Isaac Asimov Part 2

July 11, 2015

This post is not a full review just an update on my memories of reading Asimov as a teenager and reading him now.

My faith in Isaac Asimov is restored.  On rereading I did really enjoy the Foundation Trilogy:  Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.  They were written in the early 1950’s so they are dated, but it didn’t bother me quite as much as in some of the other novels.  He has a few female characters who have meaningful roles in the plot. His writing style is a little stiff, but his ideas are very interesting.

Unfortunately, I was not as happy with the last two Foundation books that Asimov wrote in 1982 and 1986: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth.  He takes great pleasure in long drawn out explanations of various physical phenomenon and repeating the same arguments between his characters over and over.  The plots in both books were drawn out, almost as if he was trying for word count. The books are longer than many of his earlier works.  According to his forward, his fans and publisher really wanted him to write these two books and I think the publisher may have been hesitant to edit the books.  John Campbell probably had a great deal to do with the way the original Foundation Trilogy turned out.  These two books remind of the late Heinlein works that became a way for him to express his political viewpoint.  Asimov’s political views were diametrically opposed to Heinlein’s libertarianism and favored a liberal society that placed the good of the whole over the individual.

My conclusion is that the original Foundation Trilogy:  Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation is well worth the reread, the last two books not so much.  I would also recommend some of the robot books and stories: The Rest of the Robots or The Complete Robot, The Caves of Steel, and The Naked Sun. The robot stories do get repetitive.  I liked Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation which were written in 1988 and 1993.

Hope this might encourage someone to read or reread one of the greats of science fiction!


Isaac Asimov Pt 1

March 3, 2015

One of my goals when I retired was to read Asimov’s Foundation Series from the beginning – all the robot stories & novels through the Foundation books in the order that they happened not the publishing order.  You can find a list on Wikipedia.  It has been enlightening.  I am up to Prelude to Foundation, although I have skipped The Currents of Space for the moment.  So far most of his writing does not hold up very well.  His style is stilted and so tied to what the world was like in the 50’s and 60’s that it is very difficult to read.  He did not seem to be able to envision changes in culture.  His infodumps interrupt the flow of the story while telling you much more than you really need to know.  His characters are caricatures not people.  His treatment of women for the most part is dismissive: they just don’t exist in his world except as possible love interests without personality.  Susan Calvin may be the one exception, but even she does not feel like a real person.  Many of the early robot stories have great ideas, but they tend to be repetitive.

As a teenager in the 60’s and into my young adulthood, I thought Asimov was a great writer.  His ideas are still wonderful.  His writing not so much.  I guess you can’t go back again.  I need to reread Bradbury and see how his stories hold up with the passing of time.