Getting Through Asimov

Isaac Asimov published nearly 500 books in his lifetime. An oft repeated (but incorrect) claim is that Asimov has published at least one book for every category of the Dewey Decimal system. In reality he missed one, the 100 category, philosophy and psychology. Still, it’s an impressive body of work.

I have no intention of devoting that much reading time to a single author, but I’ve been hitting his major works over the last several years. His Empire series, his Foundation series (the original trilogy, but not the later books of the ’80s), two of his most critically successful novels, The Gods Themselves and, just yesterday, I read The End of Eternity (pretty good, an epic tale of time travel).

The only real “must-read” left on my Asimov list is his Robots stories (on which the film I, Robot, starring Will Smith was based). This is a bit funny, because years before I’d actually read anything by him, back in high school, I did know the name Isaac Asimov, and the one thing I knew about him is that he had written some science fiction wherein he laid out the “Three Laws of Robotics”:

1) A robot may not harm a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm.

2) A robot must obey human beings, unless this would conflict with the first law.

3) A robot must protect itself, so long as this does not come in conflict with the first two laws.

That’s from memory. I’m sure just about everyone has heard of those before, even previous to the Will Smith movie. Part of the delay in reading the works in question that I’ve been trying to make sure I got the right collection. It’s not as easy as a book series; I don’t want a “best of” collection that randomly picks robot stories. I’m looking to get the complete set of stories in publication order, and it’s not always clear on product descriptions what collections include which stories. I did get the I, Robot collection to start, and will read it when I’m back in Canada.

That’s not to say I’ll be “done” with Asimov after that. But when it comes to the classics, including sci-fi classics, I try to hit the most important stuff first. I may eventually read everything Heinlein’s written, for example, but when I decided to check him out for the first time, I started with Stranger in a Strange Land, then Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I didn’t stop there, but if I hadn’t happened to like him, I would at least have wanted to see what the fuss was about with those particular novels.

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