Monday, May 7, 2012

The Early Asimov

The Early Asimov, or, Eleven Years of Trying
© 1972 Isaac Asimov
400-500 pages

Long-time readers know of my enormous affection for the good doctor Asimov; imagine my delight in finding this anthology of over two dozen of his earlier and previously uncollected works, from his first eleven years as an author. These were stories written in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, when young Asimov worked in a candy store to pay for college, later doing civilian work for the army before being drafted. It's a splendid collection for an Asimov fan like myself. Although the stories are rougher than one would expect (judging by his usual standard), seeing him write outside the conventions established by his adult self is fascinating. Aliens abound, for one thing: it's a rare story in this collection which doesn't see Earthmen fighting against wicked Martians, or putting off Venusian rebellions. Asimov has maintained in other works that he disliked the antagonistic relationship editors demanded to exist between humans and aliens, so he established his own human-only universe. His generous use of alien life here hints at the stories' lack of scientific polish; although simple datedness is easy to understand, often Asimov should have known better. Even the science of his day ruled out the possibility of extant life on Mars, and he acknowledges this in his extensive commentary, which knits the book together and makes it semi-autobiographical. The collection also includes his legendary essay, "The Endochronic Properties of Sublimated Thiotimoline", which satirized the language of academic articles.

It is available in either a three-volume set, or this complete edition.

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