There is in Opus 100 an amusing little story about Understanding Physics. When it came out, Asimov was most of the way to having published 100 books and dearly wanted to do anything he could to get him to that goal all the faster—anything reasonably honest. So he asked his publisher, “When you publish Understanding Physics, do you think of it as one book or as three books?”
His publisher, of course, knew what was on his mind. “Why three books, Isaac,” he answered. “Of course.”
Now, Asimov never entirely lost his willingness to stretch things in order to count a book, but here, thankfully, even he reached his limit. This isn’t one book, it’s four, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because it means three fewer anthologies added to Asimov’s book list. It’s a bad thing because it’s hard to find an entire set (it took me a long time, myself).
Anyway, this book consists of four slim volumes, each about forty-eight pages (a convenient number for book publishers, being a multiple of eight). Each is heavily— and delightfully—illustrated, and the stories are aimed at a young teen or preteen audience. (I’ve tried to get my nine-year-old to read them without success).
The volumes are called, in order After the End, Thinking Machines, Travels through Time, and Wild Inventions. After the End contains Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains,” always a good sign. Thinking Machine climaxes with Arthur C. Clarke’s “Nine Billion Names of God.” Travels through Time include’s Asimov’s ”The Immortal Bard”. One could make a case that it ought to include Ray Bradbury’s “Sound of Thunder,” perhaps the best time-travel story ever written, but what it’s got is good enough. And so on.
This is actually a nice anthology, excellent for its intended audience, but well-selected enough and well-illustrated enough to make even an adult enjoy going over it.
|“The Immortal Bard”|