Asimov, Isaac (Vol. 3)

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Asimov, Isaac 1920–

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One of America's most ambitious and prolific writers, Asimov has written books on anatomy and physiology, astronomy, the Bible, biology, chemistry, etymology, geography, Greek mythology, history, humor, mathematics, and physics. He is also the author of the "Foundation" novels, now considered seminal to modern science fiction. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

The title story of Asimov's collection, The Martian Way, is surely one of the best science fiction novellas ever published. The story's taking-off point is simple: If no miracle fuels or propulsion systems come along, but Mars is to be colonized anyway, then it will have to be done with step rockets. A-B-C. All right, then what happens to the discarded steps—hundreds of thousands of tons of salvageable steel? Asimov's answer: [They] drift on out across the Martian orbit, until Scavengers in tiny two-man ships come out to get them.

The drama of "The Martian Way" is in those ships. Asimov, writing compactly and with enviable control, makes every phase of them intensely believable—the irritation that grows in the cramped quarters, the squabbling "Scavenger widows" at home, the monotony of waiting, the excitement—like hooking God's biggest fish—of a fat strike.

A lesser writer, fumbling for something to say, would have made these men little tin heroes, tight-lipped and glint-eyed, with shoulders from here to there. Asimov's characters are good-natured, human, unextraordinary, wonderful joes.

And a lesser writer, dealing with the long voyage to Saturn which turns this story from a vignette into an epic, would have marked time with mutinies, sprung seams, mold in the hydroponics tanks and Lord knows what all else. Asimov, instead, has rediscovered the mystic euphoria and beauty of space travel. Of those who have written about this imaginary journey, how many others have even tried to make Saturn glow in the reader's eyes like the monstrous jewel it is?

When you read this story, if you haven't already, you'll realize how much there is of heroics in run-of-the-mill science fiction, and how little true heroism. Asimov will make you feel the distances, the cold, the vastness, the courage of tiny human figures against that immense backdrop.

Damon Knight, "Asimov and Empire," in his In Search of Wonder: Critical Essays on Science Fiction (reprinted by courtesy of Advent: Publishers, Inc.), Advent, 2nd edition, 1967, pp. 90-4.

There's no doubt that Isaac Asimov is the finest popular science writer working today, and in my opinion Ike is the finest who has ever written; prolific, encyclopedic, witty, with a gift for colorful and illuminating examples and explanations. What makes him unique is the fact that he's a bona fide scientist—associate professor of biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine—and scientists are often rotten writers…. But our scientist professor, Asimov, is not only a great popular science author but an eminent science fiction author as well. He comes close to the ideal of the Renaissance Man.

Alfred Bester, in Publisher's Weekly (reprinted from April 17, 1972, issue of Publisher's Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1972 by Xerox Corporation), April 17, 1972, pp. 18-19.

Asimov has achieved a unique status, for not only is he admired and, by many, loved for his work in s.f. and for his engrossing regular science column in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but he is equally respected by professionals in some 20-odd scientific disciplines. He has become the most perfect and the most inclusive interface between hard science (including math) and the layman, for he has a genius for bringing the obscure into the light. His writing career began in the so-called "Golden Age" of s.f., under the aegis of the late John W. Campbell Jr. …

"The Early Asimov" contains all his...

(The entire section contains 1322 words.)

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