ASIMOV, Isaac (1920–92) US writer of novels, short stories and non-fiction
Asimov published his first story at nineteen, and went on to write over 300 books, ranging from Bible guides and history textbooks to the science fiction novels and stories for which he is best known. Much of his most seminal science fiction work was written in the 1940s when he (and others) came under the editorial wing of John W. Campbell, the pulp magazine man who virtually defined science fiction as Hollywood now depicts it. Strongly plotted and concentrating on ideas more than style, Asimov’s novels and stories invite the reader to collaborate in the unfolding of concepts like the famous ‘three laws of robotics’. Asimov’s down-to-earth, logical thinking means that his works are often the stuff of real science – the ‘three laws’, for example, have been used as the basis of real-life robot programming.
THE FOUNDATION SAGA (1951–93)
The first three books, a self-contained trilogy, appeared in the 1950s; Asimov added the remaining volumes thirty years later. The Saga is ‘space opera’ (science fiction soap opera) on a huge scale, an account of political manoeuvrings among nations and civilizations of the far future. Hari Seldon, a professor of psychohistory (statistical and psychological prediction of the future) foresees a disastrous era of war in the galactic empire, and establishes two Foundations on the galaxy’s edge, dedicated to safeguarding civilized knowledge until it is again required. The Saga describes the nature and work of each Foundation, their uniting to defeat external threat (from an alien intelligence, the Mule) and their subsequent internecine struggles.
The Foundation novels are Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation. Books in the continuation series are Prelude to Foundation, Foundation’s Edge, Foundation and Earth and the posthumous Forward the Foundation. Asimov’s other science fiction novels include Pebble in the Sky, The Stars Like Dust and The Currents of Space (all on themes related to the Foundation Saga).
Thematically & Stylistically Similar Books for Further Reading:
Asimov’s other major achievement is the robot sequence of books: I, Robot, The Rest of the Robots, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn. His story ‘Nightfall’ (from a collection of that title) has several times been voted the best science fiction short story ever written.
to the Foundation Saga: Iain M. Banks, Consider Phlebas (and the other Culture novels);
Gordon R. Dickson, Tactics of Mistake (and others in the Dorsai sequence);
Robert Heinlein, The Man Who Sold the Moon;
Peter F. Hamilton, The Reality Dysfunction.
to The Caves of Steel/The Naked Sun: Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man;
Larry Niven, The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton.
other examples of Golden Age, John W. Campbell-inspired science fiction: Robert Heinlein, Methuselah’s Children;
A.E. Van Vogt, The Voyage of the Space Beagle.
Source Credits: Nick Rennison, Good Reading Guide: Discover Your Next Great Read, Bloomsbury Publishing, Seventh Edition