This unusual anthology offers twelve science fiction stories, each unique in that it introduced a new concept. The selections include the first story about antimatter (“Minus Planet,” 1937), clones (“Yesterday House,” 1952), collapsed stars (“Neutron Star,” 1966), cosmic disaster (“The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion,” 1839), Earth being inherited by other mammals (“The Faithful,” 1938), a generational starship (“The Voyage that Lasted 600 Years,” 1940), a home computer (“A Logic Named Joe,” 1946), invisibility (“What Was It?” 1859), the microcosmic world (“The Diamond Lens,” 1858), overpopulation (“The Test,” 1954), solar power from satellites (“Reason,” 1941), and tanks (“The Land Ironclads,” 1903).
Written by some of the best-known authors, Isaac Asimov Presents the Best Science Fiction Firsts offers stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Fritz Leiber, Larry Niven, Lester del Rey, Richard Matheson, H.G. Wells, among others.
A necessary addition to the library of every fan of science fiction, short stories, or superb writing, this anthology is the latest in the critically praised series Isaac Asimov Presents.
I want to give this book higher ratings, I really, really do. There’s a story in it by Asimov—“Reason,” no less, one of my very favorite of the robot stories. And there are tales like Larry Niven’s “Neutron Star” and Murray Leinster’s “Logic Named Joe,” which are among my very favorite sf stories which do not have the good fortune to be written by Isaac Asimov.
The problem is that I can’t rate this book very highly for the very simple reason that I really don’t understand the point behind it. Just what exactly are they trying to accomplish here, anyway? Ostensibly, this collection consists of the first stories in sf history to treat certain ideas. Not a bad idea for a collection, as it happens—if you center it around truly important concepts in the history of sf. Things like time travel, perhaps, or alternate universes—but H.G. Wells’ “Time Machine” and Leinster’s “Sideways in Time”, the first stories for those two categories, are missing. Of course, both of these are probably too long to have fit, but that just emphasizes the problem with the anthology. Instead of a collection of good stories about common sf tropes or ideas, we tend to get excellent stories included for trivial reasons (e.g., the first story about getting power from satellites—hardly an important theme in sf—is “Reason”) or not really terrific stories for trivial reasons (Wells’ “Land Ironclads” as the first story about tanks).
The net result is a mixed anthology of the good and not-so-good with no real sense of purpose.