From the master of Science Fiction.
Enter the incredible imagination of Isaac Asimov:
IT’S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY: Nature had been forgotten in this electronic world of the future, until one day, quite by accident, a young boy strayed outdoors and discovered what was there.
BREEDS THERE A MAN?: The physicist had arrived at a theory—very interesting, but highly improbable. But something not quite human seemed to be causing a bit of trouble…
THE C-CHUTE: The spaceship had to be recaptured from the aliens, which meant that somebody had to be a hero. But who would that be…and why?
This is an obscure anthology published only in Great Britain and hence generally unavailable in the United States. (When I first read Opus 100 and found this book listed, I was chagrined that I had no idea what it was about. My local library didn’t have a copy, and the title was obscure enough that I couldn’t even tell whether it was a fiction book or non-fiction. When a copy turned up at my local bookstore, I snatched it up at once.
(The title, by the way, remains obscure. It’s an allusion, of course, to 1 Corinthians 13:12 in the Bible, but what its significance is in this context I cannot say.)
It isn’t terribly long—it only contains four stories: “Breeds There a Man…?,” “C-Chute,” “Belief,” and “It’s Such a Beautiful Day.” All but “Belief” were also published in Nightfall and Other Stories, and “Belief” is found in The Winds of Change and Other Stories, so anybody who owns a relatively complete set of Asimov’s American anthologies will have all the stories. (Additionally, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” has been published on its own as It’s Such a Beautiful Day, and the original version of “Belief” is found in The Alternate Asimovs.)
Of the four stories, “C-Chute” and “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” are among my favorites. I enjoy the character study of the former, its portrayal of non-human aliens and their ethos, and the mechanics of space-travel which leads to an interesting solution to an interesting problem. (One thing I really like about the story, by the way, is the realization that a spaceship in the midst of interstellar space is going to be dark as a rule. Much though I love “Star Trek,” their glow-in-the-dark spaceships which bank and whoosh as they travel through interstellar space are not entirely accurate.) And, of course, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” satisfies the agoraphile in me who would rather walk anywhere than take any mechanical form of conveyance.
As for “Breeds There a Man...?,” it’s an interesting exercise and an odd approach to the “mystery of life.” It was originally published in John Campbell’s Astounding, and he must have loved its Earthmen-defeat-the-alien-experimenters theme. The force field developed in the course of the story is interesting, as is the concept of human history as an alien experiment, and yet somehow the story doesn’t work very well for me. Perhaps the more-or-less stereotypical psychiatrist and G-man are factors, plus the early Cold War paranoia which had died down somewhat before I first read the story in the 1970’s.
And “Belief” is simply not something I like much at all, mostly because I don’t like reading stories whose heroes spend much of the tale in socially embarrassing situations. On the other hand, I do find the final solution to the hero’s problem—how to deal with the fact that he can fly when all known physics denies that possibility—surprising and yet convincing. Pace Asimov himself, the published version of the story is much better than the first version had been.