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Rainbownaga
2009-07-30, 02:52 AM
He's probably the most famous Sci-fi writer of all time, but is he good?

The reason I ask is that the same could be said of Tolkien, and his value as an entertaining writer is somewhat debated.

I tried reading Asimov over a decade ago and couldn't get into it then, is it worth a reprise? Any other opinions on Asimov?

arguskos
2009-07-30, 02:54 AM
HELL YES! Asimov is one of my favorite authors. Give I, Robot a try. Perhaps the Caves of Steel trilogy? The Foundation series (note: avoid the Second Foundation series, it's not really by him) was great.

Give him another shot, he's great.

Icewalker
2009-07-30, 02:56 AM
I quite loved his books. I'd say that you should definitely read the Foundation books, and no need to skip, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation are all quite good, although when you get to the next three books it begins to go downhill. Prelude to Foundation however is also good.

The Caves of Steel books are great...

Yeah. Asimov is awesome. I loved his books, and will also agree with you on Tolkien being rather sketchy: I've tried twice (when I was a lot younger, to be fair) and it's great up until the half of the second book which can be summarized with "Frodo, Sam, and then also Gollum, walk a long ways."

JadedDM
2009-07-30, 03:13 AM
I am a big fan of Asimov, although his stories can be a bit outdated by today's standards. But I like that kind of campy sci-fi.

raitalin
2009-07-30, 03:25 AM
If you didn't like Asimov on the first try, its probably because you didn't find the right book. Fortunatly he's one of the most prolific writers out there, so he's certainly got something you'll enjoy.

Persoanally I couldn't get into Foundation, but a lot of people love it. My persoanl favorite is The Gods Themselves, but I, Robot is also good and his short stories are excellent. I suggest starting with them.

Fri
2009-07-30, 03:25 AM
I myself prefer Asimov more than Tolkien. But maybe that's because I like sci-fi more than fantasy.

What did you read? I read Foundation, and it really griped me at my first try, unlike LOTR (though I like LOTR more now, I think).

Starscream
2009-07-30, 03:40 AM
He's awesome. That's all I can say. Awesome.

Closet_Skeleton
2009-07-30, 04:14 AM
A major criticism of him is that he's almost autistic in his understanding of human emotions, but that doesn't seem to hurt his science fiction too much.

Rainbownaga
2009-07-30, 04:15 AM
Wow, a lot of very positive responses.

Yeah, the last attempt was one of the foundation books (and part way through the series at that) and it was a long time ago. Sounds like i should have another go.

factotum
2009-07-30, 04:20 AM
Have to say I prefer Arthur C. Clarke to Asimov, but I have read the entire Foundation series and didn't immediately feel afterwards it was a waste of my life... :smallbiggrin:

Mind you, I'm one of those apparently strange people who likes The Lord of the Rings, so your mileage may vary!

drakh
2009-07-30, 06:54 AM
Personally, I find Asimov's books quite shallow. He has some interesting concepts but he doesn't go into detail as much as it should.
I'm not going to deny his important contributions to the genre ans science (The 3 Laws of the Robotics are well known) but, as a SF author, I think Frank Herbert is much better.

Winterwind
2009-07-30, 07:00 AM
I quite love his books. His short stories a lot more than his full-size novels though. So, if you didn't like a Foundation book... I could almost understand that. I'd rather suggest you try to get hold of one of his short story collections and see if you like that.

The comparison with Tolkien is a bit faulty though. In comparison with Tolkien, Asimov has a much clearer, less descriptive and more to the point way of writing. He's also a lot more humorous.
(note, I adore Tolkien, so don't take the above as criticism of his works; but while I don't share the negative feelings some people express about his writing style, I can at least understand where they are coming from. Now, if the same accusations would be directed at Asimov, I'd be quite weirded out)

Comet
2009-07-30, 08:12 AM
I really liked the Foundation series. Both on it's own merit and as a fun look at what Warhammer 40k and Dune among others had been borrowing their ideas from.

Besides that I've read some shorter stories of his, but I can't sadly remember any names. They were definetly fun, though. Asimov ranks quite high on my top science-fiction writers list.

Winterwind
2009-07-30, 08:20 AM
Oh, don't get me wrong, I liked the Foundation series, too.
It is a fair bit more long-winded and complex than his short stories though, so I see why some people might not.

As for interesting short stories, personally I found "The Last Question" and "The Last Answer" to be quite amusing.

Kcalehc
2009-07-30, 10:54 AM
I've read a number of Asimov books, the short story compilations are by far the best ("I, Robot" is a compilation of short stories, nothing like the, more recent, movie at all; but you can see where the movie got a lot of its ideas - unless you've not seen it that is). Foundation series was good too though.

His work does seem a little dated (and some of the science has since been proven to be impossible and/or inaccurate) but thats not to say that it is not enjoyable to read.

Thrawn183
2009-07-30, 11:13 AM
I found that whenever I read the Foundation books it changed how I'd speak. Suddenly I'd start saying things like, "Well, if one were to attempt...wait a minute!"

RabbitHoleLost
2009-07-30, 11:17 AM
I'll agree with those who give much praise to his short stories.
I myself wasn't a huge fan of his novels or series, but the man knows how to write a compelling thirty to fifty pages.
Also, the one that sticks out in my mind most is Satisfaction Guaranteed, but that's because woman/robot makes me happy >>

Kaelaroth
2009-07-30, 11:22 AM
I'll agree with those who give much praise to his short stories.
I myself wasn't a huge fan of his novels or series, but the man knows how to write a compelling thirty to fifty pages.

What Rabbit said. With extra love on my part for the clone song. :smallsmile:

Fri
2009-07-30, 11:25 AM
Most of the time I prefer short stories myself, from almost any sci-fi author.

Weezer
2009-07-30, 11:25 AM
I love both his novels and his short stories. Probably my favorite novels of his were the caves of steel series. He is the only author that I've read whose short stories I prefer to his novels, particularly Nightfall which I think is my favorite short story of all time.

SDF
2009-07-30, 11:26 AM
I've only read his technical books, (Asimov on Chemistry/Astronomy/ect.) but they were interesting good reads. (which takes talent considering the subject matter)

WalkingTarget
2009-07-30, 11:42 AM
Most of the time I prefer short stories myself, from almost any sci-fi author.

I think that's a feature of a lot of "hard" science fiction. A lot of it tends to be about the fictional science as opposed to people or a plot which can be interesting, but often is hard to mold a long story around (not that it's impossible to do). The "I, Robot" stories share a common technology (the positronic brain that the robots use, primarily), but each is a short exploration of the weird things that can happen when the 3 Laws are bent in odd circumstances. That's what I find interesting about them at least.

Most sci-fi novels in my experience aren't really "hard", they're more like fantasy after applying Clarke's Third Law. No real attempt is made to explore the technology and it's implications, it's there to facilitate the plot the author wants to unfold. Maybe I'm odd, but I put "sci-fi" and "science fiction" in different mental categories (in the former the science is window dressing for the story, the latter is generally about the science and what it allows, I think that's probably harder to do well and keep an audience). Does that make sense to anybody else?

Serpentine
2009-07-30, 12:07 PM
I haven't read any of his full novels, I think (they kinda intimidate me, to be honest <.<), but I really love most of the short stories I've read. All The Troubles of the World, for example, is one of my favourite things that I've ever read (anyone know where that was originally published? I only know it from a sci-fi anthology World Zero Minus, which I also recommend to... anyone, really).

AstralFire
2009-07-30, 12:40 PM
I think that's a feature of a lot of "hard" science fiction. A lot of it tends to be about the fictional science as opposed to people or a plot which can be interesting, but often is hard to mold a long story around (not that it's impossible to do). The "I, Robot" stories share a common technology (the positronic brain that the robots use, primarily), but each is a short exploration of the weird things that can happen when the 3 Laws are bent in odd circumstances. That's what I find interesting about them at least.

Most sci-fi novels in my experience aren't really "hard", they're more like fantasy after applying Clarke's Third Law. No real attempt is made to explore the technology and it's implications, it's there to facilitate the plot the author wants to unfold. Maybe I'm odd, but I put "sci-fi" and "science fiction" in different mental categories (in the former the science is window dressing for the story, the latter is generally about the science and what it allows, I think that's probably harder to do well and keep an audience). Does that make sense to anybody else?

I USE THE PHRASE SCIENCE FANTASY TO DESCRIBE WHAT YOU JUST SAID.

Also, my caps lock key appears to be broken now. Holding down shift to type in lowercase is new... I shall have to see the issue. :smallconfused: But yeah, I follow.

RabbitHoleLost
2009-07-30, 12:47 PM
I've only read his technical books, (Asimov on Chemistry/Astronomy/ect.) but they were interesting good reads. (which takes talent considering the subject matter)

I actually have read his nonfiction, as well.
I think it was a comprehensive history on Egypt, from start to finish (read as: as far back as anyone knows til the eighties, when it was published).
Fantastic read.
Asimov can put a sick sort of humor into anything.

Icewalker
2009-07-30, 01:00 PM
I found that whenever I read the Foundation books it changed how I'd speak. Suddenly I'd start saying things like, "Well, if one were to attempt...wait a minute!"

I do this too, especially with Shakespeare...it's kind of wonderful, actually.

Wait, Asimov has written a comprehensive history of Egypt!? I need to go find that, like, now.

RabbitHoleLost
2009-07-30, 01:06 PM
Wait, Asimov has written a comprehensive history of Egypt!? I need to go find that, like, now.

Sorry, I lied. It was published in 1967, and its The Egyptians.
Good luck finding it :smalltongue:

Icewalker
2009-07-30, 01:07 PM
Know if it is particularly accurate if it's that old? I really wouldn't know how to draw lines for such a thing.

RabbitHoleLost
2009-07-30, 01:09 PM
Know if it is particularly accurate if it's that old? I really wouldn't know how to draw lines for such a thing.
I'm pretty sure there weren't an inaccuracies (they haven't really overturned any ideas of ancient Egypt in the past forty years that I know of), but it just left off in the late sixties...you know, right before all the fun, interesting modern day stuff started.

kpenguin
2009-07-30, 01:13 PM
I do this too, especially with Shakespeare...it's kind of wonderful, actually.

What? You sometimes lapse and speak in iambic pentameter?

...

That would be kinda awesome, actually?

Joran
2009-07-30, 01:17 PM
Most sci-fi novels in my experience aren't really "hard", they're more like fantasy after applying Clarke's Third Law. No real attempt is made to explore the technology and it's implications, it's there to facilitate the plot the author wants to unfold. Maybe I'm odd, but I put "sci-fi" and "science fiction" in different mental categories (in the former the science is window dressing for the story, the latter is generally about the science and what it allows, I think that's probably harder to do well and keep an audience). Does that make sense to anybody else?

Makes sense: hard sci-fi is probably the hardest genre of science fiction to write. It requires an extensive amount of science or engineering background to get all of the science right or close to right. Then having to describe that science in a natural way while making sure it isn't too dry and also writing natural characters and a good plot... It's difficult. The author both has to show his work and integrate it naturally.

Asimov did a pretty job of it, but sometimes his text was a little dry and sometimes awkwardly phrased. His characters tended to be a little one-dimensional, although Susan Calvin was a great character. However, Asimov always had great "grand" ideas. In particular, I find the entire concept of "psychohistory" to be very interesting.

Yoren
2009-07-30, 01:18 PM
Asimov is one of my favorite authors.

I would second (or third in some cases) the recommendations to pick up I, Robot and/or The Caves of Steel - interesting reads and they set up and tie back into his later stories.

Icewalker
2009-07-30, 01:40 PM
I wish that influence went as far as iambic pentameter, but no, just vocabulary and phrasing. Maybe if I read enough Shakespeare...

Anyways, definitely going to find some of Asimov's non fiction. Sounds great.

Closet_Skeleton
2009-07-30, 01:47 PM
I USE THE PHRASE SCIENCE FANTASY TO DESCRIBE WHAT YOU JUST SAID.

Space Opera?


In particular, I find the entire concept of "psychohistory" to be very interesting.

It's moderately interesting, but it's also total nonsense.

AstralFire
2009-07-30, 01:49 PM
Caps key is unbroken now, a pad was loose between the key and the actual button it corresponded to. Anyway, I never liked the term Space Opera because it reminds me of two things I hate - Soap Operas and Operas. I use Space Opera a bit derogatorily and focusing on the melodrama, like I would describe Claremont X-Men as Space Opera.

Icewalker
2009-07-30, 01:52 PM
It's moderately interesting, but it's also total nonsense.

Weeeell...only to the degree that it is shown. It's not really feasible to do predictions on that scale and that accuracy, but one can do models and estimations of ways that the world will shift, just on a smaller scale than inter-planetary, and in a much much smaller time frame, and with a much smaller level of accuracy and specifics. But I do know a guy who does these huge extensive models (and put the title on his office as 'psychohistorian').

Destro_Yersul
2009-07-30, 01:52 PM
I love Asimov. His novels and his short stories. I gave my philosophy professor a copy of Bicentennial Man during our unit on self and identity. It's part of the curriculum now >.>

HamHam
2009-07-30, 09:51 PM
Asimov is a great author, but a a mediocre writer. From a technical standpoint, his books are functional with some small exceptions.

lvl 1 fighter
2009-07-30, 09:53 PM
Asimov is one of my favorite writers. Foundation was excellent once you got into it. I really like his robot short stories and non-robot novels, such as "A Whiff of Death", a chemistry based murder mystery.

I've also got a fair collection of his non-fiction writings, which I recommend to everyone. "X Stands for Unknown" is a collection of essays on Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Mathematics and The Fringe. Another book is called "Beginnings: The story of Origins - of Mankind, Life, the Earth, the Univsere." It's like a trip through history of how things began, starting with Human Flight and ending with the Universe. My favorite Asimov non-fiction is a series of three books called "Understanding Physics." Each deals with specific topics in physics and explains them through essays. I have Volumes I and III, "Motion, Sound, and Heat" and "The Electron, Proton, and Neutron", respectively. If anyone has Volume II and will sell it to me I'll pay shipping and be very grateful.

SteveMB
2009-07-30, 09:59 PM
Asimov was good at coming up with and expressing ideas, not so good at characterization. As a result, his nonfiction tended to be better than his fiction.

Serpentine
2009-07-30, 10:51 PM
I'm pretty sure there weren't an inaccuracies (they haven't really overturned any ideas of ancient Egypt in the past forty years that I know of), but it just left off in the late sixties...you know, right before all the fun, interesting modern day stuff started.Well, just looking at the pyramids, there's that they weren't built wholly or even primarily with slave labor, and that it would be possible to build them in less time with fewer people than was previously presumed... Also I think back then archaeologists (which, if I recall correctly, were still somewhat embedded in treasure hunter mode) hadn't investigated many "ordinary" graves and sites.

Oh, and Asimov wrote a book on vitamins.

zyphyr
2009-07-30, 11:19 PM
Oh, and Asimov wrote a book on vitamins.

There are times when I think it might be easier to list the things he didn't write about.

Fri
2009-07-30, 11:44 PM
Didn't Asimov was the most prolific science fiction writer in his time (or ever?)? I remember what Niven wrote in one of his book. Something like, Asimov write as much thing in a month as other writers write in a year.

Serpentine
2009-07-30, 11:52 PM
I don't know, but I remember him saying somewhere that he feels... privaledged, or something, that he's one of the few sci-fi authors who have been able to watch his predictions actually unfold.

Dervag
2009-07-31, 11:12 AM
I think that's a feature of a lot of "hard" science fiction. A lot of it tends to be about the fictional science as opposed to people or a plot which can be interesting, but often is hard to mold a long story around (not that it's impossible to do). The "I, Robot" stories share a common technology (the positronic brain that the robots use, primarily), but each is a short exploration of the weird things that can happen when the 3 Laws are bent in odd circumstances. That's what I find interesting about them at least.It recently occured to me that most of Asimov's robot stories aren't really about science or engineering; they're about computer programming. By writing the Powell and Donovan stories, Asimov was inventing the beta tester. Which is quite impressive, given that he started writing stories about field debugging of computer software before the first programmable computer was invented.

chef781
2009-07-31, 11:22 AM
I bow down to the AsiMaster

Ender's game series rocked

'Nuff said

Joran
2009-07-31, 11:36 AM
I bow down to the AsiMaster

Ender's game series rocked

'Nuff said

Ender's Game was written by Orson Scott Card, not Asimov. However Asimov has written hundreds of books, close to 500, depending on if you count anthologies edited by him.


By writing the Powell and Donovan stories, Asimov was inventing the beta tester. Which is quite impressive, given that he started writing stories about field debugging of computer software before the first programmable computer was invented.

I could have sworn ENIAC was created before the I, Robot series. Anyway, I liked the characters, can sympathize since I debug a lot, but I to be honest, couldn't tell the difference between the two.

Dervag
2009-07-31, 01:05 PM
I could have sworn ENIAC was created before the I, Robot series. Anyway, I liked the characters, can sympathize since I debug a lot, but I to be honest, couldn't tell the difference between the two.As an example, "Runaround" was written in October 1941, which was not only before ENIAC, it was before Colossus.

Shatteredtower
2009-08-14, 01:49 PM
Put me in the camp with those who enjoyed his short stories. I also enjoyed his anecdotes, as well as the introductions and afterwords he included in Where Do We Go from Here, an anthology of other people's work (with the exception of "Pate de Foie Gras").

My favourite collection of his short stories is always going to be Nine Tomorrows. There are reasons it's special to me that have nothing to do with the quality of the work, but they're not the only reasons it still means a lot to me. "The Ugly Little Boy" is the first short story that ever made me cry, to the point that, over 30 years after the first time I read it, I still mist up every time I recall the last line. I'm fascinated by how embarrassing and cliched Ms. Fellowes' portrayal is at times, but I get a full person out of the writing nevertheless.

Some like a writer whose books they can't put down. I like one who gets me to put the book down at the end of every story to think about the ideas I just read. Sometimes, I come back to them years later. "The Gentle Vultures" still leaves me unsettled, for example, and I haven't read it in twenty years.

Douglas
2009-08-14, 02:38 PM
Yeah, the last attempt was one of the foundation books (and part way through the series at that) and it was a long time ago. Sounds like i should have another go.
If you're going to read the Foundation series, you really should start at the beginning, with Foundation. The missing background information makes a big difference if you try jumping in at the middle.

His short stories are all excellent and easier to get into, and he wrote a lot of them.

Flame of Anor
2009-08-14, 11:46 PM
Sorry, I lied. It was published in 1967, and its The Egyptians.
Good luck finding it :smalltongue:

My Google-fu is strong. (http://www.amazon.com/Egyptians-Isaac-Asimov/dp/0395065720)


Well, just looking at the pyramids, there's that they weren't built wholly or even primarily with slave labor, and that it would be possible to build them in less time with fewer people than was previously presumed... Also I think back then archaeologists (which, if I recall correctly, were still somewhat embedded in treasure hunter mode) hadn't investigated many "ordinary" graves and sites.

It's certainly true that there has been huge progress since the 60's. However, they were past the "treasure hunter" stage by about the turn of the century.

Also, my Egyptology professor would say "kind of awesome" just like Icewalker and kpenguin. Huh.


I wish that influence went as far as iambic pentameter, but no, just vocabulary and phrasing. Maybe if I read enough Shakespeare...


I totally do that too. It's so cool. No iambic pentameter yet, though.


Weeeell...only to the degree that it is shown. It's not really feasible to do predictions on that scale and that accuracy, but one can do models and estimations of ways that the world will shift, just on a smaller scale than inter-planetary, and in a much much smaller time frame, and with a much smaller level of accuracy and specifics. But I do know a guy who does these huge extensive models (and put the title on his office as 'psychohistorian').

He has "Psychohistorian" on his office? That is completely wonderful.


If you're going to read the Foundation series, you really should start at the beginning, with Foundation. The missing background information makes a big difference if you try jumping in at the middle.

Seriously. Start at the beginning.



I USE THE PHRASE SCIENCE FANTASY TO DESCRIBE WHAT YOU JUST SAID.

This is now a meme.

Serpentine
2009-08-15, 06:13 AM
It's certainly true that there has been huge progress since the 60's. However, they were past the "treasure hunter" stage by about the turn of the century.Not at all. By the 60s, quite possibly (thus my "if I recall correctly" and "somewhat" - it is only recently that archaeology has really managed to shake it off), but the turn of the century... No way. Never let it be said that I don't admit it when I'm wrong! I was thinking of Heinrich Schliemann, who I thought worked in the '30s. But nyet, he was dead by then. On the other hand, the tomb of Tutankhamun wasn't discovered 'til the 1920s, and that at least had the atmosphere of a treasure hunt...
But my point remains: There have been significant advances in Egyptology since the 1960s :smalltongue: 'course, that doesn't detract from Asimov's book on the subject.