I should really be hitting you with an honest-to-God book review today, but: because real life intrudes, because I haven’t finished the book, because I’m inspired by reading Alec Nevala-Lee’s history of John W. Campbell’s editorship of Astounding, because Vintage Science Fiction Month approaches, and because I need somewhere to store all of the recommendations I’ve been getting, I am going to talk about reading Asimov for the first time instead. “What!?” you say, “What kind of weirdo hasn’t read Asimov?” Well, me. Two-plus years after starting Throwback SF Thursdays, I remain criminally underread in pre-1980 speculative fiction, and I am particularly underread in science fiction, which, relative to fantasy, has never been my thing.
Since I read older speculative fiction year-round, I like to focus a bit more for Vintage Science Fiction Month in January on science fiction rather than fantasy. One of my posts this year will be on Nevala-Lee’s book, and it makes sense to read related works for my other posts. So, at the very least, I will read and review a Heinlein and an Asimov. With a couple Heinleins under my belt, I have a decent handle on where to go next with his work. But I have not only not read Asimov, I don’t even know all that much about his body of work.
So I reached out to the wisdom of the Twitter crowd (don’t laugh).
The Hugo Award book club responded first with some recommendations and one anti-recommendation:
Andrea from the Little Red Reviewer spoke up for the I, Robot stories, although the Hugo Award book club refused to back off of Nightfall:
Jacob from Red Star Reviews put in a good word for the expanded version:
Asimov started out writing short fiction, and Pseudolus Forty-Twodolus recommended starting with a short story collection:
John Schmidt gave me options with both a short story and a novel:
Kevin Xu points out that the Robot stories and the Foundation series are set in the same universe and recommends reading them in publication, not chronological order (#TeamAlwaysPublicationOrder):
Nick Borelli from Out of This World SFF Reviews suggests putting off Foundation because it is the heavier work:
PC Bushi of Bushi SF/F, though, stands up for Foundation:
…while admitting I, Robot’s place in the science fiction canon:
Nathan, the Pulp Archivist, second’s the importance of I, Robot, pointing to its cultural impact:
Nathan points to another story that has sent out ripples still being felt today:
(Wikipedia tells me that Asimov only wrote the novelization of the movie, although his book came out first.)
Kevin Xu makes another recommendation that he describes as “pulpy,” which is always a feature, not a bug around here:
Parties disagree as to which Foundation books are worth reading:
Mark from Kaedrin jumped in with some last minute recommendations:
I wound up with a lot of disparate recommendations, which doesn’t surprise me, although the sheer number of responses did. PC Bushi sums things up:
I am leaning toward swinging by the used bookstore on my way home today and seeing what they have, with an eye toward grabbing a short story collection that includes Nightfall and with The Caves of Steel as a backup. (Alec Nevala-Lee makes a big deal about the importance of Nightfall in his book.)
What do you think. Where would you tell someone to start with Isaac Asimov?