As #VintageSciFiMonth starts to wind down, I’ve got a few more thoughts stories collected in Issac Asimov’s Nightfall and Other Stories collection.
Sally (4 Stars)
One of the hallmarks of Asimov was his contributions to the fictional world of positronic intelligence. “Sally” feels like an interesting precursor to his robots in a lot of ways, concerning a time in which cars are given artificial intelligence. Originally published in 1953, the story is set in 2015 and indicates another one of those odd coincidences in which Asimov came close to predicting the date when his sci-fi would become reality.
Overall, this is an intriguing story. The idea of a farm to which the AI cars retire and the greedy man who wants to strip them of their AI with little regard for the impact it will have on the cars is a good one and sets up an interesting conflict. Honestly, I think this one would serve as a great basis for a movie (indeed, it feels like a shorter version of Stephen King’s Christine) since you have intelligent cars defending themselves.
Flies (1.5 Stars)
The first swing and a miss for this collection, “Flies” looks at a group of scientists, gathering for their twenty-year reunion and looking at their legacy and current work. All of them have gone into the field of studying flies, based on the fact that one of the group’s body chemistry seems to attract the flies.
There are some good ideas in here, but overall, this one didn’t quite connect with me as some of the other stories in this collection have.
Nobody Here But — (3 Stars)
Asimov attempts to write a rom-com with a sci-fi twist in “Nobody Here But –” It’s the story of two scientists who have invented an AI (a common theme for Asimov) and how the AI starts to become self-aware. Of course, this all comes to a head on the night of the narrator’s big date with his girlfriend and the question arises as to whether his colleague suggested he ask the girl to marry him or the computer did to survive or distract the two.
Nothing necessarily “wrong” about this story but it felt a bit forced at times. And Asimov is accused of not writing well for his female characters — and that certainly isn’t helped here.
It’s Such A Beautiful Day (4 Stars)
This one feels oddly prescient today, even if we don’t necessarily have technology that allows us to instantly move from one point to another. The doors system is a technology that allows people to travel instantly from one place to the other (it feels like the transporter on Star Trek). When the door breaks down at one family’s home, their young son takes the scenic route and walks to school instead. He finds he likes it and much to the chagrin of his teachers and others, he begins to walk instead of beaming from place to place.
The question of just because technology makes life easier does it necessarily make it better looms large over this one. The horror of various people that the boy wants to get wet and muddy is well-realized and it keeps this story feeling relevant to today as we all become increasingly dependent on technology that supposedly makes our lives better.