Tag Archives: isaac asimov

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by William Dufris; 15 hrs 47 min on 15 discs): This time around, Baley is sent to Daneel’s home planet of Aurora, the first and most arrogant of the spacer worlds, to solve the “murder” of Jander the robot. Along the way he must deal with his own crippling agoraphobia, the Auroran prejudice against Earthmen, and foreign sexual mores. That last bit was the most unexpected: the lengthy and detailed discussions of sex and sexual practices, compared and contrasted among Earth, Aurora, and Solaria. I had trouble not thinking about Asimov’s doofy muttonchops, turning these passages even more surreal. It was certainly a well-written book with lots of interesting speculation into human societies, but it is easily my least favorite in the series. That said, it was particularly fascinating to read this after reading Foundation, as this was clearly a sort of prequel to it, from the talk of a galactic human empire to the introduction of psychohistory as a field of study. Taking into account the references to Susan Calvin (of I, Robot fame), I start to wonder just how many of Asimov’s books take place in the same universe.

A note on the audio: There isn’t nearly enough Daneel in this book, and I think Dufris’s excellent voice acting made me miss him all the more.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by William Dufris; 7 hrs 40 min on 6 discs): This time around, Lije Baley is sent to solve a murder case on another planet. I just want to note that sometimes dated SF can be really amusing. In this case, I was entertained by the notion that the “expressway” between DC and NYC takes ten hours. But that’s neither here nor there. As an Earthman, Baley is used to crowded underground cities and always being surrounded by people, be it in the cafeterias for meals or in the public restrooms. The planet Solaria is the opposite: the planet is home to only 20,000 people, each of whom has a private estate and lives more or less as what we would consider a recluse. While three-dimensional holographic “viewing” is a perfectly acceptable means of being social, being in the physical presence of another human being has become thought of as utterly distasteful. Most of the story deals with the society itself, coupled with Baley’s struggles with agoraphobia. I was fascinated by all the different characters, even if the murder mystery felt somewhat artificial. After all, I was more interested in the science fiction part of the story, and in that respect Asimov never lets me down.

A note on the audio: Dufris continues to entertain. I especially love the dichotomy between gruffly emotional Baley and ever-placid Daneel.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by William Dufris; 7 hrs 48 min on 6 discs): Lije Baley is a regular plainclothesman in far-future New York City sent to investigate a murder of a Spacer (that is, a person born on one of the many colonized planets). His partner is R. Daneel Olivaw, a disconcertingly human-like robot. Baley is a product of his environment, and like many of his displaced fellow humans he distrusts and dislikes robots in general. Though the social differences between Earthmen, Spacers, and the reader’s own society are the main draw of the book, the story itself is very much a 1950s-style detective story. If you like hard SF, you probably already know to read Asimov, but if you’d like your futurism with some mystery mixed in, this is a good place to start.

A note on the audio: Dufris is an excellent voice actor. Sure, his female characters are more or less in hysterics all of the time, but that’s how it was written. And how most women in 1950s hard-boiled detective novels were written as well.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation by Isaac Asimov (unabridged audiobook read by Scott Brick): It is rare that I read a story set so far in the future that Earth is practically a myth. This basically means that you can set up human society to be whatever you wish, without the burdens of the history known by the reader. In this case, the human race has grown into a massive galactic empire. Hari Seldon is a prominent psychohistorian, who uses his studies of the past to predict the future. Specifically, he predicts the collapse of the empire, and claims to be creating a great Encyclopedia Galactica to save all the knowledge of man in order to ease the transition after the fall. Frightened by the idea of civil unrest in response to this foretelling, Seldon and his people are exiled to Terminus, a planet far out on the rim of the galaxy. The rest of the book chronicles the next two centuries or so. Much of it was a little slow, since I’m not much for politics, but I very much enjoyed Mayor Hardin. I have the second book in the trilogy on my shelf, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. On the one hand, I’m not in any hurry to return to the universe of Foundation, but on the other, the longer I wait the less I’ll remember about Foundation, which will probably make Foundation and Empire more difficult to follow. Heh.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Weekly Geeks

WG 2009-39 is about book recommendations. To be perfectly honest, most of the book recommendations I follow come in the form of books literally shoved into my hands by fellow BC in DC members. We get passionate sometimes, and more than once I’ve shown passing interest in a book, only to get a glowing “OMG you must read this”-style exclamation from whoever brought it. More often than not, I give it a try. And am rarely disappointed. I’ve come across several great authors this way, including Simon Singh, Neil Gaiman, and Catherine M. Petrini. Basically if a book looks interesting, regardless of genre, I’ll give it a shot.

Sometimes the books I read are a random find, such as the infrequent occasion when I catch a BookCrossing book in the wild, or if I happen to win it in a contest. I usually have a large number of to-be-read (TBR) books on my shelves, so it is rare indeed for me to finish my current book and have to go searching for something else to read. If I do, though, there’s always The Book Seer, Literature-Map, and Debbie’s Idea, all of which are fine tools for discovering new books and authors.

The official assignment this week involves reader participation. Since the vast majority of my readership exists solely in my head, I may have to play music to drown out the crickets, but hey, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But anyway. The assignment is to ask for recommendations, and give my own, both within a single genre. So I’m going to choose science fiction/fantasy (SFF) as my genre. Some people may protest and tell me that’s two genres, but I beg to differ. First, several popular authors write books that are difficult to categorize as one or the other (e.g., Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Stasheff), and as Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

First off, I’d love to hear your recommendations. I don’t mean stuff that necessarily aligns with my established tastes, I mean great SFF books in general. What are some titles/authors I simply should not miss?

And now for my recommendations, again in SFF. The WG page suggests I start with something like “If you’re looking for…” which could just mean narrowing it down by genre, but I’m going to narrow it down a little further. So here goes:

If you’re looking for a rowdy yarn set in the far future… Mike Resnick is your man. Most of his books are set within the future chronology laid out in Birthright: The Book of Man, but my personal favorites are Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future and the Penelope Bailey trilogy.

If you’re looking for a beautiful fairy tale… then march right up to Neil Gaiman and Stardust. This is one of the few books I’ve kept and intend to reread. I hear Neverwhere is his best novel, but I haven’t read it yet (though I do have a copy on my shelf).

If you’re looking for a powerful tale of children in an adult world… I cannot recommend Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card highly enough.

If you’re looking for hilarious satire in the guise of SFF… then you want definitely to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

If you’re looking for time travel… The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is your best bet. There are other notables in this sub-genre, but Wells tops them all IMHO.

If you’re looking for good YA SFF… I really enjoyed the Borderlands books, especially Elsewhere and its sequel Never Never by Will Shetterly.

If you’re looking for great concept stories… Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov are all excellent choices for expanding your horizons.

And finally, if you’re looking for mythology in the modern world… you’re sure to get a kick out of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

So there you have it.  I’m sure I’ll missed a bunch, but this is a good start.  What glaring omissions do you spot on this page? Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?

Most importantly: enjoy! :)

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