From the introduction by Isaac Asimov
If we define psyche or soul without reference to theology, we might think of it as the inner core of being that the physical body houses. It is the personality, the individuality, the thing you think of when you say “I.” It is the thing that remains intact and whole, even when a limb is lost, eyes are blinded, or the body itself is ill, wounded, or dying.
Psychology, then, is the systematic study of that inner core that is you. It is the study of the mind. There is no question that it is the most important of the sciences. We can live, however primitively, with very little knowledge of any or all of the other sciences, but if we do not understand psychology, we are surely lost.
In science fiction, human beings are pictured as facing unusual situations, bizarre societies, unorthodox problems. The effort to imagine the human response to such things may cast light into the shadows in a new way, allowing us to see what had not been clear before. The stories in this anthology have been selected with that in mind.
I’m rather surprised by having enjoyed this anthology as much as I did, particularly since its companion volume, Caught in the Organ Draft is so disappointing.
It’s helped, in part, by the welcome appearance of an old friend by the Good Doctor, “Runaround.” There is also the excellent, if overexposed, “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby, Randall Garrett’s “In Case of Fire,” the title story by J.T. McIntosh, and the gentle “What Friends Are For” by the late John Brunner. The remaining stories are generally very good, even when a bit maudlin (Robert Silverberg’s “The Man Who Never Forgot”) or obvious (Edward W. Ludwig’s “The Drivers”—a story which I as a life-long pedestrian nonetheless have a certain sympathy for). Only Roald Dahl’s “The Sound Machine” is a story I’d rather not have to reread.
As with Caught in the Organ Draft, there are endnotes discussing some of the ideas in the stories. In the case of Caught in the Organ Draft, the notes are by the Good Doctor himself; here, they are ostensibly by Asimov and his co-editor, Charles G. Waugh, but it’s clear that Asimov had but a light touch at best in their composition. For one thing, the endnotes make an elementary mistake about Asimov’s own work by assuming that “Reason” is the follow-up story to “Runaround,” when “Reason” was actually written first—the confusion is caused by the fact that “Runaround” comes first in I, Robot.
Secondly, the endnotes are very interesting and frankly show a greater degree of understanding of the in’s and out’s of psychology as a profession than Asimov otherwise betrays. It’s no big deal—they‘re good notes, in many cases better than the stories.
This is definitely an anthology which it would be worth the effort to acquire.