Monday, July 12, 2010

Asimov, Isaac (Asimov's Mysteries)

A Goodreads friend reviewed this, and it immediately piqued my interest because it is sci-fi and it is mystery and the two together are really hard to do. Up to this point, I had only read Larry Niven's attempts at this (best compilation of these: The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton) and was quite satisfied with his results. I figured it was time to try another sci-fi grand master and see what I got.

1. Asimov is not Niven. He did not write at the same time, and while they both have strange misogynistic leanings in their writing, Niven is a breath of fresh air compared.
2. Niven can think outside the box. Each of Asimov's stories in this collection, excepting the last one ("The Billiard Ball"), are written according to a template: problem, hints as to the source of the problem, some extra blather if you're lucky, solution. They do not deviate from this path, and by the time you've gotten to story #3, you're already bored.
3. Each of these stories is based on some piece of hard science. Most of these stories' solutions are based on when and where that piece of hard science is different from usual (e.g., when you're not on Earth, it acts like...)
4. "The Billiard Ball" is special because you may not see the solution in advance. The hard science used is delightfully futuristic, even in today's world, so that may be why it works better than the others.

Just read the last one, then, and maybe "Marooned off Vesta" and "Anniversary" if you want to see how Asimov was much better in his younger days. (Interesting fact: "Marooned off Vesta" is his very first published story. He was 18.)

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