BOOK REVIEW: YOUTH, A NOVELLA BY ISAAC ASIMOV

 Hello! Today I'm back with a new book review: Youth, a novella by Isaac Asimov.  In addition, there is also a fashion segment to this post: a few more outfits I have worn recently but haven't had an opportunity to share yet. All of them are examples of shopping my closet so there will be links to prove it. Now, a few words about Youth, the book I will be reviewing today. This wonderful science fiction novelette was first published in 1952 issue of Space Science Fiction. You can read and download it for free on project Gutenberg site.  That's how I read it. I searched for Asimov and this novelette came up. It's a brilliant little story and quite short (depending on an edition it ranges from 25 to 40 pages). I'm happy to report I quite enjoyed Youth. Exactly why, I will share bellow. 

PURPLE DRESS/ BEIGE MINI BAG/WHITE SANDALS


FLARED BLUE JEANS, BROWN BAG WITH FRINGES, LEOPARD HEELS

YOUTH, A NOVELLA BY ISAAC ASIMOV, 4.3/5 

The fact that I enjoyed this little book shouldn't come off as a surprise.  I'm a big fan of Asimov, both when it comes to his fiction and non-fiction books. I'm partial to fiction, though-  both when it comes to Asimov and in general. So, I expected to enjoy this novella. Still, I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It's everything I love about vintage science fiction: clever, entertaining and funny at the same time.  What kind of book it is? Youth is a short but sweet science fiction novella depicting contact with alien civilization. It takes place on planet Earth but it is set in a pretty distant (post nuclear war) future.  This novella that focuses on first contact and mistaken identity is not without humour. 

TOLD IN THIRD PERSON NARRATOR BUT WITH A HEAVY USE OF DIALOGUES AND SHIFTING PERSPECTIVES, IT'S QUITE A DYNAMIC PIECE OF WRITING
Youth  is told in third person narrative voice but with a heavy use of dialogues. So the reader gets to an insight into the story from everyone's perspective. Plus, some of the dialogues are quite dynamic. I imagine this use of dialogues would make Youth easy to adapt for film or theatre (not that it has been adapted yet- as far as I know). I hate when people say that Asimov is not easy to adapt, especially when so much of his work has already been stolen by numerous writers and producers. Plus, his work did get adapted quite a few times. I know of at least five films that were based on Asimov's work (here). As is the case with many golden age science fiction writers, Asimov's work has been a source of inspiration for many writers and books, probably too much to number and will probably continue to be so.

SEVERAL INTERCHANGING PERSPECTIVES, THAT OF FATHERS, SONS AND ALIENS (FEMALE CHARACTERS ARE ON THE MARGIN OF THE STORY)

 This story is told from several perspectives: the perspective of two fathers of two boys, the two boys themselves and two aliens whom the boys capture and mistake for animals. Female characters briefly appear in the form of wife/mother (did Red's mother even have a name?) and a bad tempered cook (not named either) and do little more than scream. Well, you know strong female characters aren't really Asimov's thing, so what can you expect? Some writers are equally good at writing both genders, some just aren't. In some of his later books, Asimov focused a bit more on female characters, but most of the time he just avoided them. Not every writer is able to under the complex female psychology. Write what you know, as they say. If a writer doesn't know how to write female characters, perhaps it is best he sticks to what he knows. Moving on. The novel opens with two boys Slim and Red making friends. Red has found the aliens and shown them to Slim, but it is not immediately clear (neither to them nor to the reader what it is they really found). However, there are some clever hints that make sense in retrospective

"Slim!"

The call was a hoarse, urgent whisper, and the youngster bounded to the open window.

Slim wasn't his real name, but the new friend he had met the day before had needed only one look at his slight figure to say, "You're Slim." He added, "I'm Red."

Red wasn't his real name, either, but its appropriateness was obvious. They were friends instantly with the quick unquestioning friendship of young ones not yet quite in adolescence, before even the first stains of adulthood began to make their appearance.

Slim cried, "Hi, Red!" and waved cheerfully, still blinking the sleep out of himself.

Red kept to his croaking whisper, "Quiet! You want to wake somebody?"

Slim noticed all at once that the sun scarcely topped the low hills in the east, that the shadows were long and soft, and that the grass was wet.

Slim said, more softly, "What's the matter?"

Red only waved for him to come out.

Slim dressed quickly, gladly confining his morning wash to the momentary sprinkle of a little lukewarm water. He let the air dry the exposed portions of his body as he ran out, while bare skin grew wet against the dewy grass.

Red said, "You've got to be quiet. If Mom wakes up or Dad or your Dad or even any of the hands then it'll be 'Come on in or you'll catch your death of cold.'"

He mimicked voice and tone faithfully, so that Slim laughed and thought that there had never been so funny a fellow as Red.

Slim said, eagerly, "Do you come out here every day like this, Red? Real early? It's like the whole world is just yours, isn't it, Red? No one else around and all like that." He felt proud at being allowed entrance into this private world.

Red stared at him sidelong. He said carelessly, "I've been up for hours. Didn't you hear it last night?"

"Hear what?"

"Thunder."

"Was there a thunderstorm?" Slim never slept through a thunderstorm.

"I guess not. But there was thunder. I heard it, and then I went to the window and it wasn't raining. It was all stars and the sky was just getting sort of almost gray. You know what I mean?"

Slim had never seen it so, but he nodded.

"So I just thought I'd go out," said Red.

They walked along the grassy side of the concrete road that split the panorama right down the middle all the way down to where it vanished among the hills. It was so old that Red's father couldn't tell Red when it had been built. It didn't have a crack or a rough spot in it.

Red said, "Can you keep a secret?"

"Sure, Red. What kind of a secret?"*

* quoted from Project Gutenberg 

"Everyone thinks so. You ask anyone. Anyway, I found animals this morning. Two of them."

"And you've got them?"

"Sure. That's the secret. Are you telling?"

"Of course not."

"Okay. I've got them in the barn. Do you want to see them?"

They were almost at the barn; its huge open door black. Too black. They had been heading there all the time. Slim stopped in his tracks.

He tried to make his words casual. "Are they big?"

"Would I fool with them if they were big? They can't hurt you. They're only about so long. I've got them in a cage."

They were in the barn now and Slim saw the large cage suspended from a hook in the roof. It was covered with stiff canvas.

Red said, "We used to have some bird there or something. Anyway, they can't get away from there. Come on, let's go up to the loft."

They clambered up the wooden stairs and Red hooked the cage toward them.

Slim pointed and said, "There's sort of a hole in the canvas."

Red frowned. "How'd that get there?" He lifted the canvas, looked in, and said, with relief, "They're still there."

"The canvas appeared to be burned," worried Slim.

"You want to look, or don't you?"

Slim nodded slowly. He wasn't sure he wanted to, after all. They might be—

But the canvas had been jerked off and there they were. Two of them, the way Red said. They were small, and sort of disgusting-looking. The animals moved quickly as the canvas lifted and were on the side toward the youngsters. Red poked a cautious finger at them.

"Watch out," said Slim, in agony.

"They don't hurt you," said Red. "Ever see anything like them?"

"No."

"Can't you see how a circus would jump at a chance to have these?"

"Maybe they're too small for a circus."

Red looked annoyed. He let go the cage which swung back and forth pendulum-fashion. "You're just trying to back out, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not. It's just—"

"They're not too small, don't worry. Right now, I've only got one worry."

"What's that?"

"Well, I've got to keep them till the circus comes, don't I? I've got to figure out what to feed them meanwhile."

The cage swung and the little trapped creatures clung to its bars, gesturing at the youngsters with queer, quick motions—almost as though they were intelligent. *


WHITE DRESS WITH RUFFLES , EARTHY TONED STRAW BAG, WHITE SANDALS


THE PLOT AND THE PLOT TWISTS
The plot is simple. A ship of rather small aliens crashes Earth and all of them (but two) are killed in the crash. The aliens' motivation for visiting Earth is all business. The aliens had made telepathic contact with one astronomer (prior to crash) and still have reason to believe a mutually profitable collaboration with Earth dwellers shall follow. However, after the crash the two remaining aliens are captured by a boy Red who mistakes them for animals and plans to keep them as a circus attractions. Despite being armed, the aliens do not want to use their weapons to hurt Red because they recognize him for what he is- a young of an intelligent species. 

THE TWO  ALIENS BEING HELD CAPTIVE BY TWO BOYS BUT UNABLE TO FREE THEMSELVES

Aliens remain held captive by these two boys: Slim and Red (who have made friends and sworn to secrecy).  The reason why Slim is at Red's father estate is because Slim's and Red's father have work to do- and that would be to greet the aliens together. Slim's astronomer father stays at the country estate of an important industrialist (Red's father) and tells him of his telepathic contact with space aliens who want to do trade. The two men have opposing views about the alien collaboration. One of them thinks the change and the trade will bring Earth good, the other is more cautious. However, neither of them doubts the existence of aliens. They have no idea their sons are holding the aliens captive, though. 

THE FATHERS OF THE BOYS ARE LOOKING FOR ALIENS
When they do not hear from the aliens, the astronomer and the industrialist go out looking for them. The question is: will the adults find the ship? If so, will they connect the dots and keep looking? Will the boys keep the aliens alive or accidentally kill or starve them? Will the aliens turn on the boys? Will there be contact established? How will it all end? There are quite a few plot twists in this one. They might seem predictable and seen before, but that is only because writers like Asimov have been copied so often. At the time this story was published, these topics were very fresh so the plot twists wouldn't have been obvious to the reader.

VERY INTERESTING PORTRAYAL OF FIRST CONTACT AND ALIENS
The writing in  this book is so simple and yet so brilliant. The portray of aliens was well done. I like how the author made it seem that it would be impossible for humans to recognize aliens as anything but animals without closer inspection. This was Stanislaw Lem's view as well, in his novel Eden the scientist assume aliens to be some kind of animals and only on closer inspection do they realize they are intelligent. I think we humans are so used to being the most intelligent life form on this planet that contact with another -equally intelligent spices would be a great shock to us. Lem's writing was even more pessimistic on this point, though. Asimov realized that contact with alien civilization would be difficult and challenging, but he still believed it to be possible. Hence, the more humorous and cheerful approach to the subject of first contact. Lem believed we wouldn't not be able to efficiently communicate with a completely alien life form, or at least that is the belief he showed in a number of his works. 

CONCLUSION
This plot of Youth might seem a bit predictable now that these themes have been explored a number of times, but the ideas were very fresh at the time the book was published. The book lacks feminine perspective, but I don't think it's a big deal because some writers just write what they know. It is better to leave female characters out or on the margins then to write them badly. I really did enjoy this vintage science fiction novelette. I recommend it to fans of Asimov and science fiction. 

OZZ DRESS, VINTAGE FABRIC PINK BELT, DIY BROOCH, BLACK BAG

Thank you for reading and stopping by. Have a lovely weekend!


Comments

  1. I like that blouse with the jeans and your hobo bag and the lilac dress is so pretty on you! It sounds like an interesting story and it's good you enjoyed it, although sci fi isn't a genre I read.

    Hope you are having a lovely weekend :) We had a fun day at the playground yesterday.

    Away From The Blue

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  2. I love that you really do shop your closet Ivana!! And you read the most diverse books which is so impressive.
    XOOX
    Jodie
    www.jtouchofstyle.com

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  3. He is a classic writer, but I haven't read this one. Great photos :-D

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  4. Mi sono sempre piaciute le novelle di Isaac Asimov e i tuuoi look sono sempre di grande ispirazione!
    Kisses, Paola.

    Expressyourself


    My Instagram

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  5. Lovely outfits! Thanks for sharing this selection. Yes, Asimov is a classic. Happy Sunday.

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  6. Wonderful post! Thanks for including some fashion with this retro science fiction piece. Hope you are having a beautiful and restful weekend.

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  7. I haven't read any sci-fi since I was in my twenties. It's a genre I've somehow grown out of. My Dad was a fan, so I started reading the sci-fi books on the parental bookshelves, which definitely included Asimov. I know you are a big fan of his, and I'm glad to hear this novella did not disappoint. I also love how you are shopping your closet time and time again. I should definitely take a leaf out of your book! xxx

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  8. Unfortunately, it's not available in Polish, but I also do not like this literary genre

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    Replies
    1. Asimov's works were translated to Polish but if you don't like the genre, you probably won't enjoy it.

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  9. These three looks are so cool but I definitely love the jeans of the first look, they have a kinda 80's vibe that I adore! xx

    https://fallingforvogue.blogspot.com/

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  10. You look great with these lovely outfit !

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  11. I wonder if Asimov meant this as a parallel story about racism/the treatment of African-Americans? So many sf writers use the "aliens, they're just like us" plot device to delve into this topic. I enjoyed your review - I also find that many of these "old school" sf male writers just do not know what to do with women characters, the exception being Robert A. Heinlein, whose wife read all of his work and was his initial editor - because of that, I've always found his female characters to be more dimensional and powerful (although his writing is often 'of its time' and is sexist still).

    Love that purple dress!

    ReplyDelete
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