the first murder on the moon
the case of the stranded spaceman
the wrong-way time traveler
the Doom Device
the amazing Dr. Wendell Orth [sic], space sleuth extraordinaire—to mention but a sampling of the rich feast of pure SF excitement that awaits you in
Asimov was fairly proud of his role in the development of the science fiction mystery, particularly since John Campbell thought it couldn’t be done. This little volume is to celebrate his role.
Actually, it isn’t all that much of a celebration. (Asimov’s two best sf mysteries, of course, are The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun and couldn’t be included in yet another anthology as they were The Rest of the Robots.)
The stories involved are a very mixed lot, and they aren’t always mysteries as such so much as puzzle stories. A number of them involve Asimov’s eccentric sleuth of the future, Wendell Urth, and these tend to be among the better stories in the collection (“The Singing Bell,” for example, and “The Dying Night”). One is rather disappointed that Asimov didn’t write more Urth stories.
Also included is “Marooned Off Vesta,” Asimov’s first published story, which isn’t a mystery at all but is included to provide a prelude to “Anniversary,” its sequel published decades later to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Asimov’s writing career. (And, of course, that 20th anniversary came over half a century ago. I just thought I’d mention it.) “Marooned Off Vesta” is of very little interest, indeed, and “Anniversary” is competent, but not much more.
Much of the rest of the anthology is of little particular interest, with the exception of “Pâté de Foie Gras,” which I love (and is also found in Only a Trillion and Where Do We Go From Here?) and “The Billiard Ball.” The latter is a cute little murder mystery—the mystery here being “did he do it?”—with a neat general relativistic twist. (A surprising number of people seem to misunderstand the twist. All I can say is—use it as an excuse to reread the story.)
A moderately solid collection, then, mostly of value as a gathering point for Wendell Urth stories.
|“The Singing Bell”|
|“The Talking Stone”|
|“What’s In a Name?”|
|“The Dying Night”|
|“Pate De Foie Gras”|
|“The Dust of Death”|
|“A Loint of Paw”|
|“I’m In Marsport Without Hilda”|
|“Marooned Off Vesta”|
|“The Billiard Ball”|