So you gotta admit. Theres something about Asimov that just drives you madly in love with him. Had he been around today, I would’ve hounded him into marrying me. Even if he was a 100 years old. I would have done anything to get inside that brain of his to know what made him tick. The IDEAS!!! How is anyone capable of coming up with such astounding ideas that make such perfect sense and are so… PLAUSIBLE! He has an explanation for everything! He has a million different perspectives on looking at one thing. His imagination. My GOD. He was blessed with this imagination, limitless. That’s the only word I can come up with to barely encompass whatever that was in his mind. His imagination makes everything possible. I can’t believe such genius people existed in this world ever. Who watered down their blindingly illuminated thoughts for the rest of us retards to understand. To give us a SHOT at understanding and opening our minds and grasping something that was so beyond our comprehension until someone as brilliant as this man, DEEMED to come down to our level and allow us to imagine a fraction of that which was in his mind. I don’t know how he even found the time to let his thoughts loose on paper. Id imagine he would’ve just wanted to live in the world of his mind. I know I would have. I don’t think he even managed to put 10% of what was in his mind on paper and THAT was the tip of the iceberg. I can only imagine the rest of the iceberg.
For a human being to have such capabilities, I feel ashamed at the extremely limited abilities of my brain. These science fiction authors. What can you say about them except see them as the grace of God in human form? Their minds…. Gosh I wish I could just take a peek in their minds. Anyways. Back to the review.
Issac Asimov: The Complete Stories. Volume 2.
Genre: Most definitely science fiction.
What can I say? God where do I even begin! To judge this man? I can’t. Except to say that if I ever met the man, Id fall on the ground at his feet and wail “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”.
This book a collection of Asimov’s 23 short stories. Some of my favourites, I’ll list down and describe.
So I have to say not ONE of these short stories, I didn’t like. Every single one made perfect sense and had this way of sneaking up on you and blowing your mind. My personal favourites, I must say were in order of preference: Nightfall, Breeds There A Man…?, Patches, and The Ugly Little Boy. Lets not forget It’s Such A Beautiful Day. These were the most brilliant of them in my opinion. People will have different preferences of course.
Lets start with
This was by far THE BEST story in the entire book. Asimov has this manner of weaving a story that leaves you enthralled. The way he explained the simple idea of the story leaves you reeling because the concept is so simple that even though you KNOW you know it, you were never conscious of it and never really thought about it until it because so glaringly absent in such a work of fiction. He showed me how the things we take for granted in our everyday are so vital.
The entire book is about our mind. Not our brain but our mind. Its powers of perception, comprehension, imagination and its limitations.
The story was about this fictional planet named Lagaash which had quite a few suns. Gosh I don’t know where to begin to explain this story. On the planet of Lagaash there exists a society very similar to that of todays world. A religion (called a cult in the book) has faith in a Holy Book that depicts a dark future for the habitants of Lagaash. A day of calamity and darkness.
Now having quite a few suns at its disposal, the habitants of Lagaash have never experienced something known only as darkness. The idea is understood, but since there is an abundance of ever-glowing suns, there has been no reason to experience it and therefore there was no comprehension of darkness. But ask anyone who in our world lives half a day with light and half a day without, darkness can be harrowing. So the story moves on and it is revealed that the archaeologists of Lagaash found that every 2000 years, the civilization on Lagaash dies out. The astronomer believes that there is a planetary body that should exist to account for the deviation in Lagaashs’ orbit around its primary sun and his calculations prove that the last sun left in its sky for the cycle will be eclipsed by this body and will cause a planet-wide eclipse which will leave everything in darkness.
This is where the book gets fascinating. It goes to show how history and religion are melded and are distorted versions of the same events. It goes on to the psychological processes of our own mind and how it deals with things beyond its comprehension and our very human reactions to fear and anything that we don’t understand. And lastly the science behind it all. That works to keep everything going at the base of it all.
The astronomer and the people working with him do research and find that people actually feel claustrophobic in the darkness. Enough to go mad and develop phobias of any kind of enclosed spaces. When reading the start and ending, the concept seems mad! But when he gives the explanation, it seems so simple and obvious. It is true, when someone hasn’t been exposed to darkness, the mind can’t even comprehend the experience. Dealing with darkness is equivalent to having to deal with some serious sort of trauma. Imagine living a life where there was light when you woke and light when you slept, and all of a sudden one day, all the light leaving. It would be enough to drive you mad.
Our mind learns to live in the strangest circumstances. Put a small child in any kind of strange situation and raise it. That becomes its norm. Your version of normal does not apply to the child. Its called conditioning. And it shapes our lives, our minds, our expectations. We have trouble adjusting to other cultures; imagine having to adjust to something as traumatic as the absence of light when all you’ve known is it.
Also since there is no concept of darkness, there is no concept of stars. Since they can’t see into space, their comprehension of the universe is so different and so compact. They think they’re the only planetary objects in the entire universe. That their suns are the only suns. The idea of a billion stars filling the sky is uncomprehending.
The explanation of the collapse of their societies, oh man the explanation is so simple that it completely blows your mind. The Holy Book survives every collapse of society because of those people whose minds havent been conditioned enough to take into account the trauma caused by the darkness: the children younger than 5 years of age. Also people not in the right mental capacity: the drunks and the retarded and finally the insane of that society. And those are the people who pass on the stories of these cyclic calamities. They’re the ones who write history. Not the educated lot. The children, the drunks and the insane.
I can’t put into words the brilliance of this man. It is such a simple concept. The concept of conditioning. On a smaller and at the same time larger scale which explains every little thing down to its littlest detail.
Breeds There A Man…?
This book struck a chord. It attempts to explain why all the great civilizations of this world collapsed soon after great discoveries and inventions were created by that societies greatest thinkers. It is truly food for thought. Its happened to every great civilization. It happened to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Renaissance, everything comes to an end. The story revolves around a scientist who is in the eye of the storm and was on the brink of an amazing discovery and invention that would set mankind leaps ahead of its time. And this man just wants to commit suicide. It was a compulsion he wanted to complete and yet, he didn’t. This scientist has a series of conversations with his psychologist, which are most interesting as they constantly question the events of the past. He tries to understand his own plight. And he predicts the future. He explains how us humans use bacterial cultures to grow diseases and how when they have grown enough, we destroy them. That is his explanation of why every society that has advanced collapses. Very plausible. Extremely mind-opening.
The concept of this book is definitely something I would wish to be seen expanded. The story is from the point of an alien. A patch of green fur that infiltrates a spaceship that landed an alien planet. This alien and allllll the others on its planet are one. In consciousness. They are one being. And therefore no wars, only peace, everyone lives, no one dies unnecessarily. Humans are seen by the green patches as INCOMPLETE. By being individuals, they’re seen as not right. Not at peace. And therefore the patch goes out to rectify or FIX the humans. LOL. I was actually rooting for the alien at one point.
The story is amazing as it resorts to subterfuge to hide itself inside the casing of a wire so that none of the crew find it. It wants to wait until it gets to the humans home planet before it gets to work fixing them. Youd be amazed at the way the alien recounts the last time the humans visited the alien planet and how the aliens tried to fix the humans too soon and were found out and the human captain blew the ship. It wasnt going to allow that to happen this time. The humans were specially careful by not having brought any of their female counterparts with them as all female animals on board got pregnant and gave birth to animals that had those green patches on their eyes and having no personal characteristics or individuality. It is a must read.
The Ugly Boy
The Ugly Boy was a love story. Not between a man and a woman, but between a child and a caretaker. The Ugly Boy is a Neanderthal that was transported from its time into the present. Like a wild animal, the child is taught by its nanny to behave, to not be afraid, to dream, to read, to have a playmate. Its a story of the love that transcends beauty. Even as adults, we are genetically programmed to love what we call the cuteness of babies. Neanderthals weren’t cute to look at. And yet, the caretaker fell in motherly love for the child. And chose to go back in time with it, rather than live in this world that judged even a child by the way it looked.
I love the way Asimov was able to switch the tone of voice for every novel and every short story. I believe that every book you read, isn’t just a story. It has a part of the author and his mind in it. Every book, every line, every chapter tells you more about the author as much as it tells about the story. This man has written hundreds of books. I can’t imagine the kind of things and the AMOUNT of things in his head. I wish I could have met him.