Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Isaac Asimov - The Complete Stories Volume 1

Isaac Asimov is famous for his visionary science fiction works such as the Foundation series that take on a future galaxy side humanity and its search for peace and order as well as progress, and for his Robotic laws that seem like natural constraints on the actions of robotics experts. Besides these however, Asimov also wrote a number of short stories, and they find place in the 2 Volume Short Stories collection. This article takes on the first volume of this collection; the stories are an incredible mix of societal issues, future trends, and so on. There are some very interesting stories in this collection, and some that were somewhat not so interesting to me.
The best story of this collection, and one that appeals to me the most, is a story called 'The Last Question'. This is a story that takes on a question, moves it along the ages, never answering it, while projecting the technological advances in the ages that follow until you end up in an age ten trillion years in the future, when the entire universe is dying; and then you get the story of the creation mixed up in this answer 'Let there be light'. This story, while being a pretty short story, and without much complexity, is about the best blend of science and religion that I have seen.
There are numerous other stories that are particularly interesting stories, with the first one, 'The Dead Past', being a very direct reminder about the dangers of tinkering with some things that should not have happened, such as creating a machine capable of looking into the past. 'Franchise' talks about a future dealing with ability of machines to interfere in the political process that seems like fantasy, but it could have seemed realistic at some point of time. 'Gimmicks 3' is a delightful story about dealing with having sold your soul, and the way to get around that. 'Kid Stuff' is another interesting story about dealing with non-human creatures.
Some of the stories are more complicated such as 'The living space' about alternate probability patterns of existence. And we do have stories related to robotics, 'Satisfaction guaranteed' is a very interesting story dealing with robotics and human interactions, including the natures of self-confidence and jealousy. 'Hell-Fire' is a very short story about the dangers of atomic weapons, similary 'The Last Thump' is about the dangers arising from atomic weapons. 'Jokester' is a story that is very worrying, dealing with the problems about the existence of jokes and whether they are just a lab experiment. 'Profession' is a very moving story dealing with the need for future societies to encourage people to have new ideas for development of society; one reads this story, looks at the present, and is very happy that our society did not develop in such a manner (I would seriously recommend that this should be a story that should be part of general reading).
There are other stories such as detective story that would not be out of place in today's stories - "I'm in Marsport without Hilda". Asimov also wrote a few stories on the innate nature of humanity to fight wars and yet maintain their overall nature of independence, such as 'The Gentle Vultures'. Asimov also could not really conceptualize the age of the personal computer, imaging the existence of centralized massive computing resources, and in the midst of this single large computer of his called 'Multivac', he wrote a story about the stress of all the troubles of the world on this computer, and the incredible urge of the computer to terminate itself, called 'All the troubles of this world'. The story ends in this line, 'I want to die'.

No comments: