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The Martian way and other stories by Isaac…
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The Martian way and other stories (1955)

by Isaac Asimov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Four short stories, a mixture of hard and soft sci-fi (that is, some more 'hard sciencey' and more 'soft sciencey'). I enjoyed it; it's typically event-based, but Asimov does a good job of painting characters in a few broad strokes and titbits. They've aged somewhat, partly by including elements like smoking and certain technologies that seem laughable now. Hard-copy-only photos that are kept in a safe, for example. Other elements seem obvious or 'done' these days, especially social ideas and things about alien society, but I suspect a lot of that is because since 1964 they've been written about again. When they came out, they were probably fresh and novel. One story, "Youth", has a twist ending I saw coming miles away, but then I've read a lot of Asimov before. "Sucker Bait" is interesting, depicting a time when specialists focus exclusively on their own field, with no time or interest for learning other disciplines - something you can imagine already with the sheer volume of knowledge there is. You know the kid everyone igores is going to solve the problem, but it's still interesting.

One complaint: the edition I have (Panther) has massively over-explanatory blurb, which manages to give away too much about every story in only four lines each. I hope the editor responsible moved into academic abstracting. ( )
  Shimmin | Feb 5, 2013 |
Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite science fiction authors. Some of his novels and story collections I've ranked five stars as simply amazing. Not in style or characterizations--but in ideas. Asimov's style I'd call decent--workmanlike. It's well-crafted but you don't linger over the prose as this thing of beauty. Asimov can (rarely) pull at the heartstrings (try reading the short story "The Ugly Little Boy") and at times he can create, if not complex, then memorable characters. (Such as "the Mule" in his Foundation series.) Arthur C. Clarke said that science fiction done well at the least can give the pleasure of a "good puzzle" and entertain. Asimov is always science fiction done well, but I wouldn't rank any of the stories here as among the most memorable by him I've read, such as "The Dead Past" or "Nightfall" that just stun me and make me see the world in a whole new way.

But all of these certainly have that twist in the tale, that pleasure of a good puzzle. The title novella, "The Martian Way" does have that little "hmmm" moment where you see the universe a little differently. Not enough I'd count it a standout among Asimov's fiction, but it's there. I actually preferred all the stories that followed. "Youth" I thought a hoot. Asimov does have a sense of humor, and this one is funny and has a classic twist only the written word could bring off. It's my second favorite of the collection. "The Deep" has both cool world-building (literally) and one of those truly original alien perspectives. The story that closes the collection, "Sucker Bait" is the longest and definitely my favorite of the book. Together with "Youth" it just pulls the collection up to four stars. For one, it is that rare Asimov story with a character--Mark Annuncio--who is unusual and memorable. Not autistic, not an idiot savant exactly and not simply adolescent genius. He really is different among Asimov's characters and the story itself an interesting scientific mystery. ( )
2 vote LisaMaria_C | Jan 31, 2013 |
Four stories from the early 1950s, two each featuring humans exploring space and aliens exploring (presumably) Earth. Quirky, especially those starring the aliens, and quite enjoyable. ( )
  auntmarge64 | May 30, 2011 |
The Martian Way and Other Stories consists of four short works by Isaac Asimov. There is no overarching theme to this book, although one could draw connections and describe this book as really consisting of two pairs of thematically similar stories. The first pair, consisting of The Martian Way and Sucker Bait are basically engineering science fiction in which intrepid explorers must think outside the box to ensure their survival and the survival of those around them. The other two stories - Youth and The Deep - are alien contact stories, both of which have a Twilight Zone style twist ending.

The Martian Way is the first story in the volume, and it is also the best. A substantial chunk of the high rating for this book is based solely on this story. I must confess that long ago this was the first science fiction story that made me really think it was plausible, which was a real eye-opener for me. Despite being nearly sixty years old now, the story still seems plausible. In fact, despite the clumsy and heavy handed addition of a McCarthyesque villain and some minor scientific flaws involving the make up of the rings of Saturn, the story seems to me to point out why sending humans out to Mars and beyond would be incredibly lucrative and open up the true wealth that is out there to humanity. Sadly, sixty years on, and despite the fact that there isn't any technology in the story that could not have been plausibly made in the 1950s, we are no closer to realizing the world depicted now than we were then.

Sucker Bait, the other "explorers think outside the box to save their skins" story, is competent and readable, but far less compelling. The story mostly amounts to a rant about how experts have walled themselves into their own limited fields of knowledge and how this is limited and potentially dangerous. The theme of this story positing the benefits of having generalists in a world of experts is touched on elsewhere in Asimov's fiction in stories like Profession and in the works of other authors, making up one of the themes in John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar. This story is an adequate example of a story built on that theme, but not much more.

Of the two alien contact stories, Youth is the weaker. The story follows a farmboy and his city friend who stumble across an unknown organism and try to keep it as a pet with the intention of using it as a way to gain employment with the circus. Over the course of the story it is revealed that the organism is actually an alien and that the "city friend" is visiting the country with his father specifically so his father can make contact with these aliens. The story rambles along as the boys try to hide their discovery from their parents, certain that they will disapprove of any pet, and the adults try to figure out why the aliens they expected to meet have apparently not shown up. The story ends with a "twist" ending that is pretty much telegraphed to the reader and should surprise nobody, although it seems obvious that Asimov thought that it was terribly clever. The twist ending alone downgrades the story to being marginal at best, but up to that point it is decent.

The second alien contact story is The Deep and is told from the perspective of a race of insect like telepathic subterranean dwelling aliens living on a dying planet. despite the fact that Asimov rarely wrote about aliens in his fiction, this work makes clear that he had no trouble creating truly alien beings. The story itself is something of a subversion of the typical alien invasion story, because despite the fact that the aliens want to move from their dying planet to Earth, they are shown to be so truly alien that it is possible that humanity would never know they had arrived. Although this story does not get much attention, it is one of Asimov's better works, and along with The Martian Way it makes this collection well worth reading.

With one stellar story, one above average story, and two mediocre ones, this collection is certainly worth reading. Despite the fact that all of the stories in this volume are now well over fifty years old, they have all aged reasonably well. Reasonably well in all but one aspect, and that relates to women: Asimov's lack of skill in handling female characters is compounded by conventional 1950s social mores resulting in very few female characters, and the ones who are presented are almost ridiculous caricatures. Despite this failing the stories remain quite forward-looking in all other respects, making this is a very good collection that most science fiction fans will still enjoy despite its age.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | Apr 27, 2010 |
A collection of four short stories (or maybe technically novellas) from the 1950s. Like much of Asimov's work, the driving force behind all the plots is "what if?" The characters aren't much to write home about, but the concepts and visuals are unforgettable. My favorite is the mental picture I got of floating in space with Saturn looming overhead, as described in the titular story. Breathtaking. ( )
  melydia | Oct 28, 2009 |
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Asimov, Isaacprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lehr, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is the collection containing the story "The Martian Way" (and other stories) and is not to be combined with "The Martian Way."
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Contents

The Martian Way
Youth
The Deep
Sucker Bait
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 083760463X, Hardcover)

This collection of four famous science fiction tales masterfully exemplifies author Isaac Asimov's ability to create quickly a believable human milieu in the midst of alien circumstances. Each of the long stores also shows his considerable skill in fully fleshing out a speculative scientific or social possibility.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:47 -0400)

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