Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Azazel

Azazel: Fantasy Stories
© 1988 Isaac Asimov
221 pages


George isn't an ordinary fellow, for in times past his ancestors possessed the arcane knowledge required to summon creatures -- demons? aliens? -- from another plane of existence.  The best George can manage personally is a tiny little fellow named Azazel, who -- demonic appearance aside -- conscientiously refuses to use his great powers to help George out.  Azazel will do favors for other people at George's request, purely for philanthropic reasons. Too bad these favors always result in extraordinary trouble for the beneficiaries!   Azazel collects twelve stories featuring the attempts of George to help his friends out,  all of which backfire -- either for George's friend or George himself, since he invariably has an angle for putting his ethereal pocket pal to work.

The misfires are never predictable;  sometimes they're simplistic, caused by George not phrasing his request wisely enough;   other times, the fulfilled wishes simply produce unexpected results.  One woman who wishes to become more beautiful destroys her engagement after the transformation renders her vain and less interested in her homely finance;  one man's favorite singer gives a performance so incredible that all other music is ruined for him forever.  Other times, the wish succeeds brilliantly but it is George's covert desires that are stymied. To a friend suffering from writers' block on a novel, George promises him boundless creativity...if the friend will sign over 50% of his future novel earnings. The wish comes true and the man writes brilliantly -- but not novels, and thus no revenue for George!

 This is light fiction, mere amusement -- but I find Asimov a very companionable writer, one whose offhand comments match my taste for humorous storytelling, and for that reason I hunted a copy of this book down and brought it with me on my weeklong tour of New Mexico.

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