This is the first book of Ben Bova’s that I’ve read. Before that I’ve only read “The Nonmetallic Isaac or It’s a Wonderful Life” in Foundation’s Friends. I bought this book randomly because I had run out of things to read on a business trip, and I don’t regret it. The book is well paced, interesting and fun to read. It also explores alien life in a way which is particularly believable (unlike many other SF books I encounter). This book reminds me of Dragon’s Egg without being so hard-SFy. A very good book.
I was excited when I found Foundation’s Friends the other day, because I thought I’d read all the Foundation books and did not know that this one existed. It is an anthology which celebrates Asimov’s 50 years as a science fiction author, and each author takes their own approach to the Foundation universe.
The stories are:
- The Nonmetallic Isaac or It’s a Wonderful Life (Ben Bova): not really a short story, more of an inspection of the impact that Asimov’s non-fiction writing has had on the world.
- Strip-Runner (Pamela Sargent): set after The Naked Sun, a young female strip runner meets Elijah Bailey.
- The Asenion Solution (Robert Silverberg): a pretty standard science fiction short story.
- Murder in the Urth Degree (Edward Wellen): I haven’t read any of the Doctor Urth mysteries, so to be honest this story seemed pretty weird.
- Trantor Falls (Harry Turtledove): covers the fall and sack of Trantor at the end of the first Galactic Empire. This one is pretty good, and in keeping with the overall Foundation universe.
- Dilemma (Connie Willis): Asimov deals with some three law robots.
- Maureen Birnbaum After Dark (George Alec Effinger): I find Maureen’s character to be superficial and annoying. This story didn’t really do it for me.
- Balance (Mike Resnik): Susan Calvin wonders if robots are a better date than men.
- The Present Eternal (Barry N Malzberg): is it good to be able to see with 100% accuracy into the past? This story was a bit disjointed, and not the best in the book.
- PAPPI (Sheila Finch): a colleague of Susan Calvin brings home a robot companion for her son.
- The Reunion at the Mile-High (Frederik Pohl): what if a biological weapon had been pursued instead of a nuclear one at the end of world war 2? What if Isaac Asimov hadn’t been a science fiction author because he was drafted into the effort?
- Plato’s Cave (Poul Anderson): the robot debuggers Donovan and Powell return to help with a confused robot on Io. This story was pretty in keeping with the original Donovan and Powell stories, which was nice as those stories are classics.
- Foundation’s Conscience (George Zebrowski): a researcher looks for records of missing Seldon appearances.
- Carhunters of the Concrete Prairie (Robert Sheckley): this story was written by one of the guys who did the Bill the Galactic Hero spinoffs — specifically Bill the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains. This story seems to suffer from similar problems — as best as I can tell its trying to be funny, but it doesn’t do it very well.
- The Overheard Conversation (Edward D. Hoch): the Black Widowers meet for a dinner discussion. I haven’t read any other Black Widower stories, so I don’t have much of an opinion on this one, although it did seem like a pretty traditional pithy short story.
- Blot (Hal Clement): explorers on icy Miranda interact with some cubes of unknown origin that appear to be communicating with each other.
- The Fourth Law of Robotics (Harry Harrison): the Stainless Steel Rat meets Susan Calvin.
- The Originist (Orson Scott Card): a scientist trying to determine the origin of the human race in the declining days of the Galactic Empire interacts with Hari Seldon and his Foundations.
- A Word or Two from Janet (Janet Asimov): what is it like being married to Isaac Asimov?
- Fifty Years (Isaac Asimov): Asimov reflects on 50 years of writing.
Obviously, being an anthology, some of these stories are better than others. However, this is a good collection with only a couple of stories I didn’t really like. I’m glad I found it.