Jim Syler's Reviews > Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction: 36 Stories and Novellas

Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction by Isaac Asimov
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May 12, 2015

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This book is just what it says: an anthology of the outstanding science fiction short stories from 1939 and 1940, chosen by Martin Greenberg and Isaac Asimov. Actually that’s not quite right; it includes some fantasy stories as well, which I think is a mistake; not only is it in contradiction with the title, the fantasy stories conflict with the tone of the book.

Regardless, there are some great stories in here. Not all are excellent, but they are still worth reading if you’re interested in the history of science fiction (in English, anyway).

I read this as a kind of sequel to Before the Golden Age, and I miss the autobiographical aspect Asimov brought to that book, with little personal vignettes before and after each story. But that stuff is covered in The Early Asimov for this period anyway, so I shouldn’t complain. Both Greenberg and Asimov preface every story (except those by Asimov, which are prefaced by Asimov alone) with interesting tidbits, and each volume (of the two included in this book) is preceded by a little historical background regarding what was going on both in and outside of the world of science fiction at the time. It’s nice to get a little of the feel of what it might have been like to read these when they were published, but I would have liked more of the same. In particular, since John Campbell was such an instrumental figure in the Golden Age—indeed the instrumental figure by all accounts—I would have liked more discussion of his practices and how these stories differed from those published previously.

So if you’re interested in getting a feel for the kinds of stories that were being published in the early days of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, this is an essential read. If you only want to read the true “classics” of the era, perhaps another anthology would serve you better—there are timeless classics here, but they are interspersed among more forgettable stories. And if you’re looking for information on why the Golden Age was the Golden Age, I’d advise you look elsewhere (and if you find such a book, let me know); information on that topic is sparse in this work.

A couple of administrative notes:
  First, this volume is a combination of two previous works: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 1, 1939 and Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 2, 1940. It is the first volume in its own series, Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction. The second book in the series is Isaac Asimov Presents the Golden Years of Science Fiction, Second Series, covering 1941 and 1942. I mention this because I was confused, and thought others might be as well. This book contains Volume 1 and Volume 2, and further books are labeled with “Series.” I wasn’t sure if the next book was Series Three, or what, especially when I couldn’t seem to find Series Two. But no, the next book is Series Two, and this is Series One, even though not labeled as such.
  Second, the Forward to the combined volume is signed “JHR.” Does anyone have an idea of who that might be?

I was going to include a short description and review/discussion of every included story, as well as some random thoughts I had while reading, as much for my reference as it is for the benefit of prospective readers of this book (I wish there was a Goodreads for short stories!). But I ran out of space, so I posted them under the individual volumes: Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 1, 1939 and Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 2, 1940.
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Reading Progress

May 12, 2015 – Shelved
May 12, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
December 8, 2015 – Started Reading
December 8, 2015 –
page 11
1.41%
December 8, 2015 –
page 15
1.92% ""I, Robot""
December 8, 2015 –
page 24
3.07% ""I, Robot": Holy crap, that's a wonderful story. No wonder Asimov was inspired by it to write "Robbie." I can't believe I've never read it before. I'm not saying it's among the best ever, but it's quite good: thoughtful, insightful, surprising, and with a minimum of scientific error. No, computers will not develop drives and emotions without being programmed to do so, but the story specifically claims otherwise."
December 8, 2015 –
page 27
3.45% ""The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton" Apparently people in the 1930's didn't believe in testing machines before trusting their lives to them. At least that's what you'd glean from much science fiction from the era."
December 8, 2015 –
page 34
4.35% ""The Strange Flight of Richard Clayton" That's a ridiculous story. Cute, maybe, but completely implausible. Asimov says that it was better than "Marooned Off Vesta." I deeply disagree."
December 8, 2015 –
page 55
7.03% ""Trouble with Water" I'm not sure how this story made it into this collection. It's pure fantasy, not science fiction, and not very good at that, especially in the actual writing."
December 10, 2015 –
page 102
13.04% ""Cloak of Aesir" is surprisingly good. Surprisingly because it starts out very oddly and obtusely, with a strange and obscure writing style. And yet, if you stick with it, it begins to become clear; the obscure is made clear, the obtuse is explained, and the seemingly irrelevant becomes worthwhile. I don't know if I would say that Campbell is a truly brilliant writer, but perhaps he could have been. Asimov is right."
December 10, 2015 –
page 117
14.96% ""The Day is Done" What a wonderful story. As the introduction says, is very hard to do good prehistoric science fiction, and del Rey does it masterfully. A wonderful illustration of the fact that science fiction doesn't have to be space ships or laser guns; Anthropology is a science too."
December 11, 2015 –
page 140
17.9% ""The Ultimate Catalyst" This is a silly story. Which is sad, because the actual writing—the scripting—is pretty good. I was liking the story until I figured out what was going on. It's like he plugged a bunch of unnecessary science into the plot, when much simpler methods would do. I would really have much preferred a sociological story exploring why and how the world came to reject dictatorship."
December 11, 2015 –
page 140
17.9% ""The Ultimate Catalyst" This is a silly story. Which is sad, because the actual writing—the scripting—is pretty good. I was liking the story until I figured out what was going on. It's like he plugged a bunch of unnecessary science into the plot, when much simpler methods would do. I would really have much preferred a sociological story exploring why and how the world came to reject dictatorship."
December 11, 2015 –
page 161
20.59% "Sprague de Camp, unsurprisingly, lives up to his reputation. "The Gnarly Man" is an excellent story. Not superb, but interesting and well worth reading."
December 12, 2015 –
page 193
24.68% ""Black Destroyer" Wow what a good story. Excellent. The idea of a predator that cunning, that able…chilling. The ending isn't top-notch, but the rest of the story is."
December 13, 2015 –
page 247
31.59% ""Trends" is quite an insightful story from a 19-year-old Asimov. The writing quality isn't quite up to his later work, of course, but the ideas are. A story of a spaceship launch attempt in a world consumed by religionism and anti-science fervor (which apparently was a new thing in science fiction, though Asimov eschews credit because he got the idea elsewhere), the phrase the title is drawn from is poignant:"
December 13, 2015 –
page 247
31.59% "…"Trends are things of centuries and millenniums, not years or decades. For five hundred years we have been moving toward science. You can't reverse that in thirty years.""
December 21, 2015 –
page 260
33.25% ""He made a resolve never to speak harshly to anybody he couldn't see.""
December 21, 2015 –
page 271
34.65% ""The Blue Giraffe" Fascinating. Surprisingly good. Or perhaps not so surprisingly, given that the author is L. Sprague de Camp. This story <spoiler>about weird genetic mutations in an African preserve</spoiler> is not only scientifically plausible and gripping, but has an excellent and unexpected ending. (Mind you, I foresaw the problem, but the way it was resolved surprised me.)"
December 21, 2015 –
page 288
36.83% ""The Misguided Halo" A silly and pointless fantasy about a man who is mistakenly made a saint. I don't mind fantasy, but I don't like pointless fantasy, and anyway this is supposed to be a science fiction collection."
December 21, 2015 –
page 298
38.11% ""Heavy Planet" I don't understand. Is this an excerpt? It's not bad, but it feels like a chapter of a larger work. It's a pretty good hard SF story about life on a very large planet with intense gravity, but there's not nearly enough of it and it leaves far too many questions unanswered."
December 21, 2015 –
page 299
38.24% ""Although [Heinlein's] political and social views have generated much controversy in the last twenty years, his emphasis on order, individualism, and discipline aroused little comment early in his career, with America in a struggle against an illegal, disorderly, and undisciplined fascism. I'm sorry, what? Am I missing something? How was fascism/Nazism any of those things?"
December 22, 2015 –
page 317
40.54% ""Life-Line" I've read this story several times before, although in a slightly different edit. It is, of course, pretty good. Not as good as some of Heinlein's later stuff, but a fine first story, about a man who can predict when you'll die through scientific means."
December 22, 2015 –
page 317
40.54% "All I've got to say is, in answer to the implied question at the end of the story: Hell yes I'd want to know. I'm not sure that was always my answer, but it certainly is now. I've got plans to make."
December 22, 2015 –
page 331
42.33% ""Ether Breather" is an interesting story by Theodore Sturgeon <spoiler>about incomprehensible beings who mess up a new kind of television broadcast</spoiler>. It's a bit dissatisfying—nothing's really explained—but a fascinating concept."
December 23, 2015 –
page 352
45.01% ""Pilgrimage" Wonderful! An engrossing story about a matriarchal culture and a girl who wants to be a priestess, but has some surprising things to learn. Very enjoyable and well done. The only problem is the implausible breeding arrangements, but that's a pet peeve of mine."
December 29, 2015 –
page 362
46.29% ""Rust" is a somewhat silly story. It's a pathetic (in a literal sense) story about the killer robots who have destroyed humanity and are now dying out themselves."
December 29, 2015 –
page 384
49.1% ""The Four-Sided Triangle" has promise, but that promise is not fulfilled. The three—two men and a woman—invent a perfect duplicator. Great! But the author does not then go on to show us the possible consequences of such a device, as it is put to relatively mundane purposes.…"
December 29, 2015 –
page 384
49.1% "…Then <spoiler>they decide to duplicate the woman, as both of them are in love with her. She consents to this, but as it turns out, she only loved one of them.</spoiler> Heartbreak and tragedy ensue. But the story only skims over the interesting issues, and instead focuses on contrived dilemmas that really shouldn't be dilemmas. It's sad.…"
December 29, 2015 –
page 384
49.1% "…Apparently there was a book and film based on the story, but although the premise is interesting enough, unless the ideas are greatly expanded, I don't think I'd like to see them."
December 30, 2015 –
page 384
49.1% "However, "Four-Sided Triangle" does semi-accurately portray the trials and frustrations involved in the scientific process."
December 30, 2015 –
page 411
52.56% ""Star Bright" starts with a fascinating premise—what if wishing on a star actually worked, at least once?—and turned it into something rather silly and disappointing, especially from Jack Williamson. There's no real moral here, no upshot, no point. It's not even really science fiction, because although the mechanism for his abilities is (somewhat) explained, how he got them is not."
December 31, 2015 –
page 432
55.24% ""Misfit" is great. Of course it is; it's Heinlein. That doesn't mean that Heinlein stories are axiomatically good, but he seems to grasp the concept of story, of narrative, far better than most of his compatriots. His stories have dramatic tension, they make sense, they are entertaining, and they have moral lessons buried in them."
December 31, 2015 –
page 432
55.24% "…These moral lessons aren't blatant, or preachy (the few stories where he attempts this fall flat); they're just implied statements of value, which, whether you agree or disagree with them, enhance the enjoyability of the story as you subconsciously evaluate those moral lessons. Perhaps most importantly, the science-fictional elements of the story, while certainly present, are not the point.…"
December 31, 2015 –
page 432
55.24% "…The point is the people, and the story. "Life-Line" was largely about the "gimmick," the science-fictional element, and therefore was not as good as most of his later stories. Don't get me wrong—I love stories that explore the consequences of a given development. But even when Heinlein does that, he focuses on the people and the story, and drags us along in fascination."
January 1, 2016 –
page 444
56.78% ""Requiem" Does anything need to be said? It's a Heinlein classic, if a little sloppily written (for him). Actually it was interesting to learn that this was written before "The Man Who Sold the Moon." In The Past Through Tomorrow, it appears after, of course, so I never realized it was a 'prequel.' So this story of D.D. Harriman's trip to the Moon is more poignant in some ways than before."
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% ""The Dwindling Sphere" is a good story about the invention of a device that will convert any mass to any useful substance (at the cost of some of the mass), and the consequences of this development. I love stories that take a single concept to its logical conclusion (Asimov's "The Last Question" is the archetype of this genre), and this one does it well.…"
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% "…Of course, the conclusions are all crap. Asimov expresses his surprise that he had never seen this story before; it amuses me that I had, which is not true of any other story thus far except the Heinleins. I must have read it before I studied Economics, though, because I recall thinking that the conclusion presented was plausible and interesting. Interesting yes; plausible no.…"
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% "…<spoiler>First off, no invention will result in permanent, mass, involuntary unemployment. At least he saw that there would be plenty for everyone (though that is kind of implied by the invention). But in a market economy, people will find useful work to do, even if only writing books or painting—though of course there will be much more than that to do, such as inventing, crafting (people like hand-crafted things)…</spoiler>"
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% "…<spoiler>etc. Also, of course, property rights fixes the problems of disputed borders given depleting material—though war over this is not implausible given our current nation-state structure. Indeed, property rights would just about fix the whole problem; as land and water diminished, it would become more valuable, so that a proper balance would be reached, and other solutions and activities pursued.</spoiler>…"
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% "…<spoiler>But I'm surprised at the last two plot holes, as the average science-fiction writer should have been able to foresee them. First, what about the Earth's magma and liquid core? Wouldn't reducing the Earth to the size of the Moon have stripped off all the rocky layer? Or are they, at the end, living on an artificial crust underneath which the liquid core is being siphoned off? That didn't seem to be the case.</spoiler>"
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% "…<spoiler>Maybe geology was not that advanced in 1940. Lastly, it would seem obvious, especially to a science-fiction writer, that the dimimishment of the Earth would prompt great effort to bring in material from outer space, beginning perhaps with the Moon, but continuing with the asteroids and other planets. That would at least stave off the crisis for a very long time. But perhaps this was deliberately ignored…</spoiler>"
January 1, 2016 –
page 450
57.54% "…<spoiler>in order to be able to make his point. Understandable I guess.</spoiler> Don't think that my extensive criticism means that I don't like the story. I do, a lot. It's quite enjoyable, and even though I disagree with many of the particulars, the general moral—that we should be careful to mind the long-term consequences of our actions—is one I agree with wholeheartedly."
January 2, 2016 –
page 477
61.0% ""The Automatic Pistol" is good enough as fantasy horror, I guess, but, again, I don't expect to see fantasy in a science fiction anthology. <spoiler>So the pistol is possessed or something; it's his familiar, sent from the devil. So? That's not interesting by itself, unless I believed that this sort of thing was possible, which I don't. So while the story is interesting and well-written, I don't see the point.</spoiler>"
January 3, 2016 –
page 479
61.25% "Reading the first of "Hindsight" gave me a notion; In science fiction, it is almost always the case that people in the far future, or from other worlds, have strange-sounding names. What if an offshoot of humanity did this on purpose? Changed their names to be "Martian" or whatever, to distance themselves from their heritage. They might try to change the language, too."
January 3, 2016 –
page 479
61.25% "I don't care for time-travel stories, so Jack Williamson's "Hindsight" didn't appeal to me very much. Technically it's a time-manipulation story instead of a time-travel story, but my annoyance is similar. Why do 'history,' or 'time,' or "world lines" care about big events but not small ones?"
January 3, 2016 –
page 479
61.25% "Also, though Greenberg (the editor) claims that this story shows rare (for the Golden Age) character development, I don't think a time-manipulated drastic change in personality counts. The story was well-written and somewhat exciting, though, so if you don't mind time-travel stories, you'll probably like it."
January 3, 2016 –
page 498
63.68% "It's interesting (and encouraging, knowing that they didn't just pop out of his head full-formed) to see that Asimov got many of his ideas from these old stories. For instance, Murchison Morks is clearly an inspiration for George from the Azazel stories, who instantly has to one-up anything anyone says."
January 3, 2016 –
page 510
65.22% ""Postpaid to Paradise" is an interesting fantasy by Robert Arthur involving some magical stamps. The story and background are involved enough that I don't especially mind that it's fantasy; indeed it only qualifies as fantasy because no explanation for the fantastic effects was given or attempted."
January 3, 2016 –
page 510
65.22% "Two things struck me about the story: One, that a story involving grown men obsessing over a painting of a naked sixteen-year-old girl would not pass muster nowadays; and Two, that this story and its sequels must certainly have inspired Asimov's Azazel stories; they're similar in many ways, most especially in tone (a tone that Asimov's other stories do not have)."
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "Wow. I've long presumed that Asimov felt this way, but I've never seen him say so openly. It just goes to show how incredibly wrong geniuses can be. He equates small government with *no* government, and presumes that a government that does not meddle with every aspect of our lives will not prevent others from doing so. It's a strange view, but an oddly common one. [quote follows]"
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% ""I'm also suspicious of those who equate liberty with "small government," meaning less interference from Washington over the details of our life. I don't believe there can be less interference; just a change of interference. If Washington bows out, then it is the local bully on the block who will take over, and I'd rather have Washington.…"
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "…Every once in a while through history, places have tried "small government" and re-placed a tyrannical central power with local "self-help." It's called "feudalism" and it's also called "dark ages" and I don't want it. —But I must say Bob preaches his point of view charmingly." It's so odd. It's like the first hundred or so years of the United States never happened for him."
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "I mean, I really don't get it. "Covenant" begins with: "Have you anything to say before sentence is pronounced on you?" The mild eyes of the Senior Judge studied the face of the accused. His question was answered by a sullen silence. "Very well—the jury has determined that you have violated a basic custom agreed to under the Covenant, and that through this act did damage another free citizen.…"
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "…It is the opinion of the jury and of the court that you did so knowingly, and aware of the probability of damage to a free citizen. Therefore, you are sentenced to choose between the Two Alternatives." It is later revealed that this guy's crime is punching someone in the face that probably deserves it. Is this the kind of small government that Asimov thinks will allow feudalism and dark ages? Seriously?"
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "Man, I love our current age. The last time I read "Coventry," I didn't have the Internet, or at least not at my fingertips. So when Heinlein mentions a puzzle known as "How old is Ann?" I had no idea what he was talking about, and no easy way to find out. Now, I just look it up on my handy-dandy everything box (a.k.a. an iPhone), and I know the answer. Living in the future is great!"
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% ""Coventry," by Robert A. Heinlein, is excellent. It's head and shoulders above any of the previous stories in this volume, including the other two by Heinlein. At that, it's not Heinlein's best from this period; that honor goes to "If This Goes On…", not included in this collection. This story of a man sent to Coventry (think Australia in the 18th century) is superb, and contains actual character development."
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "One more thing before I leave "Coventry": Greenberg mentions that Heinlein believes it necessary to "earn liberty." Asimov comments that he is "suspicious of any doctrine that tells us we must earn liberty. Who decides when we have earned it and who has the right to withhold it if we haven't earned it? It bothers me.""
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "Well, I agree, and so would Heinlein. Heinlein never says that liberty must be earned by individuals in order to receive it. What Greenberg is picking up on is that those who are not worthy of liberty are likely to lose it, a sentiment Benjamin Franklin expressed many years before. Societies must earn liberty, of course, or they will not have it, and individuals must be willing to die to defend it."
January 3, 2016 –
page 511
65.35% "But individuals living in a free society are not expected to earn the liberty that others fought to institute, and that others stand prepared to die to defend. Why is this so hard to understand? What is it about the Progressive mindset that makes this concept so hard to grasp?"
January 5, 2016 –
page 539
68.93% ""Into the Darkness" by Ross Rocklynne is an amazing story. This is what science fiction does at its best: Fills you with wonder and speculation and imaginings. Note that I didn't say that this is what science fiction is; it doesn't have to be a story about giant amorphous space beings, or anything like it. But great SF expands your mind and makes you think things and ask things you never imagined before."
January 6, 2016 –
page 539
68.93% "Unsurprisingly, Lester del Rey doesn't disappoint; "Dark Mission" is a gripping story. It's a mystery of sorts, about a crashed rocketship pilot with amnesia. Who is he? How did he get there? What is the purpose of these strange urges he feels? The story drags you along to the end, with a mostly-satisfying conclusion. "Mostly" because it left me wanting more; the story is very detailed, and yet unfinished in a way."
January 10, 2016 –
page 580
74.17% "Theodore Sturgeon's "IT," a horror about a plant muck-creature that inspired Man-Thing and Swamp Thing. It's interesting, and readable, but not remotely as horrifying as the introduction implies. Perhaps it was when first published, but the influence it had has dulled its effect on me through familiarity."
January 10, 2016 –
page 580
74.17% "It reminds me somewhat of "The Rag Thing" by Donald A. Wollheim, which had the sort of impact on me that this story had on others. I think part of the reason that this story didn't affect me is that there's really no origin story for the monster. I don't need it to be a scientifically-plausible, hard-SF explanation, but not having one at all leaves the story hanging without context, which is less involving and scary."
January 15, 2016 –
page 607
77.62% ""Vault of the Beast," by A. E. van Vogt is…odd. It's at essence a mathematical story, involving prime numbers and different types of mathematics (negative, infinitesimal, imaginary). It's frustrating because van Vogt repeats the common error of believing that infinitesimal mathematics—the math we learned in school, with an infinite number of numbers between any two whole numbers—is fundamentally correct…"
January 15, 2016 –
page 607
77.62% "…and "natural number" mathematics is wrong. But that's the wrong way to look at it. These are simply different models, different ways of looking at problems. Some problems can be more easily solved with one system, others with another. There's no inherently "correct" mathematics, any more than there's a "correct" hammer or chainsaw."
January 15, 2016 –
page 607
77.62% "And actually, I'm not even sure that the math in this story passes muster in our modern schema. Also, there's supposedly a "robot" in this story, but calling it a robot doesn't explain it, and it doesn't act more robot-like than living-thing-like. Perhaps van Vogt meant "construct" instead of "robot.""
January 15, 2016 –
page 607
77.62% "In all, there are enough new and interesting ideas presented in this story that it would take a long novel to explore them. This short story doesn't do them justice."
January 16, 2016 –
page 607
77.62% "This story also presents a common, though implausible, science fiction trope—the super-rich super-genius. Not that smart men can't become rich, but it takes much time and effort to become that wealthy, time that one is not spending on intellectual pursuits. So it's hard to believe that a fantastically wealthy self-made businessman could also be the world's greatest mathematician."
January 16, 2016 –
page 622
79.54% "Amusingly, this is the second story (including The Early Asimov) that Asimov says he has not read or does not recall from the era, and I have read both of them before. "The Impossible Highway" is just the sort of story that fascinates me. It could be called a "concept" story, I suppose. It introduces a new, perplexing idea, and then leaves the reader to figure out what to do with it."
January 16, 2016 –
page 636
81.33% ""Quietus" by Ross Rocklynne is kind of a typical science fiction story. Not stereotypical—it doesn't involve humans in rocketships firing ray-guns at bug-eyed green aliens (though it does, in its way, involve spaceships, ray-guns and aliens)—but typical, in that it tries to surprise or disturb us by turning standard expectations on their heads. In this case it interestingly explores what it means to seem intelligent."
January 17, 2016 –
page 637
81.46% "From "Blowups Happen," by Robert A. Heinlein: "As King read, the troubled feeling of an acutely harassed executive left him. His dominant personality took charge, that of the scientist. He enjoyed the controlled and cerebral ecstasy of the impersonal seeker for the elusive truth. The emotions felt in the throbbing thalamus were permitted only to form a sensuous obligato for the cold flame of cortical activity.…"
January 17, 2016 –
page 637
81.46% "…For the time being, he was sane, more nearly completely sane than most men ever achieve at any time.""
January 17, 2016 –
page 637
81.46% ""Blowups Happen": Perhaps it's that I've read this story several times, but reading it now, Heinlein's utter genius as a science fiction writer is apparent."
January 17, 2016 –
page 637
81.46% "The story combines psychology, the process of experimentation and innovation, business, mathematics, engineering, philosophy, quite plausible (though ultimately inaccurate) extrapolation from very recent scientific discovery, and brilliant alternate explanations of scientific fact (a trope I'm deeply fond of) into a meaningful, suspenseful, and engrossing whole."
January 17, 2016 –
page 637
81.46% "Is there any wonder at his popularity, or why he's one of my favorite authors? This story, for copyright reasons, is not included in the book. The book suggests reading it in The Past Through Tomorrow, but it's better, for this purpose, to use the original version, published in Expanded Universe."
January 18, 2016 –
page 650
83.12% ""Strange Playfellow," by Isaac Asimov: I wasn't looking forward to reading this story (about a little girl and her pet robot) again; I've read it (under the title "Robbie") many times. But this is the original, unpolished version, and it's interesting to see the changes he made when he republished it, and how those minor changes vastly improve the quality and tone of the story."
January 18, 2016 –
page 668
85.42% ""The Warrior Race," by L. Sprague de Camp: I feel like I've read another story with the exact same premise: A warrior race, oppressing a conquered population, <spoiler>becomes corrupt and decadent, and is eventually defeated</spoiler>, on the model of Sparta. Perhaps it was by Asimov, emulating this one. Regardless, the story is a little sparse, and says "Read your history" a bit too often."
January 18, 2016 –
page 668
85.42% "It feels more like a proof-of-concept than an actual story. A novelette or better would have been more appropriate."
January 18, 2016 –
page 668
85.42% "However, I was struck by the Aristotle quote at the end of the story: 'Militaristic states are apt to survive only so long as they remain at war, while they go to ruin as soon as they have finished making their conquests. Peace causes their metal to decay; and the fault lies with a social system which does not teach its soldiers what to make of their lives when they off duty.'"
January 18, 2016 –
page 668
85.42% "The bit that struck me was "the fault lies with a social system which does not teach its soldiers what to make of their lives when they off duty." Do we do that even today? It seems that we don't have a very good conception, as a society, as to what off-duty soldiers are supposed to do with themselves. Reservists do not have this problem."
January 19, 2016 –
page 707
90.41% ""Farewell to the Master" (Harry Bates) is a pretty good story. I can't talk about it without spoiling it, so read it before reading further. <spoiler>So this is a surprise-ending story. But I don't get it. Why is that such an enormous surprise, and why does it matter so much? Sure, it's surprising, but it doesn't seem to fulfill the promise of what is otherwise a good story. Nothing's explained.</spoiler>"
January 19, 2016 –
page 707
90.41% "(Heavy spoilers below) <spoiler>Good surprise-ending stories make the rest of the story suddenly make sense, or make you understand it in a different light. But I don't understand this story at all. Why were they here? Okay, Klaatu was killed, but why was it so crucial to revive him if Gnut was the master all along? The "reveal" makes the story make *less* sense, not more.</spoiler> Oh well. It's still a great story."
January 19, 2016 –
page 728
93.09% ""Butyl and the Breather" by Theodore Sturgeon is not, as the editor's preface indicates, as good as the previous story, "Ether Breather." But heck, that one wasn't that good either. Like that one, this story is entertaining and has some interesting and original ideas, and that's good enough, I guess."
January 19, 2016 –
page 752
96.16% "I'm not quite sure why "The Exalted," by L. Sprague de Camp is called that, unless "exalted" is used in an unusual way. I guess it's referring to the elevated state of the professor who takes his own smart pills, with amusing results. Nominally this story is about a bear who had been given these smart pills, but it's really about what happens <spoiler>when a smart person becomes super smart.</spoiler>"
January 19, 2016 –
page 752
96.16% "I find it interesting that what de Camp thinks would happen is that the person would <spoiler>realize the futility and ridiculousness of life and focus on amusing themselves.</spoiler> I've come to much the same sort of conclusion, though I'm having a devil of a time trying to actually live by it."
January 20, 2016 –
page 782
100.0% "P. Schuyler Miller's "Old Man Mulligan" is the final story in this collection, and a good one, about the adventures (well, one adventure) involving the titular character, who is either a thousands-of-years-old Neanderthal, or a very capable liar. It's science fiction more by virtue of it being set on Venus than this fact, because Mulligan is not really explained, just presented. A well-done story tho."
January 20, 2016 – Finished Reading

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