I Love Isaac Asimov

October 11, 2016

I’m not telling you to read his books.

I am saying if you die without having read his books, that will have been a big loss. You better hope you reincarnate as another human in your next life, and not a cat or a shrimp, for another crack at his books.

I love the way Asimov writes.
As a lifelong confirmed nonfiction reader, I never understood the point of reading fiction. I like solving problems to life, I don’t have time to read for fun, I thought.

So it took a tremendous amount of “why” for me to dip my toes into fiction. Now that I’m in the pool, I can’t imagine why I ever resisted.

No one ever properly explained to me the benefits of fiction.
I compare nonfiction to taking vitamin c capsules while reading fiction is like eating a whole handful of organic blueberries. Fiction is whole food.

Asimov’s books are science fiction, yet there’s not much science in them. It’s more about painting fun, fast paced worlds and characters. His stories have an uplifting light feeling. All his heroes are usually outsiders, underdogs. They know something to be true, yet the world around doesn’t believe. So the hero has to set about saving a world that doesn’t believe in them.

And best of all, all his different series connect.
Everything happens in the same universe, at different points in time.

Asimov famously wrote the Robot series, and created the first positronic brained artificial human, which Data from Star Trek TNG was later based. He also created the 4 laws of robotics, which I assume will play a role in our real life AI creations.

The Robot series tell the stories of an overcrowded earth populating other planets, with the help of robots, and how different planets have distinctly different cultures. The one common theme being the outer worlds look down on earthers and have them essentially quarantined.

He also wrote the Foundation series, which happen thousands of years later, when the galaxy is populated with humans. There’s a big empire which is crumbling and only one person can spot it, our unlikely hero Hari Seldon.

Anyways, I don’t want to go too much into the details.
The reason to read these books is that you’ll enjoy your time. They’re great on the brain. You’ll also learn something new about physics and science, secretly hidden in his stories, like a pill stuck inside a banana for Fido.

And the main reason is that The Foundation series is a favorite of Elon Musk. That’s why I gave it a try. Later I found that they’re also a fave of nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman. There you go.

Which order to read em
If you’re wondering where to start, I could tell you, but it doesn’t really matter.

“No two persons ever read the same book.”
– Edmund Wilson

Asimov wrote each of his books so that they stand alone, but also connect with the others. It’s like looking at the Mona Lisa, the eyes follow you around no matter where you stand.

It’s like asking where to start on the Star Wars movies. Some say to start with original trilogy. Some kids may like the prequels. Other newbies may like the newest movie. It doesn’t matter where you start.

I started with the original trilogy.
Foundation.
This was a hard read because I had no idea what was going on.
Then I moved onto Foundation and Empire,
and Second Foundation.
Super good.

There are prequels to Foundation which are even better and funner.
Prelude to Foundation
Forward the Foundation

There are also sequels to the original series.
Foundation’s Edge
Foundation and Earth

Also fun.

There are the Robot detective novels I absolutely loved.
These are like the pre-prequels to Foundation.
Caves of Steel
The Naked Sun
The Robots of Dawn
Robots and Empire
This is where a grisly human detective from earth teams up with the most artificially advanced robot from the outer world to solve crimes. Picture Columbo teaming up with Data.

You can also read I, Robot, which has disconnected short stories on how humans created different levels of robots. Technically, this may be considered the pre of all prequels, where all the stories begin. To me, I, Robot was just okay but helps make sense when reading the other stories.

Go read Asimov!
That’s the main tl;dr.

Resources:
Foundation
Prelude to Foundation
Caves of Steel

“In a 2013 interview with The Guardian, Musk said he was influenced by Asimov’s “Foundation” series, which centers on the fall of the Galactic Empire.”14 books that inspired Elon Musk
Paul Krugman: Asimov’s Foundation novels grounded my economics
If you are planning on reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series…