READING UPDATE: ASIMOV'S ROBOT SERIES AND BUY JUPITER SHORT STORY COLLECTION
As some of you might know, one of my favourite science fiction authors is Isaac Asimov. I've always loved science fiction. I have grown up reading it and I never really stopped. Asimov's Robot Series is composed of six novels and thirty seven short stories. Recently I've read a few novels in the Asimov's Robot series and today I'm going to share my reviews of them. I'm also going to share my reviews of some of the novels from this series that I have read in the past. Moreover, I'm going to share my review of Buy Jupiter and other stories by Isaac Asimov, a short story collection that features some stories from his Robot universe. As for the fashion part of the post, nothing I'm wearing is new (and you know it because I signed up for Slow Fashion initiative). I had this yellow top for ages (see how I styled it here and here) and that goes for this olive green pencil skirt and the boromina sandals. However, the bag is new. I forgot about that- it was a gift from my significant other. I hope that doesn't count as breaking the rules of Slow Fashion initiative as I didn't buy it for myself and I can't really tell him what not to buy me. He has a mind of his own and it probably wouldn't occur to him to buy me a second hand present. The headband and earrings are both old pieces with DIY touches (because I'm all about arts & crafts). A combination of a high waist pencil skirt and a cropped top sounds quite logical to be. Moreover, accessories can be such a great way to refresh an outfit. Feel free to tell me what you think about this look.
BUY JUPITER, A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES BY ISAAC ASIMOV 4/5
We'll start by reviewing a collection of science fiction short stories. Buy Jupiter is a collection of short stories that vary both in style, length and quality. The book contains quite a few stories (24 in total), covering around 20 years of Asimov's short story writing (1950-1972). Moreover, this edition contains some autobiographical writing. Every short story is followed by a short essay (or perhaps better to say a commentary) that has Asimov reflecting on his life, writing, publishing and his relationship with different editors. I quite enjoyed his autobiographical writing. It made me realize some of the things that might have influenced his Foundation and Robot series (fantastic series both of them, I was happy to make some connection with these stories). These commentaries (or better to say essays?) weren't long but as some of these stories were quite short, at times they were longer than the stories themselves. As for these short stories, their quality varied, or so it seems to me. Simply said, I enjoyed Asimov earlier stories in the book the least and his later stories the most. I found some of these stories excellent, most of them fairly good and only some of them not that good. Some of the really short ones are just All in all, this is still a great edition. I highly recommend it to fans of Asimov. I will grade all stories separately bellow, feel free to have a look:1. "Darwinian Pool Room" (1950) 2/5
Asimov himself wasn't happy with this one. I would have to agree with him. It is a short story depicting a group of scientist talking but it definitely lacks something. It is a bit obvious and nothing about it is memorable.2."Day of the Hunters" (1950) 3/5
This one was better than the first one and it also talked about what might have wiped out dinosaurs. I found the setting quite interesting, the dialogue solid and the story itself imaginative. However, the ending was somehow rushed. Asimov said it was a bitter ending caused by his frustration over Cold War. Well, it could be felt. This story seemed to lack something as well.3."Shah Guido G." (1951) 3/5
This isn't a bad story and it ends with quite a clever punchline. It tells a story of a future Atlantis and its eventual downfall. However, once again I felt like Asimov's heart wasn't really in it. He is clever with his ending lines, he really is but one wonders whether he wrote some stories just for the punchlines?4. "Button, Button" (1953) 3/5
The character of an eccentric professor was a fun one and I liked his nephew just as much. A nice little story, but the ending was a bit obvious.5. "The Monkey's Finger" (1953) 3/5
A nice story but not memorable.6. "Everest" (1953)2/5
The problem with this story is that it is about why people won't be able to climb Mount Everest. People did climb it just as it was published. Funny, isn't it? However, that's not the only problem. The story itself is a bit predicable.7. "The Pause" (1954) 4/5
One more story coloured by the fear of nuclear war. Still, this one was better developed and I actually found myself getting into the head of characters. It tells a story of a nuclear scientist and his wife, who have (among others) been entrusted by aliens to teach people about the importance of peace.8. "Let's Not" (1954) 4/5
A group of scientist discuss what Earth was like before it was destroyed. Only a hundred people or so are left, living on Mars. One of the scientist wonders is their work has meaning, and the other is trying to persuade him that it does. Very good story!
9. "Each an Explorer" (1956) 4/5
This one felt so well plotted. Two explores being manipulated by a plant species they happen upon at some planet. Very interesting!
10. "Blank!" (1957) 3/5
Two scientist travel in time and happen upon an accident. A bit depressive this one.
11. "Does a Bee Care?" (1957) 4/5
This story follows the life of an alien who has grown up on Earth and lived there for many centuries. Drawn by the starts, he embarks on a star journey by hiding himself in a racket ship that is about to leave the earth.
12. "Silly Asses" (1958) 4/5
This one is extremely short, only a page and a half long but I liked it a lot. It is both funny and thought provoking and it comments on human silliness from a perspective of an alien galactic society observing us.
13. "Buy Jupiter" (1958) 4/5
Very entertaining story that comments on possible future planet advertising schemes.
14. "A Statue for Father" (1959) 3/5
A very funny stories about a scientist who manages to travel back to time to retrieve dinosaur eggs but is unable to repeat the experiment. However, his son cares for the eggs, they hatch and he cares for the dinosaurs. Eventually, they start selling the meat and it becomes a sensation. Ironically, nobody remembers the scientist for his discovery.
15. "Rain, Rain, Go Away" (1959) 3/5
This story follows a family who is very curious about their new neighbours- Sakkuro family. They don't understand why they are so terrified of rain-until they do see for themselves.
16. "Founding Father" (1965) 4/5
A very touching stories about brave human individuals who are trying to bring life to a barren alien planet they crashed on.
17. "Exile to Hell" (1968) 3/5
A story that questions punishment by immigration in the future. The end takes an unexpected turn.
18. "Key Item" (1968) 4/5
Lovely story about a future in which an advanced computer refuses to answer a question. Everyone is distraught as human society depends on it, but then one man comes us with a possible solution.
19. "The Proper Study" (1968) 3/5
An interesting story that has to do with the future study of the human brain.
20. "2430 A.D." (1970) 5/5
This was such a touching story dealing with effects of overpopulation on humanity. It displays a future society in which Earth is barren, over populated and people live on plankton diet. Only one man keeps pets, the last animals and plants to exist on planet Earth and he is considered a dangerous deviant. Will he be able to save his pets?
21. "The Greatest Asset" (1972) 5/5
Another city that discusses over populated Earth. One man wants to change that.
22. "Take a Match" (1972) 5/5
Great story depicting a journey of a spaceship. A school teacher figures out something is wrong and tries to save people. I loved what Asimov said about school teachers needing to know a bit about everything because children ask a lot of questions and can spot fakes. I thin that is so true.
23. "Thiotimoline to the Stars" (1973) 3/5
Honestly, this one was too wordy for me. It had interesting ideas but I couldn't get into it.
24. "Light Verse" (1973) 5/5
This short story belongs to the Robot series and it tells a story of a murder.
I, ROBOT, ISAAC ASIMOV 5/5 (BOOK #0 IN THE ROBOT SERIES)
I, Robot is written as a series of stories. They were originally published as short stories I believe. All of these stories feature individuals crucial for the development of robotics. I, Robot is considered to be a part of Asimov's Robot series, but it is not a typical novel, more a collection of stories. I suppose these stories could be read separately, but they are supposed to be read together, and they function perfectly that way. The novel is actually very easy to follow despite different protagonists. It is after all, a same group of people. The narrative flows so effortlessly and every story adds new depth to the question of humanity. I do think it is as much about humans as about robots. What makes us human is a common question in Asimov's work....Moreover, I have a feeling that he puts forward a rather bold question: is humanity an answer to everything? Should it be?
Despite the fact that the stories span over the period of about half an century, they all feel connected. Asimov, like Heinlein, is a master of future history genre. He has that impeccable attention to detail down. They both have. Everything connect in this stories- every chapter follows the next one naturally even if they are sometimes quite different in tone. For example, one story might be more philosophical, while other might be written as a crime story but they are all set in the same world. It all ties together nicely. As I said, this novel is focused on the development of robotics and the people who played a part in it. Asimov does a great job of inhaling life both in its characters and the story itself. This novel is everything that I love about SF: thought-provoking, intelligent and well written.
In fact, it made me wonder whether the robots governing our world wouldn't be a fine solution for the eternally unstable economic system of our planet that results in millions of death due to poverty annually? Or not. Perhaps a society ruled by robots wouldn't be such a good idea? Or would it? The whole thing made me think of one Heinlein's short story that deals with the subject of slavery. Apparently there are over 40 millions slaves in the world today. That's a really frighting number (basically two things that worry me the most about our human society- the presence of slavery and unstable economy that results in continuous warfare). Why does human kind always resorts to slavery and wars? Is it really in our nature? Or is it as Asimov says, that we're simply unable to comprehend the mechanics of this world? That they are too complex for our monkey brains? Do we need a super robot brain to figure it out? Perhaps our economy should be more precise, more controlled, more mathematical? But who could be trusted with such a delicate calculation? Who could be trusted with enforcing it?
Another interesting debate it inspired in my head was surprisingly connected to biology. Watching those robots controlled by the 3 laws of robotics, I found myself wondering how much are we controlled by 100 laws of biology. I choose a random number, but if you think about it...there are laws of physics, laws of biology, laws of psychology, laws of society. Where do they end and where we do begin? What controls us? Or better to say...what doesn't? Where is that freedom of will we so often boast about? How often do we really demonstrate it? One thing is for sure, this novel gave me plenty of food for the thought.
...Just one more thing. There was a female protagonist in this one that I found to be quite inspiring and easy to relate with. In the past, I had a feeling that Asimov is not as good with his female protagonists as he is with male ones, albeit he was pretty good with both, there still seemed to be a slight difference. However, here it was actually a female scientist that was (in my view) the most interesting and possibly the most character. Can we say that a woman was essentially the mother of robots (in Asimov's world)? She didn't invent them, but she played an important part in their inclusion into the society. Mother of robots.
P.S. I'm trying to remember the movie version (I, Robot), but it is hard because I saw it ages ago. As far as I can remember there is only one story in this novel that kind of reminds me of the movie. It was not really based on this book, more inspired by it, I would say. Not that I mind that as such- but I still don't remember the movie well enough to recommend it. This book I can certainly recommend, especially to SF fans!
THE CAVES OF STEEL, ISAAC ASIMOV 4/5 (BOOK #1 IN THE ROBOT SERIES)
The Caves of Steel, the first novel in Asimov's Robot series, is a wonderful introduction to the series. Like other novels in the series, a big part of it is devoted to the conflict between Spacers (humans who live on outer planets) and Earth people. When detective Elijah is asked to explore a murder that happened in Spacetown (territory of Spacers), he gets paired with a robot partner Daneel. Elijah is shocked by his human appearance, but getting adjusted to having a robotic partner seems the least of his concerned.
The Caves of Steel is a murder mystery that also happens to be a dystopian/science fiction novel. It is an interesting mi and Asimov makes it work. Maybe this first novel isn't as a good mystery as the other novels in this series. I'm assuming this is because it is the first book in the series and the author might have been more focused on setting the tone. I'd say that The Caves of Steel is equally interested and well plotted as the other novels. However, for some reason The Caves of Steel feels more dated to me. Moreover, the mystery part is a bit dull. I have a feeling that Asimov was more on point when he described Spacer worlds, that the imagined society of Earth. The society he describes feels real enough, but somehow Asimov didn't really go into depth.
Unlike its sequels, The Caves of Steel is set on Earth. A future Earth, one in which human kind has retreaded under-grown into Cities, an amazing achievement of human ingenious that came as an answer to overpopulation. However, when people retreated underground, they inevitably handicapped themselves. The Earth people can't even imagine being in the open, they are so used to spending time indoors. With Earth being so over population and the Spacer world refusing to admit any immigrants from Earth, what could the solution be?
The Caves of Steel asks many interesting questions about the nature of humanity and proposes an interesting future scenario for the human race. Often, Elijah manages to be wonderfully philosophical: “There’s no way we can raise a positronic brain one inch above the level of perfect materialism. “We can’t, damn it, we can’t. Not as long as we don’t understand what makes our own brains tick. Not as long as things exist that science can’t measure. What is beauty, or goodness, or art, or love, or God? We’re forever teetering on the brink of the unknowable, and trying to understand what can’t be understood. It’s what makes us men.”
To conclude, The Caves of Steel is a very good science fiction work. It is a must read if you're a fan of Asimov and/or if you want to explore his Robot series. I liked it just a tiny bit less than the other works in the series, but I still liked it a lot. For me personally, the series got better with each novel. Still, this I would definitely recommend this one!
THE NAKED SUN BY ISAAC ASIMOV (BOOK #2 IN THE ROBOT SERIES) 5/5
The Naked Sun, (the second novel in the Robot series) is a living proof that you can write a detective story set in a future that will not only be interesting, but also profound in the way best science fiction books are. A mix of science fiction and crime is not something everyone can pull of, but Asimov makes it look easy. In fact, Asimov's Robot series is one of my favourite ones.
The writing in this novel is so clean and precise, not one word or sentence too much or to little. Asimov writing is typically well rounded, descriptive and intelligent, but The Naked Sun takes it to a whole new level. I don't know if this novel was written this way or edited to perfection but if this novel was edited, it had a great editor. So many writers could learn from Asimov. Not every book needs to be 500+ pages long. Sometimes a shorter novel can deliver a message that is just as strong. One of the things I love about the Asimov's Robot series is that his novels are just the perfect length. It is amazing how much philosophy, sociology and science can be cramped into such a tiny novel. Not to say anything about memorable characters (both human and non-human) and interesting dialogues. Just like with the other books in the series, the murder mystery part was exceptionally well written. Indeed, this novel kept me not interested, but also deeply fascinated. I was fascinated by the description of Solaris planet and its society. The plot was well written and paced, so I enjoyed the crime aspect of this novel just as much. The examination of what it means to be a robot as opposed to being human is a big part of this novel as well. However, I had a feeling this one focused more on two aspects of humanity: the Earthlings and the Spacers (people who found home outside Earth). The writer paints a very different picture of humans living on Earth and those living on Outer Words.
The way technology influences us is a fascinating subject and one that made me think. On Solaria, people 'view' rather than 'see' one another, that is they only communicate virtually (with holographic projection). I wonder what would Asimov think if he lived to see the world today where business and personal meetings are often Skype (and holograms are sometimes used as well). Would he be surprised by how accurate he was in some of his predictions?
Moreover, the difference between Spacers and Earthlings is often contrasted in this novel. The economical and social structure of two different planets (Earth and Solaris) are examined. For example, humans living on Earth live under-ground and as a consequence suffer from what looks like acute agoraphobia. When our Earth detective gets summoned to solve a case of murder on Solaris, he doesn't go there only as a detective but as a representative of the Earth. He has more on his mind than just figuring out one murder- and not just because in order to figure it, he needs to figure out the dramatically different human society existing on Solaris but because the very future of Earthlings and Spacers might depend on it. He also has to fight his phobia, not just to be able to do his job well, but to open a new future for mankind. To conclude, I can definitely recommend this novel, especially to fans of science fiction and/ or crime genre.
THE ROBOTS OF DAWN BY ISAAC ASIMOV, (BOOK #3 IN THE ROBOT SERIES) 5/5
You know even if this novel wasn't as a great read as it happened to be, it would have deserved five stars on the merit of that last chapter alone. The ending of this novel was absolutely brilliant. Not only that I didn't see it coming, I didn't expect anything of the kind. It was such a worthy ending to the series! Talk about finishing with style! Still, let's get back to the beginning, shall we? This is the final novel in Asimov’s Robot series and it happens to be my favourite one. I liked the way it was formatted as a murder mystery and I think it didn’t make this novel any less profound. The murder plot was exceptionally well written so not surprisingly it kept me pretty interested, but it didn’t take my attention from what I enjoyed most about this novel and that was its examination of what it is to be human. Moreover, this novel made me think about a great deal of things and I always love novels that do that. Surely such an intelligent and perfectly plotted novel you cannot find every day!
The protagonists of this novel appeared in the series before, so if you read any of the earlier ones, you’ll be happy to see more of them. Nevertheless, I think it could be said that this novel can be read on its own. Sure, there are references to earlier works, but they are not relevant for understanding the story. Even if you hadn’t read any Asimov prior to this, you won’t have any problems following this story or understanding the relationship between its protagonists.
One of the things that I personally enjoyed a lot was the way the author showed how the society we grow up influences us. That was especially the case on the example of a pretty well developed female character. She was raised up differently than others and hence has problems fitting in. This novel made me consider about the role that a society plays a part in how we find our romantic interesting or how and even why we establish relationship with others. For those of you who like that nurture vs. nature debate, this will be a fascinating read.
Another thing I immensely liked were the dialogues. Asimov tends to write didactic and long dialogues, that still feel credible and naturally. In this sense, Robots of Dawn is no exception. Furthermore, dialogues play an important part in this novel because it is through them that we find out not only what the characters are thinking, but what their intentions might be. If you like deductive and logical writing, this is something you might enjoy. The detective in this novel is a well portrayed and his thinking process is an interesting one to follow.
To whom I would recommend this novel besides fans of science fiction and detective stories? To those who enjoy clean and intelligent writing. I think that fans of dystopian literature might find this one interesting as well. Dystopian is sometimes used as a synonym for SF and while I wouldn’t agree with that, I think Asimov’s works are something that a fans of dystopian literature would enjoy as well. Why? Because the way he crafts his future worlds goes into exploration what we are as human beings and it even predicts of what we might be capable of it. Moreover, I do believe this novel isn’t only about some society in the future but it very much about our own society, an examination of our own weaknesses and strengths, a novel that tell us something of who we are as humans. In that sense, I think Roberts of Dawn is still a very relevant novel.
To sum up, this novel fulfills the full potential of science fiction literature and it is among the best things written in the genre. That’s my personal opinion and I would like to add that this happens to be the best novel by Isaac Asimov that I have read so far. I was utterly amazed by it. I do like Asimov as a writer and I’ve been into SF since my adolescence. Nevertheless, The Robots of Dawn felt like something different, not in a way that it didn’t contain those elements that I usually like in Asimov’s book, but in a sense that it contained them in a more perfect balance. It was just perfect. It dealt with so much, from politics to social customs, it had characters that appealed to me, it worked perfectly on so many levels and it had a fantastic ending. I can't praise it enough.
Thank you for reading, visiting and commenting. Have a great week ahead!