Science Fiction (Sidelined Asimov Stuff)
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My "Isaac Asimov" Book Reviews and Observations (2004)
Most of the information comes from dust jackets or things I noticed while
re-reading the books in 2004.
Locate rare and out-of-print books:
Book-0 of Asimov's 15-book "boot up"
of Eternity (1955)
One hardcore Asimov fan told me this book was listed before all the others in
a recommended list published in Asimov's SF Magazine
- This book employs a lot of time travel to implement the
social engineering of humanity but somehow Asimov seems to make it work
- The first seventeen chapters are a good read but good turns into great
in eighteenth and last chapter which is titled "The Beginning of Infinity"
Here we are presented with a choice to stay with a conservative Eternity or
replace it with a progressive Infinity
- It is my belief (in 2014) that Asimov wanted to show us "that the
nudges given to humanity by Hari Seldon's time vault in the
Foundation Trilogy" were preferable to "the direct meddling by
the employees of Eternity". The Hari Seldon method
gives each one of us much more free will while dispensing with time
travel paradoxes and social engineering.
- When you think about it, an author's publications are a form of
one-way time travel or communication. Like Seldon, Asimov stories speak
to humanity long after his death.
- The very last act of meddling involves moving the discovery of
nuclear energy from the 30th century to the 20th
which also leaves the Earth's crust slightly radioactive; and now I am
recalling a little speech give by one R. Daneel Olivaw about how this
fact led to humanity leaving Earth
- "psycho-mathematics" first appears on page 13
- Time-line violations aside, Asimov was aware of the navigation
difficulties in travelling to a future-or-previous time on a moving Earth
(see quote from p.233 below)
- "Will you petter feel if I in your yourself dialect should speech,
poy?" on page 30
(possible translation: "will you feel better if I
speak to you in your own dialect, boy?)
- p.233: But the Earth moves about the Sun, and the Sun moves about
the Galactic Center and the Galaxy moves too"
- p.248: Any system which allows men to choose their own future, will
end by choosing safety and mediocrity, and in such a Reality the stars
are out of reach"
- A repackaging of nine previously published short stories presented as
the memoirs of robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin
- Every modern citizen should read chapters 8 + 9 ("Evidence"
and "The Evitable Conflict"). If I had any control over the matter,
these two chapters would be required reading in secondary school since they
are more important to modern human culture than anything written by
William Shakespeare who I also value highly. Why
would I say this?
- Lessons found in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" teaches
humanity that anti-Semitism is a disease to be avoided. Modern teachers
use this to teach tolerance.
- Chapter-8: Although written under the guise of anti-robot bias, various Asimov
biographies indicate that
Evidence was inspired by the author's
exposure to anti-Semitism during the second world war. The idea of a
lawyer wishing to avoid death penalties shows us what humans can aspire
to when they think a little more while emoting a little less. To me this
is "icing on the cake".
- Chapter-9: The very brief history lesson found in Asimov's
Conflict teaches that wars are a complete waste of time. It also
teaches us to repress our emotions where politics and religion are
concerned. It also deals with human overpopulation and the effects of
Chapters (some lists count the introduction as chapter #1)
- Introduction (1950)
- The year is 2057 and Dr. Susan Calvin, chief robopsychologist
(programmer?) of "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation" is about
to retire so a reporter is about to spend three days interviewing her
for a "Pop Ed" article. These stories are her memoirs.
- Chapter 1 -
- The story centers around the technophobia that surrounds robots, and
how it is misplaced. Almost all previously published science fiction
stories featuring robots followed the theme 'robot turns against
creator'; Asimov has consistently held the belief that the Frankenstein
complex was a misplaced fear, and the majority of his works attempted to
provide examples of the help that robots could provide humanity.
- Chapter 2 -
- problems pop up with mining robots deployed on the planet Mercury.
US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and Mike Donavan, are on site to
solve the problem.
- this is the very first story where we learn about Asimov's
3 Laws of
- Chapter 3 -
- Another story involving US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and
- QT (a.k.a. Cutie) doesn't believe he was assembled by the humans
currently in charge of "Solar Station 5" (robots are not allowed on
inhabited worlds so are manufactured in pieces on Earth then assembled
- in order to come to grips with this dilemma, QT reasons that there
must be a supreme creator for both men and machines
- Chapter 4 -
Catch That Rabbit
- Another story involving US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and
- problems pop up with DV-5 (Dave) mining robots deployed in the
- DV-5s have a personal initiative circuit which allow them to manage
other worker robots but computational overload causes a conflict with
the "3 laws of robotics"
- Chapter 5 -
- Through a fault in manufacturing, a robot, RB-34 (Herbie), is
created that has the ability to read minds. While the roboticists at
U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men are trying to analyze what happened and
why, the robot tells them what other people are thinking. But the First
Law still applies to this robot, and so it deliberately lies when
necessary to avoid hurting their feelings and to make people happy,
especially in terms of romance. However, by lying, it is hurting them
anyway. When it is confronted with this fact by Susan Calvin (to whom it
told a lie that was particularly painful to her when it was shown to be
false), the robot experiences an irresolvable logical conflict and
- Chapter 6 -
Little Lost Robot
- At Hyper Base, a military research station on an asteroid,
scientists are working to develop the hyperspace drive - a theme that is
explored and developed in several of Asimov's stories and mentioned in
the Empire and Foundation books. One of the researchers, Gerald Black,
loses his temper, swears at an NS-2 (Nestor) robot and tells the robot
to "....go lose yourself." Obeying the order literally, it hides itself.
It is then up to US Robots' Chief Robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin, and
Mathematical Director Peter Bogert, to find it. They even know exactly
where it is: in a room with 62 other physically identical robots.
- Chapter 7 -
Escape! (also known as
"Paradoxical Escape", 1947)
- "Consolidated Robots" (a competitor of US Robots and Mechanical Men)
burn out their master computer while trying to solve a problem during
the design of an inter-stellar engine (a.k.a. "warp drive"). So they
approach "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation" with an offer of
- Should "U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation" risk the mental
health of their own computer?
- Question: If one and one half chickens lays one and one half eggs in
one and one half days, then how many eggs will 9 chickens lay in 9 days?
The Brain answered "fifty four"
- US Robot field engineers, Gregory Powel and Mike Donavan are coerced
into taking the new ship for a test ride.
- Note: it would appear that the development of warp travel in
this chapter is the basis for the expansion of humanity described in
Asimov's "Foundation and Empire" series
- Chapter 8 -
- Stephen Byerley is a lawyer, a successful, middle-aged prosecutor, a
humanitarian who never presses for the death penalty. He runs for Mayor
of New York City, but Francis Quinn's political machine smears him,
claiming that he is a humanoid robot (a machine built to look like a
human being). If this is true, the "Frankenstein complex" hysteria will
ruin his campaign, as of course, only human beings are allowed to run
for office. Quinn approaches U.S. Robots and Mechanical Men corporation,
the world's only supplier of positronic robot brains, and attempts to
persuade them that Byerley must be a robot. No one has ever seen Byerley
eat or sleep, Quinn reports.
- When confronted, Byerley responds with "I...I...a robot?"
(hence the name of the book)
- Chapter 9 -
- excerpt from page 200:
Consider relatively modern times. There were the series
of dynastic wars in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, when the most
important question in Europe was whether the houses of Hapsburg or
Valois-Bourbon were to rule the continent. It was one of those 'inevitable
conflicts', since Europe could obviously not exist half one and
half the other.
Except that it did, and no war ever wiped out the one
and established the other, until the rise of a new social atmosphere in
France in 1789 tumbled first the Bourbons and, eventually, the Hapsburgs
down the dusty chute to history's incinerator.
And in those same centuries there were the more barbarous religious
wars, which revolved about the important question of whether Europe was
to be Catholic or Protestant. Half and half she could not be. It was 'inevitable'
that the sword decide. -- Except that it didn't. In England, a new
industrialism was growing, and on the continent, a new nationalism. Half
and half Europe remains to this day and no one cares much.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there was a cycle of
nationalist-imperialist wars, when the most important question in the
world was which portions of Europe would control the economic resources
and consuming capacity of which portions of non-Europe. All non-Europe
obviously could not exist part English and part French and part German
and so on. -- Until the forces of nationalism spread sufficiently, so
that non-Europe ended what all the wars could not, and decided it could
exist quite comfortably all non-European.
And so we have a pattern --
In the twentieth century we started a new cycle of wars -- what
shall I call them? Ideological wars? The emotions of religion applied to
economic systems , rather than to extra-natural ones? Again the wars
were 'inevitable' and this time there were atomic
weapons, so that mankind could no longer live through its torment to the
inevitable wasting away of 'inevitability'. --
And positronic robots came.
They came in time, and, with it and
alongside it, interplanetary travel, -- So it
no longer seemed important whether the world was Adam Smith
or Karl Marx. Neither made very much sense under the
new circumstances. Both had to adapt and they ended almost in the same
"A deus ex machina, then, in a double sense," said
Dr. Calvin dryly.
- So a world wide robot-coordinated economy
was developed which meant that countries would be dissolved and replaced
with informal economic regions:
|The Eastern Region
||China, India, Burma, Indo-China, Indonesia.
|The Tropic Region
||Capital City, Nigeria
||South America north of Argentina, Africa south of the Atlas
Mountains, North America South of the Rio Grande, Arabia, Iran.
|The European Region
||Europe (including Scandinavia & Iceland but not Britain),
Mediterranean Africa and Asia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay.
|The Northern Region
||North America North of the Rio Grande through to Russia (but
minus Europe), Britain, European Russia, Australia, New
|Earth (& Antarctica)
||a kind of UN of "Economic Regions"
- Each economic region is being managed by a Machine or Brain (a large positronic
brain without a robot body; e.g. a "thinking" mainframe computer) which
is governed by the
3 Laws of
- This is the humanity's most peaceful and economically productive
period in history but some people resent being told what to do by
computers so have joined organizations like "Society for Humanity" (an
- Recently, the Brains have made mistakes and some people are
beginning to suspect that the robots (and Brains) are evolving. This
means that the "First Law of Robotics" may have changed! (or the robots
may be interpreting it differently). Click
for more details.
- It seems that Asimov predicted the formation of economic
associations ("free trade zones") which should help tamp down
nationalistic pride. It is too bad that he missed the prediction of
EU (European Economic Community)
- In 1950 it must have made sense that Britain would be part of
the Northern Region. Obviously joint projects like the
relations between Britain and France so today Brits would probably
prefer to be associated with Europe. (oops, I suppose the
vote made a mockery out of that notition)
- Asimov is using 54-million sq mi which is very close to the
total shown on here
but the individual regions to not add up to 54. It is not like
Asimov to make a mistake like this so I wonder if there are some
area has slipped through the cracks.
- Did Asimov actually think that future humans would be able to
control their population and keep it as 3.3 billion because that is
very near the value when this story was first published in 1950.
- Asimov's idea to use computers to optimize human economies sound
somewhat close to this
- Click here for
information about the 2004 movie
I, Robot which was not based upon any of Asimov's stories but was
based upon his characters
Robot Trilogy (a.k.a. Elijah Baley Detective Series)
Caves of Steel
The Naked Sun
- Planet: EARTH
Crisis: Dr. Roj Nemennuh Sarton, the
preeminent roboticist, is murdered in Spacetown
The fragile relationship between Earth and Space depends upon Lije (Elijah)
Baley's speedy solving of the case. But that's not the worst of it. Lije is
paired with investigator R. (for Robot) Daneel Olivaw. And Lije dislikes
robots deeply, almost pathologically.
- In this novel, Isaac Asimov first introduced Elijah Baley and R. Daneel
Olivaw, who would later become his favorite protagonists. They live roughly
three millennia in Earth's future, a time when hyperspace travel has been
discovered, and a few worlds relatively close to Earth have been colonized —
fifty planets known as the "Spacer worlds". The Spacer worlds are rich, have
low population density (average population of one hundred million each), and
use robot labor very heavily. Meanwhile, Earth is overpopulated (with a
total population of eight billion), and strict rules against robots have
been passed. The eponymous "caves of steel" are vast city complexes covered
by huge metal domes, capable of supporting tens of millions each. The New
York City of that era, for example, encompasses present-day New York City,
as well as large tracts of New Jersey.
- The book's central crime is a murder, which takes place before the novel
opens. (This is an Asimovian trademark, which he attributed to his own
squeamishness and John Campbell's advice of beginning as late in the story
as possible.) Roj Nemmenuh Sarton, a Spacer Ambassador, lives in Spacetown,
the Spacer outpost just outside New York City. For some time, he has tried
to convince the Earth government to loosen its anti-robot restrictions. One
morning, he is discovered outside his home, his chest imploded by an energy
blaster. The New York police commissioner charges Elijah with finding the
murderer. Elijah must work with a Spacer partner, a highly advanced robot
who is visually identical to a human, named R. Daneel Olivaw, even though
Elijah, like many Earth residents, has a low opinion of robots. Together,
they search for the murderer and try to avert an interstellar diplomatic
- Population of Earth:
- Humans: 8,000,000,000 (almost all live underground)
- Robots: a minimal number to run the farms; almost all live on the
- Excerpt from page 28: Efficiency had been forced on Earth with
increasing population. Two billion people, three billion, even
five billion could be supported by the planet by progressive lowering of the
standard of living. When the population reaches eight billion,
however, semi starvation becomes too much like a real thing. A radical
change had to take place in man's culture, particularly when it turned out
that the Outer Worlds (which had merely been Earth's colonies a thousand
years before) were tremendously serious in their immigration restrictions.
- So Earthers created Cities (the capital "C" means we are talking about a
machine version of a "city") and robots. While most people accepted Cities,
a small group of people known as "the Medievalists" were opposed to them.
- Baley had read somewhere once that Spacers had no religion, but
substituted, instead, a cold and phlegmatic intellectualism raised to the
heights of a philosophy.
- Excerpt from page 110: Earthmen are all so coddled, so enwombed in their
imprisoning caves of steel (under ground apartments), that
they are caught [on Earth] forever.
- Malthusian: of or pertaining to the theories of Thomas. R. Malthus,
which state that population tends to increase faster, at a geometrical rate,
than the means of subsistence, which increases at an arithmetical rate, and
that this will result in an inadequate supply of the goods supporting life
unless war, famine, or disease reduces the population or the increase of
population is checked. Comment: The publications of Malthus
had a profound influence upon Charles Darwin.
- The character Dr. Gerrigel uses the term "Asenion" to describe robots
programmed with the Three Laws. The robots in Asimov's stories, being
Asenion robots, are incapable of knowingly violating the Three Laws but, in
principle, a robot in science fiction or in the real world could be
non-Asenion. "Asenion" is a misspelling of the name Asimov which was made by
an editor of the magazine
Planet Stories. Asimov used this obscure variation to
insert himself into The Caves of Steel in much the same way
appeared in Lolita
disguised as "Vivian Darkbloom".
- Speculation about names: Asimov tells us that Lije is short for Elijah
while Jessie is short for Jezebel, and that the names are derived from Old
Testament stories. I have always wondered why the humaniform "Spacer" robot
was named Daneel. The only thing that comes to mind is the Old Testament
story of Daniel.
According to the biblical book, at a young age Daniel was carried off to
Babylon where he became famous for interpreting dreams and rose to become
one of the most important figures in the court. COMMENT: In
this light, Daniel was a bridge between backward Judea and modern Babylon
- Asimov mentions that Terries (humans living on Earth) are engaged in a
C/Fe (pronounced "see-fee") culture clash. "C" represents carbon while "Fe"
represents iron (see
periodical table of
chemical elements). I guess today we would use the phrase C/Si.
of Dawn (1983)
- Planet: SOLARIA
Crisis: Rikaine Delmarre, husband of
the beautiful Gladia, is found brutally murdered while, apparently, attended
by only his robots.
Problem: On Solaria, the few
inhabitants have isolated themselves from one another for so long that they
find direct physical contact with fellow human beings intensely
uncomfortable. By virtue of their programming, robots are incapable of
harming a human being, and cannot permit harm to come to a human. Yet, no
evidence of a murder weapon was found. Who could have done it? How? And why?
- Like its predecessor, The Caves of Steel, it is a whodunit story, in
addition to being science fiction. The book was first published in 1957
after being serialized in Astounding Science Fiction between October and
December 1956. The story arises from the murder of Rikaine Delmarre, a
prominent "fetologist" (fetal scientist, responsible for the operation of
the planetary birthing center reminiscent of those described in Aldous
Huxley's Brave New World) of Solaria, a planet politically hostile to Earth.
Elijah Baley is called in to investigate, at the request of the Solarian
government. He is again partnered with the humaniform robot R. Daneel
Olivaw. Before leaving Earth, he is asked by Earth's government to assess
the Solarian society for weaknesses.
- Population of Solaria:
- Humans: 20,000 maximum (reproduction is enforced by the local
government and immigration is not allowed)
- Robots: 200,000,000 (10,000 robots for every human; robots are used
to exploit this planet's natural resources and manufacture products for
- Asimov tells us that each Solarian robot has a unique shoulder patch
consisting of six-by-six gold-and-silver checkerboard, and "that the number
of possible arrangements would be 236 then, or 70 billion". I
found it strange that he didn't use the phrase "a little less than 70
billion" since the actual number is closer to 68.7 billion :-)
- Planet: AURORA
Crisis: Roboticide: Jander Panell,
one of the two most advanced robots yet assembled - a twin to R. Daneel
Olivaw - is murdered
Problem: Only the gifted roboticist
Han Fastolfe had the means, the motive, and the opportunity to commit the
crime - and Baley must prove him innocent if the overcrowded Earth is ever
to have access to space and the resources it needs.
- The book opens with detective Elijah Baley on Earth, training with his
son and others to tolerate the outside, in spite of their socially ingrained
agoraphobia. He is ordered to go to the police headquarters where he is told
that the Spacer world of Aurora has requested his presence to solve a crime.
He is told that the mind of R. Jander Panell, a humaniform robot identical
to R. Daneel Olivaw, has been destroyed via a mental block—"roboticide", as
Baley later terms it. The robot's inventor, Han Fastolfe, has been
implicated. Fastolfe, who was last seen in The Caves of Steel,
is the best roboticist on Aurora. He has admitted that he is the only person
with the skill to have done it, although he denies doing it. Fastolfe is
also a prominent member of the Auroran political faction that favors Earth.
Implication in the crime threatens his political career; therefore, it is
politically expedient that he be exonerated.
- Population of Aurora:
- Humans: 200 million maximum (reproduction is enforced by the local
government and immigration is restricted)
- Robots: 10 billion (50 robots for every human; every human possesses
at least one robot as a personal servant; most robots are used in the
areas of: farms, mines, factories, space)
- Aurora was initially named New Earth but since this was the first extra
Spacer world represented "the dawn of a new age" they changed the name to
Aurora (which is the roman god of Dawn). So the title really means "The
Robots of Aurora"
- Notable changes in Asimov's writing:
- Asimov is now using the metric system (but metric time is only used
in the 50 off-world colonies; 10 metric hours a day; 100 metric minutes
per hour; 100 metric seconds per minute = 100,000 metric seconds per day
compared to our 86,400 seconds per day)
- Asimov now speaks about robot programming (earlier works only spoke
of robot psychologists)
- Asimov now mentions that smoking tobacco is banned in all off-world
colonies but still allowed on Earth (this might be "one" reason why
Earthers have such a short lifetime compared to Spacers
- Notable connections to other books:
- Dr. Han Fastolfe:
- mentions that of all the 50 "spacer worlds", only Aurora had
come closest to implementing the Three Laws of
as the Three Laws of Humanics.
- speaks of his intention to possibly create a new science called
Psychohistory (Foundation Trilogy)
- mentions the legends of:
- Susan Calvin and a not-so-truthful "mind reading" robot
(Story of "Liar!" found in "I, Robot")
- Andrew Martin (Bicentennial Man)
- General comments
- Robots on Earth only have a single name (R. Sammy, R. Geronimo)
while Spacer robots have two (R. Daneel Olivaw, R. Giskard Reventlov, R.
Jander Panell, R. Ernett Second (introduced in Robots and Empire))
- There are only two humaniform robots in existence at this time:
Daneel Olivaw and Jander Panell.
- Dr. Fastolf tells us that humaniform robot bodies were developed in
order to improve positronic brains
Fourth book of the Robot Trilogy :-) (not part of the Elijah Baley Detective
- Asimov says to read this one after Robots of Dawn
- From the 1985 hard cover dust jacket: [snip]
For it not only presents the thrilling sequel to the best-selling "The
Robots of Dawn", but also ingeniously interweaves al three of Asimov's
classic series: "Robot", "Foundation", and "Empire". [snip] Two hundred
years have passed since "The Robots of Dawn" and Elijah Baley, the beloved
hero of the Earth-people, is dead. The future of the Universe is at a
crossroads. Though the forces of the sinister Spacers are weakened, Dr.
Keldon Amadiro has never forgotten - or forgiven - his humiliating defeat at
the hands of Elijah. Now, with vengeance burning in his heart, he is more
determined than ever to bring about the total annihilation of planet Earth.
But Amadiro has not counted on the equally determined Lady Gladia. Devoted
to (the memory of) Elijah Baley, the Auroran beauty has taken up the legacy
of her fallen lover, vowing to stop the Spacers at any cost. With her two
robot companions, Daneel and Giskard, she prepares to set into motion a
daring and dangerous plan... a plan whose success - or failure - will
forever seal the fate of Earth and all who live there. [snip]
- excerpt from page 66: Daneel said, "The picture
you draw is attractive. It would make Partner Elijah proud of us if, as you
say, we have accomplished that. 'Robots and Empire'
Elijah would say and perhaps he would clap me on the shoulder. -- And yet,
as I said, I am uneasy friend Giskard.
- excerpt from page 186: If emotions are few and
reasons are many, the behavior of a crowd can be more easily predicted than
the behavior of one person can. And that, in turn, means that if the laws
are to be developed that enable the current of history the be predicted,
then one must deal with the large populations, the larger the better. That
might itself be the First Law of Psychohistory, the key to
the study of
- Notable connections to other books:
- Under Secretary of Energy, Sophia Quintana, mentions the legend of
robot-politician Stephen Byerley (I, Robot)
More Robot Stories
of Robots (1964)
Bicentennial Man (short story, 1975)
Robot Visions (1990)
- 21 more short stories
- In 2008-02-xx I purchased a good-quality hard-cover copy via
- it was sold to me by a London England book seller who purchased it from
the HM Maze Political Prison
near Belfast Northern Ireland which was closed in
So now I can't stop picturing Irish political prisoners sitting around
their cells, during
The Troubles, reading about a better life in Asimov's (usually) utopian sci-fi
- a few of the AI stories are about robots; one which includes "Robot
Dreams" which is about Susan Calvin's (U S Robots and Mechanical Men Inc.)
discovery of a robot with rather disturbing dreams
- other AI stories seem to be about mainframe computers usually with a name
similar to "multivac"
- two of the stories "Does a Bee Care?" (1957) and "Spell My
Name with an S" (1958) seem to contain alien-contact themes also found
in "2001: A Space Odyssey". I'm not insinuating plagiarism on the
part of Arthur C Clarke. Synchronicity tells us that these themes may have been
part of the late 1950s culture.
- Many of these stories predate computer programming. It is interesting to
note that Asimov labels computer programmers (like Susan Calvin) "robot
psychologists" while supercomputer programmers (like Noel Meyerhof) are
labeled "grand masters".
- The last story is titled "Lest We Remember" and shows, to my satisfaction,
that Asimov was aware of the debate concerning IQ vs. EQ (Intelligence Quotient
vs. Emotional Quotient)
- In 2008-03-xx I purchased a good-quality hard-cover copy via
- A book of 18 short stories mostly about Robots including "Evidence
(I... I... a robot?)" and "The Bicentennial Man". My favorite
story was "The Evitable Conflict" which seems to open the door to
zeroth law of robotics.
- This book also contains 16 thought-provoking essays which should be read
by anyone going into artificial intelligence research or robotics
- Three of the stories (REASON, LIAR!, and EVIDENCE) mention that certain
robot restrictions exist for the Earth. This reminded me that Replicants (Blade
Runner) are illegal on Earth.
- ROBBIE was Asimov's first story and was published in 1940. A rewrite of
this story appeared in "I, ROBOT" in 1950 which includes an encounter
with a teenage SUSAN CALVIN in a New York museum
- ROBOT VISIONS is the best short story I've read in 10 years. It has a very
cool surprise ending.
- People who only get sci-fi from TV might think that James T Kirk was the
first person to trap a robot in a logical dilemma (see the 1968 Star Trek episode
Changeling") but Dr Susan Calvin did it much earlier in the 1941 story
- It has been many years since I read EVIDENCE (which was prior to reading
15-book set) but after rereading it, I now realize that this may be one
of his best short stories. Here are a few of my reasons:
- the paranoia of human impostors amongst us (Blade Runner, Battle Star
Galactica, Terminator, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, etc.). Quotes:
- You are perfectly well acquainted, I suppose, with the strict rules
against the use of robots on inhabited worlds
- You are also aware that all positronic robots are leased, and not
sold; that the Corporation remains the owner and manager of each robot,
and is therefore responsible for the actions of all
- Not the positronic brain, sir. Too many factors are involved in
that, and there is the tightest possible government supervision. (in
BR: one reason why the Tyrell Corporation buildings resemble a pyramid
is so the world government COULD detonate explosives causing the whole
thing to collapse inward upon itself; they would only do this if they
detected a Replicant insurgency)
- "It's been done experimentally by U.S. Robots," he said
reluctantly, "without the addition of a positronic brain, of course.
By using human ova and hormone control, one can grow human flesh and
skin over a skeleton of porous silicone plastics that would defy external
examination. The eyes, the hair, the skin would be really human, not
humanoid. And if you put in a positronic brain, and such other gadgets
as you might desire, you have a humanoid robot."
- the seed of the zeroth law of robotics is explored
during a debate on how a robotic attorney might find it necessary to violate
the first law of robotics by recommending, or supporting,
a human death sentence. (bad for the human, good for humanity)
Galactic Empire Series
Pebble in the Sky
The Stars, Like
The Currents of
- introduction: due to an experimental accident at a university across town, a tailor
steps hundreds of years into the future
- First published in 1950 and republished January-2008 in hardcover for the
- I can see where Asimov developed the ideas for his
- Whether you read this book or not, at least reader the
- Page 131 mentions a three dimensional chess set composed of 8 transparent
levels played with twice the number of pieces. Up until this point I had always
credited Star Trek: TOS with this idea
- a nearly naked man with no memory is found laying in a field
- First published in 1952 and republished in hardcover on May-2009
- This was a very pleasurable read. Even through the story is now 57 years
old, it is still relevant while standing the test of time.
(I do not understand
how Asimov was able to write this story so that is didn't become "dated";
perhaps it has something to do with paying slightly more attention to humanity
and slightly less attention to technology)
- I recently read Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story "The
Adventure of the Six Napoleons" and marveled at the timelessness
it. While reading Asimov's The Currents of Space it became
apparent to me that Isaac Asimov, and his work, will become immortalized
like that of Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Chapter 1: 32-year-old Hari Seldon presents a
paper outlining the possibility of psychohistory; the emperor hears about
this and wants Hari to say "that psychohistory predicted a peaceful and
prosperous future for the galactic empire".
- Chapters 91-94: This book ends with a double plot
twist in these final chapters; obviously readers have different opinions
when it comes entertainment, but it is my opinion that this might be one of
Asimov's best books (provided you previously read the first five books of
the Robot Series")
- This book spans approximately one year of time
Second Foundation Trilogy (commissioned by the Asimov estate after
In the 'Second Foundation' trilogy, a series of books authorized by the
estate of Asimov, a race of Aliens within the Foundation Universe is
mentioned who appear to be in circumstances similar to the Cepheids.
Although they are not mentioned by name, a major character in this story is.
A subplot in
Foundation's Triumph investigates the problem raised in this story.
- Foundation's Fear (1997) by Gregory Benford
- Foundation and Chaos (1998) by Greg Bear
- Foundation's Triumph (1999) by David Brinn
- This book is a continuation of Prelude to Foundation and is
Asimov's last publication before his death in
- Part 1 (Eto Demerzel) - Chapter 1: Eight years
have passed since the end of Prelude to Foundation. Hari Seldon has
just turned 40. Hari and Dors are married and living with their adopted son
Raych. The Emperor finds it impossible to believe that psychohistory is not
ready after 8 years of research
- Part 2 (Cleon I) - Chapter 1: Ten years have
passed since he end of the previous chapter. Hari is ~50 years old. Part 2
spans ~10 years.
- Part 3 (Dors Venabili) - Chapter 1: Hari is ~60
- Part 4 (Wanda Seldon) - Chapter 1: Hari is ~70
- Part 5 (Epilogue) - The only chapter: Hari is 81
years old and is in the middle of preparing a final holo-recording for
posterity. The crisis-holograms were finished one month earlier. This is
followed by Hari's obituary in the Encyclopedia Galactica.
- From the rear dust jacket:
"I could not have written this book forty or thirty, twenty, or even ten
years ago. That is because, piece by piece, over the years I have been
working back to Foundation's source: Hari Seldon. Today I enjoy the gift
of been given time: Experience (some might call it wisdom, but I will
refrain from such self-aggrandizement). For it is only now that I am
able to give my readers Hari Seldon during the most crucial, creative
years of his life.. You see, over time, Hari Seldon has evolved into my
alter ego... In my earlier books Hari Seldon was the stuff of legend -
with Forward the Foundation
I have made him real.
-- Isaac Asimov, June 1991
- In many ways this book is sad because you can sense that the author
knows he is dying while he devises an end-of-life story for Hari Seldon.
Also, Hari Seldon (a.k.a. Asimov) points out symptoms of a dying empire
which are visible everywhere today in 2004 and I'm afraid the world is
descending into a
Blade Runner kind
of future. Let's hope it doesn't descend further into something like
The holographic image of
appears at various times in the First Foundation's history, to guide it
through the social and economic crises that befall it.
The book series started as a series of nine short stories, eight of which were
published in Astounding Science Fiction 4
magazine between May
1942 and January 1950, and a ninth which was written a few years later when the
series was first published in book form. The stories vary in length from about
7,000 words to about 50,000 words. The early stories are very closely based on
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
(Asimov said he did
"a little bit of cribbin' from the works of Edward
" when describing the influence of that work on the Trilogy).
- Part 1 - The Psychohistorians
Excerpt from the Encyclopedia Galactica
Seldon, born in the 11,988th year of the Galactic Era, perfects a branch
of social mathematics called "psychohistory" which can predict the
future actions of humanity 3
. He sees that the Galactic
empire is about to collapse which could result in a 30,000 year age of
darkness, so develops a plan to reduce this dark age to only 1,000
(comment: once you view this
you begin to wonder if psychohistory might be possible some
- Part 2 - The Encyclopedists
- Part 3 - The Mayors
- Part 4 - The Traders
- Part 5 - The Merchant Princes
- Part 1 - The General
- Part 2 - The Mule
- Part 1 - Search by the Mule
- Part 2 - Search by the Foundation
In 1982, following a thirty-year hiatus, Asimov gave in and wrote what was at
the time a fourth volume: Foundation's Edge
. This was followed shortly
thereafter by Foundation and Earth
. Foundation and Earth (which takes
place some 500 years after Seldon) ties up all the loose ends, but opens a brand
new line of thought in the last dozen pages. As a result, many fans (wanting a
tidy end to the series) consider this finale to be a failure. According to his
widow Janet Asimov (in her biography of him, It's Been a Good Life
had no idea how to continue after Foundation and Earth
, so he started
- Chapter 1: It has been ~500 years since the death
of Hari Seldon and the planet Terminus (home of the first Foundation) is
preparing for his next hologram-appearance
- This book is a continuation of Foundation's Edge but seems better
- It will be most enjoyable if you've already read the Robot Trilogy
and Robots and Empire.
- Initially written as a series of short stories based on Edward Gibbon's
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
- Rereading this book in early 2004 was somewhat refreshing. Except for
occasional references to "smoking tobacco" or "non-metric measurements", the
material does not appear to be dated in any way.
- I wonder if this idea is an extrapolation of the investment science of
"technical analysis" which attempts to predict the future actions of the
- "Astounding Science Fiction" was renamed "Analog Science Fiction" in
Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics
(From the 1942 short story "Runaround")
- A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a
human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such
orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does
not conflict with the First or Second Law.
here for two possible fourth law of robotics
- Click here for the official
law of robotics (hinted at in many stories but formalized in Robots
Note: In Isaac Asimov's book "It's Been A Good Life", Isaac states that
publisher John W.
deserves joint credit in the creation of the Asimov's Three Laws
Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Humanity (From the 1946 short story "Evidence")
Because, if you stop to think of it, the three Rules of Robotics are the
essential guiding principles of a good many of the world's ethical systems.
- Of course, every human being is supposed the have the extinct
of self-preservation. That's Rule Three to a robot.
- Also every 'good' human being, with a social conscience and a
sense of responsibility, is supposed to defer to proper authority; to listen
to his doctor, his boss, his government, his psychiatrist, his fellow man;
to obey laws, to follow rules, to conform to custom -- even when they
interfere with his comfort or his safety. That's Rule Two
to a robot.
- Also, every 'good' human being is supposed to love others as
himself, protect his fellow man, risk his life to save another. That's
to a Robot 1
To put it simply -- if Byerley follows all the Rules of Robotics,
he may be a robot, OR 2 may simply be a very good man.
- I wonder how many humans would support the zeroth law? Stephen Byerley
is elected mayor at the end of "Evidence" but reappears as World Coordinator
in "The Evitable Conflict" and I suspect he rises to that position for just
- Asimov wrote "AND" but anyone familiar with Boolean logic knows he meant
"OR" (providing he was using Boolean logic :-)
- According to a quote by Dr. Fastolfe in Robots of Dawn, the planet
Aurora is the Spacer world that has come closest to implementing the
Three Laws of Robotics as the Laws of Humanics.
It's Been a Good Life (2002) Janet Jeppson
- A biography of Isaac Asimov edited by his second wife, Janet Jeppson
- Chapter Titles:
"Russia", "The United States",
"City Child", "Religion", "Prodigy", "Becoming a Writer", "Science-Fiction
Fan", "Starting to Write Science Fiction", "Writing Progress", "Famous
Fiction", "During the War", "Postwar, and the Army", "Becoming a Ph.D.",
"Postdoc", "Teaching, Writing, Speaking", "Beyond Limitations", "Limitations
Came", "Going On", "Major Nonfiction", "Writing and Thinking About Writing",
"On Prolificacy", "On Writers' Problems", "Miscellaneous Opinions and
Quirks", "Sexism and Love", "Life While Famous", "The Bible", "Changes",
"Shakespeare", "New Experiments in Writing", "More Working With Words",
"Isaac, Himself", "More on Writing", "Heart Attack", "Extending Two Series",
"Triple Bypass", "Humanists", "Senior Citizen and Honors", "Working on in
Appendix A. "Essay 400" - A Way of
Appendix B. Isaac's Personal Favorite: "The Last Question"
Appendix C. Bibliography of Works by Isaac Asimov
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Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.