From my earlier blog on 24/12/19:
… and I really enoyed it!
I have a huge soft spot for early, post-WW2 SF, and this collection, chosen by Asimov, did not disappoint.
The book collects 12 stories from 1939 to 1972 that he considered to be good stories spanning three decades of writing: “… two early examples, two late samples, and eight from the gold decade (for me) of the Fifties.”
I loved his suggestion of an alternative title for the collection as “The Pretty Good and Pretty Representative Stories of Isaac Asimov” – he was a humble man, it seems.
The twelve stories are:
Marooned Off Vesta (1939),
Nightfall (1941) – his masterpiece,
The Martian Way (1952),
The Deep (1952),
The Fun They Had (1954),
The Last Question (1956),
The Dead Past (1956),
The Dying Night (1956),
The Billiard Ball (1967), and
‘Nightfall’ needs no introduction from me – it is one of the most singularly imaginative SF stories ever written. This story was read by Steve Ely for the One Hundredth edition of the ‘Escape Pod’ podcast – Steve (now Serah) gave it a respectful and energetic reading, which I recommend listening to.
I loved ‘The Billiard Ball’, which I am not going to spoiler zone here – it features a well thought out revenge-murder.
Mr Asimov’s personal favourite was ‘The Last Question’, but it seemed no better than the rest of the collection to me.
My personal favourite was ‘C-Chute’ – I loved the idea of a desperately homesick man going to extraordinary lengths in order to avoid becoming a prisoner of war. There is a also a pretty good audio performance of this story available from the “X-Minus One” radio shows.
One confusion I have is why Sphere decided to publish this 1973 UK version of the book with that terrible cover? It says nothing about the genre or overall themes of the stories – why would anyone have chosen that for an SF book?