The Martian Way and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov was my blast from the past piece of reading recently. Not only am I an old fan* of Asimov, but the stories in this book are all old too. All hail from the 1950s yet they barely look a day over thirty.
The four stories are The Martian Way, Youth, The Deep and Sucker Bait.
The title story describes the first conflict between Earth and a new settlement, in this case it is Mars. This theme pops up in other Asimov books, the friction and conflict between new and younger settlements and “mother Earth”. In this case the altercation is over access to water. Earth has it and Mars needs it. An Earth politician, rather in a demagoguery sort of way threatens to cut off the water supply so provoking the first space trip out to Saturn and instigating the independence of Mars from Earth.
Youth follows the story of two young boys who find two unusual and small “animals” and plan to run off with them to the circus. The only problem is… the animals are actually extraterrestrial traders who have come to discuss the possibility of economic ties with the parent of one of the boys.
The Deep is about the ending of a planet’s life and it’s inhabitants too as its Sun dies. As the star becomes colder, the inhabitants of the planet retreat deeper into the core of the planet in order to access the heat. As a last attempt to survive they send one of their people to another planet, Earth, in order to begin a transfer process which will take all the remaining people to the deep places in the Earth’s core.
Sucker Bait follows another favourite Asimov theme – overpopulation and galactic expansion. In this case it is an advance party of scientists sent to a planet that appears to be ideal for human habitation. The only problem is the death of several hundred colonists a century before. The scientists set about trying to find out what caused the deaths and if the planet is safe for colonisation.
Youth and The Deep both have nice little twists. Things are not all that they seem and this is revealed as you read through. Interestingly reading these stories makes you aware of your own ethnocentric view, or was it just me?
The first and last stories strongly follow through themes that recur in Asimov’s works, that of the relationship between Earth and her galactic progeny and just how science and scientists may possibly be in the future.
Even after sixty years these stories do not feel tired. The language is probably the only big give away to their generation gap. I find it hard not to praise Asimov. For me his ideas, vision and writing style have always seemed to hit the spot. So I have a very strong bias towards his work, no matter the age. For this collection of light short stories I am most happy to give four out of five stars.
* the lovely little MacBook I am currently writing this blog post on is named R. Daneel Olivaw. That’s how much of an impact reading Asimov has had.
Today in history:
354 – St Augustine of Hippo was born. (North African theologian)
1850 – Robert Louis Stevenson was born. (Scottish writer)
The measure of love is love without measure.
– St Augustine of Hippo
Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.
– Robert Louis Stevenson