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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-26 06:26
This Anthology Proves that Nobody Can Make You Fear & Love Robots at the Same Time as Asimov Can!
The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories - Isaac Asimov

 

I bought this anthology, The Bicentennial Man & Other Stories, from Kitabain. This online bookstore never disappoints when I want something that is different, rare, exotic, or all that and more! The books are amazingly priced and always in good condition. Since I have the beautiful hardcover edition, it was featured in my Library Languishers series, even if its stay wasn’t a long one!

 

the-bicentennial-man-and-other-stories-isaac-asimov

 

This edition compiles 12 short stories by Asimov, centering around robots and other machines. Preceding each story is an anecdote by the author that tells the reader of its origins. The anecdotes are written in an amusing style and make the reader look forward to reading the story. An example:

 

“How is it,” she asked dangerously, “that you wrote a story for that anthology, yet when I ask you for one you’re always too busy?” “Well,” I said apologetically, for Judy-Lynn is a frightening creature when she is moved, “the idea of the anthology interested me.” “How about my suggestions about a robot that has to choose between buying its own liberty and improving its body? I thought you said that was interesting.” At that point, I must have turned approximately as white as talcum powder. A long time before, she had mentioned such things and I had forgotten. I said, “Oh, my goodness, I included something of the sort in the story.” “Again?” she shrieked. “Again you’re using my ideas for other people? Let me see that story. Let me see it!”

 

The Prime of Life

A poem that talks about how most people who met the author exclaimed surprise at his still being alive!

Fun  to read.

 

Feminine Intuition

A dying robotics firm tries to turn public opinion positive towards robots by building a “female” robot.

Susan Calvin was my favorite character, of course!

 

Waterclap

Competing for funding isn’t a laughing matter, whether it is a pioneering experiment on the moon or on the ocean floor.

The ending was expected and completely unneeded.

 

That Thou Art Mindful of Him

“I understand, Mr. Harriman. Enough differences remain to show me that there are here many different forms of plant life.” “Undoubtedly. Dozens.” “And each coequal with man, biologically.” “Each is a separate species, yes. There are millions of species of living creatures.” “Of which the human being forms but one.” “By far the most important to human beings, however.” “And to me, Mr. Harriman. But I speak in the biological sense.” “I understand.”

Just as God is said to have designed humans in a form that resembles him, human beings design robots in their image. Things could undoubtedly get problematic! For instance, look at this conversation between two George robots:

Of the reasoning individuals you have met, who possesses the mind, character, and knowledge that you find superior to the rest, disregarding shape and form since that is irrelevant?” “You,” whispered George Nine. “But I am a robot. There is in your brain paths a criterion for distinguishing between a robot of metal and a human being of flesh. How then can you classify me as a human being?” “Because there is in my brain paths an urgent need to disregard shape and form in judging human beings and it rises superior to the distinction between metal and flesh. You are a human being, George Ten, and more fit than the others.” “And I find that of you,” whispered George Ten.

 

Stranger in Paradise

In a time when being related by blood is an embarrassment, two brothers try working together for the betterment of humanity.

 

The Life and Times of Multivac

A supercomputer, Multivac, has taken over the world and tries to protect humanity from itself. A man thinks his fellow humans want to be free of its influence. Or do they?

Loved the ending:

 

He was gasping, but forced himself steady, and said solemnly, “I have given us our freedom.” And he paused, aware at last of the gathering weight of the silence. Fourteen images stared at him, without any of them offering a word in response. Bakst said sharply, “You have talked of freedom. You have it!” Then, uncertainly, he said, “Isn’t that what you want?”

 

The Winnowing

A global food crisis is starving people of the world slowly when a scientist comes up with a revolutionary lipoprotein. The government, on the other hand, decides to use it as a sort of chemical weapon!

Probably my favorite out of the whole bunch! The ending was expected but still well done:

There’s no cure or antidote, but don’t worry. It’s a quite painless death, and it will be the finger of God, as one of you told me. It’s a good lesson, as another of you said. For those of you who survive, there may be new views on triage.” Affare said, “This is a bluff. You’ve eaten the sandwiches yourself.” Rodman said, “I know. I matched the LP to my own biochemistry, so I will go fast.” His eyes closed. “You’ll have to carry on without me—those of you who survive.”

 

The Bicentennial Man

A robot like no other adopted by a family like no other. The story follows Andrew on its journey from the Sesquicentennial Robot to the Bicentennial Man.

The movie based on this short story remains a favorite of mine. Here are some scenes from it:

 

1

2

3

 

Marching In

A musician helps reaffirm the belief of neurologists in the healing powers of music.

Short but sweet!

 

“A revival hymn?” Dr. Cray stared at him, wide-eyed. “Sure. What I used in this case was the best of them all. I gave her ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’” He sang it softly, finger-snapping the beat, and by the third bar, Dr. Cray’s toes were tapping.

 

Old-fashioned

Two astrominers get stuck orbiting a black hole and have to come up with a solution to get help sent to them.

Nothing unique but fun nonetheless.

 

The Tercentenary Incident

The president is a robot. The president killed a robot. The robot killed the president. A robot is the president. Any of these might be true when it comes to what’s going on this story.

Weakest out of the whole bunch.

 

Birth of a Notion

That the first inventor of a workable time machine was a science fiction enthusiast is by no means a coincidence. It was inevitable. Why else should an otherwise sane physicist even dare track down the various out-of-the-way theories that seemed to point toward maneuverability in time in the very teeth of General Relativity?

A scientist tries out his invention in this story.

 

Last Thoughts

The science in a couple of the stories took me by surprise. I used to think that making my stories too sciency might be a bad idea but I enjoyed reading it just as much as I enjoy writing them!

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review 2013-10-11 13:20
The Bicentennial Man
The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories - Isaac Asimov Arthur C. Clarke said that science fiction done well at the least can give the pleasure of a "good puzzle" and entertain. Asimov is always science fiction done well, and this collection is no exception. I don't think Asimov has a strong prose style, and his characters are rarely memorable. But in the best stories by him I've read, such as "The Dead Past" or "Nightfall" he can stun me by making me see the world in a whole new way. I don't think any of the stories here are of that order--with the possible exception of "The Bicentennial Man." Asimov rarely pulls at my heartstrings--the short stories "The Dead Past" and "The Ugly Little Boy" are exceptions. This is another one--I had a lump in my throat by the end. And it's so well done--the whole passing of different generations in the lifetime of this robot. Oh, yeah, it's a robot story--an Asimov specialty. As are two of my other favorites outings in the book, "Feminine Intuition" and "That Thou Art Mindful of Him." I do love the point Asimov made in the first story mentioned, and how... subversive the other one is of his own robot lore. Both "The Lives and Times of Multivac" and "The Winnowing" have wicked good twists. And I liked the undersea setting of "Waterclap." There wasn't any of the 12 stories I didn't like. Those were just the ones I found standouts. I can't imagine a science fiction fan not enjoying these.
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review 2013-09-21 02:23
Imperial Earth, A Short Retrospective
Imperial Earth - Arthur C. Clarke
The Bicentennial Man And Other Stories (hardcover) - Isaac Asimov

I read Arthur C. Clarke's Imperial Earth back in the late 70s when I was 15 or 16 years old. It was published in 1976 as a sort of tie-in with the American Bicentennial. Isaac Asimov published The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories around the same time. I was just old enough to view these tie-ins as a marketing ploy and did my best to avoid them. But Clarke was smart enough not to put the word "Bicentennial" or any reference to the USA in the title and thus I started reading Imperial Earth as just a book by one of my favorite authors. (Asimov's book of short stories turned out to be pretty good but I didn't discover that until much later.

 

I found my current copy of Imperial Earth at a used book store for $8.00 in hard cover. Back when I read it for the first time as a teenager much of it went over my head. Back then I saw it as both a "book of wonder" (as in wow, living in the future as a clone on Titan and traveling through space is really cool) and a mystery novel. But as a mystery it was slow and subtle. Somebody dies but there is no murderer. The characters in Imperial Earth act cagy but in the end there is no crime. 

 

In rereading Imperial Earth nearly 37 years later it's become the great novel that it always was. Clarke requires his readers to come to his books with enough knowledge of history, science, and mythology to truly follow his references and innuendo. The book opens with the hero, Duncan, as a youth discovering a magnificent sound. It could be a storm on the surface of his world (Titan, a moon of Saturn), or a rocket ship, or a monster. He shares the sounds with his best friend Karl. I now realize it's one of the best opening chapters in all of Science Fiction. 

 

Clarke paints a picture of the future where skin color and sexual preferences are of little importance. A world where the Earth is at peace and humanity is looking out to the stars, listening for alien civilizations or maybe alien monsters.

 

I don't want to give the book's secrets away but it all fits together like a pentomino puzzle (one of Duncan's favorite pastimes . (And by the way, Clarke predicts the smart phone and the Internet in this book.)

 

 

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review 2007-11-16 00:00
The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories - Isaac Asimov Robots you can like. Asimov completely owns the robot genre.
Like Reblog Comment
review 2007-11-16 00:00
The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories - Isaac Asimov Robots you can like. Asimov completely owns the robot genre.
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