Isaac Asimov

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Author Review: Isaac Asimov (1920 1992)
Review Written By: Alan

Biography 

Writing Style 

Body of Work 

Isaac Asimov Links 

Biography

Isaac Asimov was born in Russia in 1920 and immigrated to the USA with his parents in 1923.  He was married twice and had two children with his first wife.  He began his writing career at the tender age of 11.  He was known, at the height of his writing career, for writing in excess of eight hours a day, seven days a week.  Despite being one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, he was afraid to fly.  Isaac didn't even learn to drive a car until 1950.  He preferred trains, buses and other people's automobiles as his main method of transportation.  This is rather ironic since most of his novels dealt with human beings zipping around the galaxy in spaceships!  He was a scholar, having earned a B.S. and an M.A. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia.  His scientific knowledge shows through in his writing and enhances its believability significantly.

During his long career, he wrote over 500 stories, novels and articles.  He received multiple Hugo and Nebula awards.  In 1966, his Foundation Series received a special Hugo award for Best All-time Novel Series.

A biography of Asimov's life could go on for pages and pages.  If you want to know more about this fascinating writer's life, perhaps you should hear it in his own words.  Asimov wrote several autobiographies including I, Asimov: A Memoir and Yours, Isaac Asimov: A Lifetime of Letters.  Both of these books provide interesting insight into one of the greatest literary minds of this century.

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Writing Style

Although Asimov was from a Jewish background, he was considered by most to be an atheist.  Actually, he considered himself to be humanist.  The humanists believe that good and evil do not spring from supernatural beings or forces.  Rather, human beings are able to create and solve their own problems without the help of any supreme beings.  These beliefs are very evident in his writing.  His stories usually deal with human beings and their social problems.  There are very few aliens in Asimov's novels.  Also, he was rather conservative.  Unlike Heinlein, who Asimov briefly worked with at the Philadelphia Naval Yard during World War II, there are hardly any sex scenes in Asimov's books.

Fortunately, his scientific background enhances his novels rather than detracting from them.  He injects just enough science into his writing to make the stories seem plausible.  However, he doesn't delve so deeply into scientific theory that laymen become confused.  Asimov was clearly ahead of his time when he wrote the Foundation trilogy.  Although he was writing in the early 1950's, Asimov had surmised that atomic power (in its infancy then) would become a major source of power in the future.

Asimov's novels are pleasant reading.  Much like Terry Brooks and Robert Heinlein, he wrote with a keen eye towards his readers.  You won't need to cuddle up with a dictionary to get through an Asimov book.  His characters are usually well defined and his storylines are well thought out.  Some of the stories in a series were written decades apart.  Asimov was a perfectionist and would try to correct any discrepancies that he created in his previous works.  Clearly, he was a man that did not like loose ends.

The Foundation Series is almost universally acknowledged as his greatest contribution to Sci-Fi.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the Foundation Series, I disagree with this view.  I think his forays into robotics (including the development of the three laws of robotics) are his most lasting legacy.  In fact, Asimov was the first writer ever to use the term robotics.  I remember reading I, Robot (the stories of which are now incorporated into The Complete Robot) when I was about 13 years old.  I read it twice in two days and was literally unable to put it down.  Certainly Asimov's views that robots would be created to assist the human race have been borne out at least in our factories.  He truly was a visionary.

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Body of Work (Abridged)

Normally, I include a complete body of work in the author reviews I write for this site.  However, Asimov was such a prolific writer that a full listing of his works would take up too much space.  Therefore, I have included what I believe to be his more important works in this list.  For a complete listing of his works, consult the links list below.  There you will find a link for all of Asimov's books currently in print (at Amazon.com).  For a complete listing of all of his works, check the Asimov FAQ link.

Robot Novels

While not essential to read these prior to reading the Empire novels, reading Robots and Empire will help you make more sense out of the Empire novels.

The Caves of Steel

The Naked Sun

The Robots of Dawn

Robots and Empire

Robot Short Stories

The Complete Robot

Robot Dreams

Robot Visions

Gold: The Final Science Fiction Collection (some stories about robots)

The Empire Novels

The Foundation Series can be read without reading these novels, but they do offer some interesting background to the creation of the Trantorian Empire.  Naturally, just for the annoyance factor I'm sure, these books are currently out of print.

The Stars, Like Dust

The Currents of Space

Pebble in the Sky

Foundation Series 

An absolute "must read" series (at least the original trilogy) for all science fiction fans.  The books are listed in chronological order, not the order in which they were written.  However, I would suggest you start by reading Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation first (the original trilogy).  Assuming you enjoy them, you could complete the story by reading the final two books or read the first two next for the background information.

Prelude to Foundation

Forward the Foundation

Foundation 

Foundation and Empire 

Second Foundation 

Foundation's Edge

Foundation and Earth

Second Foundation Trilogy

This trilogy was not written by Asimov, but has been authorized by his estate.  The books fall in between Forward the Foundation and Foundation.

Foundation's Fear - by Gregory Benford

Foundation and Chaos - by Greg Bear

Foundation's Triumph - by David Brin

Links

For a listing of all Isaac Asimov books available on Amazon.com, press go in the box below.  

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FAQ about Isaac Asimov - The definitive site about Asimov.  Very extensive, well-prepared FAQ.

Jenkins' Guide to Isaac Asimov - An extensive fan page containing rated reviews of Asimov's novels.

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