Andrew Potterly is desperate to prove via “time-viewing” that the object of his research, the ancient Carthaginians, did not practice human sacrifice. When he cannot get government permission, he pressures a young physicist, Jonas Foster, into constructing a time-viewing device illegally—and naturally enough they get caught. More or less.
If we eliminate Asimov’s Foundation stories from consideration, I'd rank this as his third best piece of short fiction, right after “The Last Question” and “The Ugly Little Boy”—which means, yes, I would rank it ahead of “The Bicentennial Man” or “Nightfall.” And there are only two Foundation stories which I think are better, “The Mule” and “The Search by the Foundation,” so it still is way up there.
There is very little to criticize about this story. The characters are sharply drawn, and the conflict is vivid—until the last couple of pages when you find out that the real conflict of the story is other than what one would imagine. Meanwhile, Asimov is bringing in threads from all over the place—careless cigarettes, the pain of a lost child, frustration at “the system,” science popularization, Carthage—and pulling them together into a marvelous tapestry of incredible richness. It is hard to praise this story too highly.
|Earth Is Room Enough|
|The Best of Isaac Asimov|
|The Edge of Tomorrow|
|The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov|
|Complete Stories, The, Vol. 1|
|Other Worlds of Isaac Asimov|