Posts tagged isaac asimov
The Complete Robot by Isaac Asimov
I've been going through "The Complete Robot" by Isaac Asimov. This is a huge anthology of his robot stories. The classic stories are all here and a few that I hadn't heard before. I haven't made it all the way through yet, but it got me thinking about the movie "I, Robot" and what it was that ultimately disappointed me so much about the movie. The thing about "I, Robot" is that it came close to an actual movie about Asimovian robots.  It had the right names, and it had the laws, it even understood how to use the laws. And the idea of robots taking the idea of the first law to extend to all humanity and not the individual is in Asmovs work. The problem is that by making your first story about them basically ignoring the laws it makes them useless. The thing about Asimov's work is that robots were almost never the villains.  They couldn't be because they were controlled by the three laws. Something else was usually the problem and the robots were the key to the solution, so having a movie based on an Asimov story where robots are the only villain just feels wrong. So, had they shown more robots acting like Asimov wrote robots earlier in the movie I would have been happier with them being more of a villain later. I'm still not sure I would have liked having Will Smith using a cybernetic arm but that was a minor quibble. I still think that many of the stories in these would be far better movies than the one they made, and I strongly suggest that anyone who has ever read Asimov read "The Complete Robot" You'll find all the stories you love and a few you likely havn't seen before. Picture by Davsc
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Recommendations for reading you first science fiction book
Science Fiction is not the easiest genre to begin reading. There is a huge variety of books many of which aren't all that good and many more than assume some knowledge of the genre. So as a first time science fiction reader it can be tricky to know where to begin. So, recommending a novel for the friend who is willing to give science fiction a chance or the kid who is just getting old enough to become interested in the genre can be difficult. Here are a few ideas of books that might hook someone. 1> Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card Why? Tops many lists as the best science fiction novel of all time. This is a character driven story in a world that is advanced from ours but close enough to not overwhelm the reader. Who's it for? Anyone who has avoided science fiction because it's all about science. People who want to see interesting characters. Who isn't it for? The snob who thinks that science fiction is for kids. He'll see that the main character is a kid and never  get over it. What Next? Assuming they love Ender's Game there are several good sequels that explore the character and the ramification of his actions further. Then you can let them try "Stranger in a Strange Land" it's far different from Ender's Game but its still good and still about characters. 2> I, Robot by Isaac Asimov Why? As a collection of short stories the first time reader can sit down and enjoy a complete story all at once.  This lowers the chance of them getting distracted. Who's it for? The busy person you know who is constantly starting books but never finishing them or the person with a plane ride who wants to be done when he lands Who isn't it for? The guy who thought that I, Robot was the best movie ever. The three laws and a few names are the main connection between this story and the movie. Someone reading this because they loved the action of the movie will be disappointed. What next? "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Sticking with the robot theme this book initiates readers into the paranoid world of P.K. Dicks without quite the level of weirdness in his other books. This will show them the variety of possibilites even on the same subject. 3> Contact By Carl Sagan Why? This is a science fiction story that feels like a real story based on real technology and discussing themes and ideas that w ould change the world and could really happen. Who is it for? People who look into the sky and wonder who's looking back. Who isn't it for? People who would never watch the science channel. There is a lot of science in this book and if you don't care about it at all you'll get bored. What Next? "2001: A Space Odyssey" Some of the same ideas are explored in 2001 as in contact and someone who liked Contact would almost certainly enjoy 2001. 4> "Star Wars: Heir to the Empire" by Timothy Zahn Why? They know the characters and universe already Who is it for? People who love Star Wars Who isn't it for Star Trek fans. (If they prefer Star Trek try Q Squared by Peter David) What Next? There are a huge number of Star Wars expanded universe books but  getting them out of the Star Wars books you can try "Starship Troopers", it has enough action to keep them entertained.
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Examining the top science fiction books 6-10
Yesterday I looked at the top five books of the top 100 science fiction books. Today I'm going to finish off the top ten. 6. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein If I were making this list Starship Troopers and thing would have switched places. (Starship troopers is 12) but it is still an interesting book. This is the story of a human who was raised on Mars by martians and his return to Earth as a young adult. There are 2 versions of this book. The orginial was cut by about 25% removing parts that were considered controversial, the full version was released in 1991. I don't know which of these I read as I didn't know there were two when I read it but it seemed plenty long. 7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury The first thing I noticed the first time I picked up this book is how small it is. Mind you I had been reading the wheel of time series so anything seemed small but compared to modern science fiction it's short. Short isn't a bad thing, this is a well written novel with a central idea that is fully explored. A longer story wouldn't have added anything. This is the story of a fireman, which is someone who burns books. Fahrenheit 451 is the tempiture that books burn. Bradbury says that this is not a book about censorship but instead about how Television destroys interest in literature. 8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke It's hard to think about this without thinking of the movie. The problem is that I don't really care all that much for the movie 2001. This is a case where the movie wasn't made from the book, instead the book and movie were made together and the book came out after the movie. As science fiction set in the near future(technically the past now) it is a book that is interesting to read for the advances that they predicted and how close they were in many ways. I think that the book holds up better because it's not reliant on effects but simple imagination. There are several more books in this series now. 9. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov It is appropriate that Isaac Asimov be the only writer with 2 books on the top ten list as he is one of the most prolific authors in history. This book is a collection of short stories about robots. There are a few reoccuring characters but they are largely stories that play on the three laws of robots. Although the best Asimov short stories aren't about robots these are still all good stories and a great place to start reading classic science fiction. I will avoid the movie I, Robot except to say that I would like to see a movie based on one of the stories from this book at some point in the future. 10. Neuromancer by William Gibson I haven't read this book mostly because I don't like to buy books new and it hasn't been in my local used bookstore when I have been. That said I've heard enough about this book I feel like i've read it. This is considered the origin of the cyberpunk subgenre. This genre is about high tech computer societies with criminals and hackers. This story is about a computer hacker in a japanise city who was given a drug that made it impossible for him to use a brain-computer interface and is searching for a cure. I can't comment on the quality of the book directly, but if you like cyberpunk this is said to be the best. Along with the first five books this would certainly give you a great overview of science fiction. You can see from this list how varied the genre is. Sadly it is number 26 before we get to Ursula K Le Guin the first woman on the list and I'm not even very fond of the left hand of darkness and the most recently published of these books was Ender's Game in 1985 but those are both largely because it takes time for books to become popular enough to reach the heights of the genre.
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Examining the top 5 science fiction books
Some time ago I found I found a sight called Sci-fi Lists which has the top 100 science fiction books of all time. I decided to attempt to read everything on that list. I'm still working on it but the first 5 were easy as two of my favorite books were in that number. What strikes me the most about the list is the variety of books. I suspect that in most genres if you gave a list of the top 100 you would find authors on the list more and being becoming similar. For today I thought i would share the first five of these books and my opinions on them. 1. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card This book is sometimes by favorite and sometimes second favorite book but I'm still surprised that it is number 1. This is a book about a young boy being trained to be a general in a war against an alien race. There has been some controversy surrounding this book. The Essay Ender and Hitler and the essay "Creating the Innocent Killer" both try to explain this. I suspect most of this simply exists because of the popularity of the book. Don't let either of these scare you away from this book. It is a great deal of fun and one of the best science fiction books available. 2. Dune by Frank Herbert What is there to say about Dune. I have read dune twice, the second time to confirm what I found the first time. I don't like Frank Herbert's writing style. He creates a deeply detailed world and interesting story and I recommend this book to anyone who likes stories with a lot of detail. Dune is the story of Paul Atreides, a son of a noble forced to move to the planet Dune which is inhospitable but the only place to get spice. The name Dune is approprate because the story really is about this one world. 3. Foundation by Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov is science fiction master and this is considered his best work. In this book Asimov discusses the technology of psycho-history. The ability to predict the way events with large groups will turn out.  The creator of this science discovered the empire was going to collapse and so created two foundations that would shorten that collapse from 30,000 years to a thousand. Fantastic book, Asimov eventually tried to connect this with his robot series. I never really liked that idea all that much but it does not harm the book any. In addition some of the books after the original trilogy are not as good, but reading this is well worth your time. 4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams Typically I am not enamored with science fiction humor. I'm not sure why, but Hitchhiker's guide is the exception to that. Along with Ender's game this vies for my favorite book. What is odd is that the two couldn't be less alike, and neither could the authors. Beginning with the destruction of earth to make way for a bypass this is a satire about Arthur Dent who is the last human saved off earth, which is a computer designed to discover the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. (the answer has already been discovered and is 42). Because the earth was so close to discovering it, it is suspected he may know the question. As a radio play, a TV series, a movie and a book this is always fun and always a bit different from previous incantations but any of them are worth seeing. Just don't judge the others by any version. 5. 1984 by George Orwell It is fitting that a political work should appear in the top 5 of science fiction books as it is one of the things that science fiction does well is illuminate things that we are often too close to see. I read this in high school. My teacher had a list of genres and you had to read at least one book from each. I managed to fit science fiction and fantasy stories into 4 of the 5 categories. This was my classic and it is. This book is often used as a metaphor, most commonly used as big brother, but what strikes me is how similar spam is to the books in this book which were created by computers. In many ways these books couldn't be less like each other, and neither could the authors. From Mormons to athiests and trageties to comedies the science fiction genre is not one that lacks in tradition or personality. i would recommend any of these books to anyone whethere they think they like science ficiton or not.
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