ORBzine - 1999.06 Book Reviews

ORBzine Book Reviews June 1999

by Speculator

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Speculative Fiction Books - Isaac Asimov
List of great Isaac Asimov books for sale

  • Nightfall, [with Robert Silverberg]

    This is a novel built up by extending the original short story [written 50 years previously]. The main part of the story survives in the central part of the book; the character backgrounds and introductions have been extended into a large prelude section, while a lengthy ending section has been tacked on after the original nihilistic climax.

    Set on a world with multiple suns and a very complex orbit which means that the population only sees nightfall once in several millenia. But with constant exposure to sunlight, what will their response be when they see the stars for the very first time?

    This reviewer first read the original story in a SF compilation; the story had a foreword by Harry Harrison [author of the Stainless Steel Rat books]. Harrison pointed out that the characters in ths story had a total inability and unwillingness to challenge their conventional logic; they rejected the theory that life could exist on a planet with only one sun, because of their belief that life requires sunlight 24 hours a day ...

    When Asimov died in the early 1990s, the original Nightfall story was the only one of his works specifically mentioned in his obituary in several newspapers. His biographers regarded it as his first great work, the one that started him on his path to fame and fortune. IMHO the original short story is one of hs best.

    The extended, novelised version is far more Silverberg's work than Asimov's. It seems apparent that Silverberg did some major ghost-writing for Asimov in the last 10 years of his life.

    Short Story Rating: 100%
    Novelisation Rating: 80%

    [buy HERE]

  • Caves of Steel,

    A 1950s detective novel with a difference; it's set several millenia in the future. Mankind as we know it survives in huge domed Megacities, the Caves of Steel from the title.

    Fifty planets in nearby systems have been settled by the Spacers, descendants of Terran colonists who now live in a sterile, Federation-like environment.

    A Spacer is killed in an Earth city, and the local police assign detective Elijah Baley to the case. He's teamed up with a humanoid Spacer android, R. Daneel Olivaw, to find the killer.

    A timeless classic.

    Rating: 85%

    [buy HERE]

  • The Naked Sun,

    Detective Elijah Baley and the android R. Daneel Olivaw are assigned to find investigate the murder of another Spacer. But this time the murder was committed on Solaria, a Spacer world - and Baley must travel off-planet to find the killer. Not a nice thought for an agoraphobic, afraid to look at the naked sun.

    The blurb on the cover of my 1950s version mentions Solaria; where Robots rule, and Earthmen live in terror, a sad example of a classic SF novel being marketed as trashy pulp.

    Rating: 85%

    [buy HERE]

  • Robots of Dawn,

    Detective Baley and android Daneel are dispatched to investigate a third murder - but this time the victim is a human-seeming android like Daneel. The only suspect is Daneel's designer and Baley's friend - the man who insisted they investigate the case so he could be exonerated.

    This book is a lot longer than the other two [Caves of Steel and Naked Sun], and very different - this could be explained by the 25-odd-years gap between the writing of this and the other two Baley books.

    This book lacks the involvement and excitement the other two had; the extra pages seem to have diluted the quality of the book. However, it's still a pretty damn good book.

    Rating: 70%

    [buy HERE]

  • Prelude to Foundation,

    An oversized, bulky addition to the Foundation series which were originally a series of collected short stories.

    Hari Seldon [mastermind behind the Foundation and the Seldon Plan in the original books] is a young mathematician who has theorised that it is possible to predict the future actions of large human populations - in efefct, the political future. However, the Galactic Emperor soon learns of this theory and wishes Seldon to work for him, so that the predictions are favourable to the Empire. Naturally Seldon objects with the idea of prostituting his mathematic predictions for political control, so he goes on the run.

    Bulky book - a good long read or a tedious slog depending on how you look at it; since it's a post-Black Widowers Asimov story it's probably ghost-written too. Not as good as classic Asimov.

    Rating: 70%

    [buy HERE]

  • Forward the Foundation,

    Four short stories grouped together in a single tome; there were meant to be 5, but Asimov died before the last one was written so only the outline was included.

    This book takes place between Prelude and Foundation, and smooths over why none of the characters from the former appear in the latter [with the exception of Seldon himself of course]. The answer to this is obvious - but some of the final twists in the stories are quite good; the assassination story in particular stands out.

    A deliberate move by Asimov away from bulky novels and back to short stories [and better for it].

    Rating: 75%

    [buy HERE]

  • Foundation Trilogy, Asimov started out writing short stories for SF magazines - this is a collection of some of his earliest, written during the 1940s. Amazing to think that it was penned during World War Two, before the Atomic bomb was used on Japan, and yet it has withstood the test of time.

  • Foundation:
    Hari Seldon completes his plan and puts it into action; the Empire will die, but within a thousand years Seldon's organisation [called the Foundation] will have take over and become the new galactic Empire, so they can rebuild society and so on.

    The stories in this book cover several time periods during the early development of the Foundation, never featuring the same hero twice [they die off between stories].

  • Foundation and Empire:
    Nice title, but misleading as less than half the book involves the Empire. The Empire is crumbling, the Foundation goes from strength to strength - guess who wins.

    The second part introduces the Mule, a powerful psychic warlord who conquers the Foundation.

  • Second Foundation:
    The Mule seeks to destroy the mysterious Second Foundation before it can remove him from power and reinstate Seldon's plan. The Second Foundation members are also psychically gifted, and reside at the other end of the Galaxy - a somewhat general location, to help keep them secret and to protect their ability to operate from behind the scenes.

    However, the Foundation itself has no love for the Second Foundation either, and objects strongly to being manipulated by persons unknown ...

    Series Overall Rating: 80%

    [buy HERE]

  • Foundation's Edge,

    [buy HERE]

    Go to the Gregory Benford Page, for the continuation of Asimov's Foundation series.

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    © Speculator 1997-2005

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