Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Posts Tagged ‘isaac asimov

‘The Last Question’ by Isaac Asimov

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This is Asimov’s third and final story in the anthology and for a minute I thought it might be okay. It isn’t. It is another Multivac story and, after a hard day’s inputting, two of its attendants retire for a quiet drink. As they shoot the breeze we get the only decent line of the story:

Lupov cocked his head sideways. He had a trick of doing that when he wanted to be contrary, and he wanted to be contrary now, partly because he had had to carry the ice and glassware.

It is one of the few times you feel Asimov is writing an actual human being. What the two are discussing is entropy and whether there is any way of avoiding the heat death of the universe. Multivac doesn’t know. So then the story repeats itself but further into the future. And again. And again. Eventually humanity is dead and we are rewarded with a cheesy punchline.

Quality: **
Hardness: ***

Written by Martin

4 December 2010 at 13:18

‘Waterclap’ by Isaac Asimov

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So, is Isaac Asimov rubbish? He is certainly unlikely to be of interest to lovers of literature and his previous story in this anthology wasn’t even of interest to lovers of science fiction. This story, from his late period, is equally balls.

A man from a habitat on the Moon (weakly named Luna City) comes to visit a man from a habitat on the ocean floor (weakly called Ocean-Deep). For fifteen pages they talk dryly of habitat engineering before the actual plot reveals itself in the form of an attempted sabotage. Disaster is then averted by a bit of transparent bullshit. This story is really only notable for the unfortunate spectacle of Asimov trying to show how progressive he is about gender roles whilst actually being very sexist indeed.

Quality: *
Hardness: ****

Written by Martin

31 May 2010 at 10:59

‘The Life And Times Of Multivac’ by Isaac Asimov

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Asimov is one of the few olden days SF writers whose oeuvre I am actually familiar with, thanks to my dad’s collection of Sixties science fiction paperbacks which were limited in their entirety to Asimov, Ballard and LeGuin.

‘The Life And Times Of Multivac’ has strong similarities to his robot stories: Asimov posits a world-spanning AI which functions according to a set of rules and then derives the drama of the story by logically applying these rules. This AI, Multivac, has been installed as a Millsian central planner following a catastrophe which reduced the world’s population to five million. By the time our story opens, humanity is keen to take the reins of power back for themselves and our protagonist is ostricised by his peers because he appears to have sided with Multivac. However, it is transparantly obvious to us that he has a Cunning Plan.

Like his protagonist, Asimov is a maker of puzzles but unfortunately this puzzle is too basic and, in many ways, he is guilty of the same crime as Multivac: logic and reason have crowded out humanity. Rather than generating any drama, he is bloodlessly writing out the lines of his solution.

Quality: **
Hardness: ***

Written by Martin

9 March 2010 at 11:19