Isaac Asimov, world maestro of science fiction, was born in Russia near Smolensk in 1920 and was brought to the United States by his parents three years later. He grew up in Brooklyn where he went to grammar school and at the age of eight he gained his citizen papers. A remarkable memory helped him finish high school before he was sixteen. He then went on to Columbia University and resolved to become a chemist rather than follow the medical career his father had in mind for him. He graduated in chemistry and after a short spell in the Army he gained his doctorate in 1949 and qualified as an instructor in biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine where he became Associate Professor in 1955, doing research in nucleic acid. Increasingly, however, the pressures of chemical research conflicted with his aspirations in the literary field, and in 1958 he retired to full-time authorship while retaining his connection with the University.
Asimov's fantastic career as a science fiction writer began in 1939 with the appearance of a short story, `Marooned Off Vesta', in Amazing Stories. Thereafter he became a regular contributor to the leading SF magazines of the day including Astounding, Astonishing Stories, Super Science Stories and Galaxy. He won the Hugo Award four times and the Nebula Award once. With nearly five hundred books to his credit and several hundred articles, Asimov's output was prolific by any standards. Apart from his many world-famous science fiction works, Asimov also wrote highly successful detective mystery stories, a four-volume History of North America, a two-volume Guide to the Bible, a biographical dictionary, encyclopaedias, textbooks and an impressive list of books on many aspects of science, as well as two volumes of autobiography.
Isaac Asimov died in 1992 at the age of 72.
Asimov, who died in 1992 and whose influence can hardly be exaggerated, is ill-served by this work, two-thirds of which consists of book introductions and editorials he wrote for Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. The fiction included here, though a decidedly mixed bag (several pieces are short-shorts whose long-term value is dubious), includes two of Asimov's most important late stories, ``Cal'' and the title story. ``Cal'' is one of several tales here in which a robot's use of a word processor has unexpected consequences, but it stands above the others (such as ``Fault-Intolerant'') because Cal is as vibrant as the humans in the story. The Hugo-winning ``Gold,'' meanwhile, in which a ``compu-drama'' director agrees to adapt an SF novel to the new medium, is by itself worth the price of this book. The two nonfiction sections, by contrast, are sloppily compiled (``Suspense'' is the first part of a two-part editorial not continued here, for instance). Additionally, several of the editorials, by referring to stories published in the magazine but not here, have lost much of their effectiveness. A volume of Asimov's uncollected fantasy stories is promised by HarperPrism for 1996; one wishes that this book had included those stories instead of the nonfiction here. Even so, however, this collection presents enough valuable insight into Asimov's work to mitigate disappointment. (Mar.)
This collection of previously uncollected stories also contains many of Asimov's essays on the craft of science fiction. Libraries may want this "final collection" of work by the late grand master of sf.
`Isaac Asimov was one of the great explainers of the age...It
will never be known how many practicing scientists today, in how
many countries, owe their initial inspiration to a book, article,
or short story by Isaac Asimov'
`Asimov displayed one of the most dynamic imaginations in
`Asimov's career was one of the most formidable in science