  I can hardly believe he wrote it.

David Starr, Space Ranger - Not that bad, but definitely for kids, and of course very dated.  I like that kind of thing, though.

Date Posted: 11/23/2008 4:12 AM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2008
Posts: 14,845
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i read the Foundation books probably back in high school, and re-read them within the last few years.  i find them interesting.

when they came out with the "I, Robot" movie, i went looking and finally read his Robot books, and didn't enjoy those as much.

i wouldn't be surprised if i've read short stories by him since i've always enjoyed anthologies, but i can't say that i remember any.

Date Posted: 11/23/2008 5:11 AM ET
Member Since: 10/16/2008
Posts: 19
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I have been a fan of Asimov for quite some time. I find the style easy to read, and the idea behind the stories are usually refreshing. There are some  errors from a scientific point of view, esp in the Starr series, but I find most of his material holds up very well.

The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn remain one of my favorite trilogies.

My all time favorite short story is writen by Asimov. Will need to edit later as I don't recall the name but in less than 400 words he establishes the effect of a simple Earth game on a Galactic Empire.

And he gave us robots. He surely didn't invent them, but his fingerprint is on so much of the later automatons that it can't be overlooked.

Overall, he remains one of my  favorite authors.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 11/23/2008 8:27 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I saw the I, Robot movie.  I guess it wasn't too bad, but it was weird the way it twisted Asimov's stories.  I, Robot was Asimov's first collection, and included stories he'd written in college.  Part of the movie seemed to be based on The Little Lost Robot and part on other stories, like Robot Dreams (which is my favorite of Asimov's stories, I think) and a very, very small part seemed linked with The Caves of Steel. 

Date Posted: 11/23/2008 1:48 PM ET
Member Since: 1/2/2008
Posts: 174
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My favorite short story is in a book edited by Asimov ... does that count?

In "100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories" is a story by Duane Anderson, entitled "Sign at the End of the Universe".

You have to turn the book upside down to read ....


This End Up.


As for Asimov himself, he's never been one of my favorites. Too much talk and not enough action. I am kinda fond of his Azazel stories though.

Paul H. (PaulH) - ,
Date Posted: 11/23/2008 3:50 PM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2008
Posts: 146
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I was a big Asimov fan back in 7th or 8th grade.  At the time I pretty much loved everything from the Robots, Galactic Empire and Foundation series, not to mention countless short story collections.  I reread them a few times back then, but am not sure I want to now.  It's kinda like watching the cartoons I loved as a kid... other than Bugs Bunny they just don't hold up to what my adult mind remembers (like, Transformers, Voltron, etc...)

As I recall the books are short on action, and are more dramatic in nature, relying heavily on dialogue scenes to advance the story (particularly the first Foundation book).  I think what really grabbed me was that I just happened to read him at the time he tied everything together.  I had just finished all of his series when Robots and Empire was published, followed shortly by Foundation and Earth.  I was very enamoured with the idea of taking stories that originally had nothing to do with each other and yet he found ways to make them all part of the same universe in just a couple books.

Another thing I liked about Asimov was in his story anthologies he would preface each story with a little intro with some background on the story - how he came up with the idea, troubles writing certain parts, any interesting publishing history of the story, etc.  Even back then I dreamed of being an author, and found such commentaries entertaining and informative (such as his mixed feelings over the story "Nightfall" being widely accepted as one of his all time best, which he wrote at the age of 19, so what does that say about the rest of his career?)

With I Robot, I liked the different approach he took, writing fictional interludes between each story with a reporter interviewing Dr. Susan Calvin about these events in her past.  I was disappointed with the movie, too, which was basically just turned into another summer blockbuster vehicle for Will Smith.  I was also disappointed with the Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man - that short story was one of my personal favorites and the movie just did not measure up (as usually happens, naturally).

Other novels I liked were The Gods Themselves and Nemesis (one of his last books before he passed away, and is actually rather different from hhis other books).  I never read The End of Eternity (not that I can recall, anyway), and should probably pick that one up someday.  I've also read most of the Foundation and Robots novels written by other authors after Asimov's death, but those didn't really do much for me.

And now that you've gotten me writing all of this, I'm feeling more like pulling these books off the shelf and rereading them.  Maybe once I'm done with some of the other pressing stuff on the top of my TBR pile.  Who knows, maybe it will be more like revisiting Bugs Bunny than Transformers!

Subject: Asimov
Date Posted: 11/24/2008 4:04 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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I learned a lot of science through Asimov.  Wish he was still here to update those books, he was easier to understand than most of my high school / college teachers.

I remember reading from several sources over the years that the robot books were going to be made into a movie, but it took a long time for it to happen.  There was a screenplay by (I think) Harlan Ellison that was pretty good.  It was published as a book 10-15 years ago.  I can recommend it as it kept the original "flavor" of the Asimov books.  Contrary to the Will Smith movie.

One of my fondest memories was reading "Fantastic Voyage" from a Life magazine.  (I think it was Life).  I was at my grandma's house with nothing to do and was just paging through the mag.  It had pictures from the "new" movie.  I vaguely remember that Asimov came out with another book, saying that THIS is the way he would write Fantastic Voyage - so the original screenplay came from...... where???  I don't remember but whatever, I have always associated Asimov with Fantastic Voyage. 

Asimov is one of my favorite SF authors.  Not a lot of action in his fiction but way way BIG on ideas.  I just looked at my shelves, I have 33 of his books, either as author or editor.  I gotta get back to my reading.....