Robot Series Writing Style

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
Joined
Dec 20, 2014
Messages
1,677
Location
New Jersey
Does anyone have a HUGE problem with his writing style in the Robot series? I am currently stuck in the middle of the third. Someone said I should read those before I read Foundation. Which is the series I really want to read, as I hope they give me ideas for my WIP.

While thought-provoking, sometimes. I don't see the Robot Series as particularly exciting in any way. It's not even as thought-provoking as other fictional who-done-it books I've read. So while the Robot theme is excellent and extremely well done. I'm not sure how the series itself caught on to anybody. Were the people that read it like me? In thinking that they wanted to go back to where Robotics really started in sci-fi? Since I find the characters too flat and perhaps the most exciting thing to happen in the books is that Bailey gets to take a shower, and in other part(s) he almost gets attacked...

The other content isn't actually that good. Besides for the robotic thought processes elements.
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
4,952
Asimov is not an action-adventure writer and you won't like the Foundation stories, either. I find his characters quite good but many don't, like you. The robot novels are partly logic puzzles and partly sociological and partly other things, but not filled with navel-gazing (on the one hand) or swashbuckling (on the other) characters or plots of thrills, chills, and spills. The Foundation stories have some shared aspects with the robot stories but paint on a much larger canvas and work in thrilling things like math and history. ;)

(And you really should have started with the robot stories - when you say "third" it sounds like you're talking about Robots of Dawn in the robot novels series. The stories (the first batch collected in I, Robot) were the original core elements. Maybe you meant you read a robot collection and are now on The Naked Sun, though - I don't know. And he doesn't have just one style in the robot (or Foundation) series, as he wrote them in two chunks separated by about a quarter-century and wrote in a longer and more expansive style in the later novels with few stories vs. the short, tight novels and many stories of the earlier era. The Naked Sun is from the first era and Robots of Dawn from the second - both excellent in their ways.)

Anyway, Asimov is not for everybody. But, like J Riff says, "Nope," I have no problem at all with him - he's about my favorite SF writer ever.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
Joined
Dec 20, 2014
Messages
1,677
Location
New Jersey
Asimov is not an action-adventure writer and you won't like the Foundation stories, either. I find his characters quite good but many don't, like you. The robot novels are partly logic puzzles and partly sociological and partly other things, but not filled with navel-gazing (on the one hand) or swashbuckling (on the other) characters or plots of thrills, chills, and spills. The Foundation stories have some shared aspects with the robot stories but paint on a much larger canvas and work in thrilling things like math and history. ;)

(And you really should have started with the robot stories - when you say "third" it sounds like you're talking about Robots of Dawn in the robot novels series. The stories (the first batch collected in I, Robot) were the original core elements. Maybe you meant you read a robot collection and are now on The Naked Sun, though - I don't know. And he doesn't have just one style in the robot (or Foundation) series, as he wrote them in two chunks separated by about a quarter-century and wrote in a longer and more expansive style in the later novels with few stories vs. the short, tight novels and many stories of the earlier era. The Naked Sun is from the first era and Robots of Dawn from the second - both excellent in their ways.)

Anyway, Asimov is not for everybody. But, like J Riff says, "Nope," I have no problem at all with him - he's about my favorite SF writer ever.
Yes I am on Dawn. I read I,Robot and I loved the short stories collection. It had more action than these three books combined. Why didn't he continue with that type? To me Bailey is growing old fast...I know he wrote the last two later in life. I guess I'm too used to Arthur C. Clarke, Crichton, and even King's non-horror elements. My go to SFF guys.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
Joined
Dec 20, 2014
Messages
1,677
Location
New Jersey
Anyway, Asimov is not for everybody. But, like J Riff says, "Nope," I have no problem at all with him - he's about my favorite SF writer ever.
Is there a specific reason why you like him? He is idolized in this world and I am just trying to understand why. I love a good story with thought provoking ideas as well as good characters and drama. One without the other doesn't work well for me. I feel he lacks the good characters.
 

J-Sun

Joined
Oct 23, 2008
Messages
4,952
Is there a specific reason why you like him? He is idolized in this world and I am just trying to understand why. I love a good story with thought provoking ideas as well as good characters and drama. One without the other doesn't work well for me. I feel he lacks the good characters.
I don't know that there's a specific reason. I find his style clean and clear, which I like - the words are the medium for the story and not the focal point in their own right which distracts and detracts from the story. I find his characters interesting and diverse - I mean, you can't mix up Arcadia Darell and Susan Calvin or Lije Bailey or the Mule. Indeed, Susan Calvin and the Mule are two of the more famous characters in SF. I like the positioning of the plot pieces like chess vs. the picaresque (almost always too loose) or action-adventure plots (often love those but it can be nice to be different). I guess mostly, his writing is always humane, rational, good-humored and has a sort of optimism - not a simple naive "Candide" optimism but an "if we behave as intelligently as we are capable of, things will often work out well" theoretical optimism. And he writes about things I love to read about - robots, future societies, high tech societies, galactic scales, millenia scales. Just bundle all that up and add a significant dose of humor and you get some of my favorite fiction.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
23,767
Location
Highlands
He is idolized in this world and I am just trying to understand why
He was one of the first big names of the science fiction, as the genre was really developing. But his stories are more about just putting out ideas, rather than developing plots or characters - he wrote primarily for pulp magazines, with his stories republished as short novels. So his writing makes for easy enough reading, it just won't challenge the way a good novel will, and his ideas have been so often referenced and discussed that the surprise value is likely long gone.

Asimov is someone to read to increase awareness of the genre - better to see some of his ideas first-hand - but if read to help with your own writing, you'll probably need to focus on books published this side of the 21st century.
 

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
Joined
Apr 11, 2010
Messages
4,875
Location
Sleeping in Lab
These books, when they came out, were not supposed to change the world. They were just science fiction, yknow, not a big deal. Not a contest to predict the future. Asimov's writing, the actual text, is probably more fascinating to writer-brains, because it's just so effortless. It looks easy but we know it isn't.
 

scidata

Computation in all its forms
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
18
I don't have a HUGE problem with it (but a HUGO problem maybe)
Those who think Asimov was most profound when writing about robots completely miss the point (including the US Congress). "Foundation" is 94% of Asimov's contribution to history. Go ahead and read it now.
 

kythe

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2006
Messages
738
Location
Arizona
I like Asimov's ability to write the big picture of humanity. Foundation is an overview of civilization, but even the robot stories are more than just short adventure/detective stories. It's an exploration of humanity's tendency to lean on technology and where that could take us - both the good and the bad.

I also like his optimistic perspective. It's a refreshing change from all the dystopian stories which are so prevalent in sci fi today. Asimov doesn't just tell stories - he explains civilization, with a hopeful outcome.
 

Vince W

Towel Champion
Supporter
Joined
Sep 9, 2011
Messages
3,506
I've always found Asimov extremely readable and enjoyable. His stories were always a pleasure, even his non-science fiction books, of which there are many, are fluid. I agree with @kythe that Asimov's optimism is a grand view and a far cry from the bleak picture today's writers churn out. Asimov didn't write stories about gun toting men doing daring deeds (much), but rather people using their intelligence to solve problems. I think we need more of that kind of writing today.
 

Ajid

Only Saltwater Fish Drink
Joined
Jan 24, 2016
Messages
588
I started reading The Complete Robot. Reading this I found the writing basic, overly simplistic and was worried about the rest of the series. Half way through I began to like it, I had read Hyperion prior to this book and my expectations for asimov were probably, not to high, just in the wrong place. By Robots of dawn I was loving the Baley stories. I got through ROD in a day. To be fair I felt Asimov had given in a little to the popular writings of the time. There was far more sex and not well written sex than I'd come to expect from Asimov and a lot more descriptive prose than previous books. Personally ROD won me over. I really enjoyed it..... Until, well, untill it became clear he was brdiging the Robots world with Empire. This is where it began to feel a bit stretched. The ending wasn't great, a lot could have been left unstead, I forget the robots name I believe it was Giskard who basicaly described the build up to empire in the last chapter. Overall though it is a thoroughly enjoyable series. He shouldn't be guaged against modern standards with the Robot series and if you want to do that then please do read foundation because this is a very very different series.
 

gdoc

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 19, 2014
Messages
148
I like the original Foundation trilogy. As noted, it is not modern in that it was written in a more optimistic time. The writing is not great but the ideas keep it going.
 

picklematrix

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2018
Messages
464
His writing can provide an interesting contrast to his more modern counterparts. He can tell stories in fairly short word counts. These kind of literary techniques are good to have in the toolkit, even if writing today has changed and evevolved a lot.
 

Lew Rockwell Fan

Have tasp, will travel.
Joined
Apr 5, 2016
Messages
427
Location
Sol 3, most of the time
I revere the Good Doctor although probably even more for a small subset of his nonfiction than his fiction. I agree with most of what was said above - the only exception being
. . . Those who think Asimov was most profound when writing about robots completely miss the point (including the US Congress). "Foundation" is 94% of Asimov's contribution to history.
There is little if any fiction, I'd apply the word "profound" to, but I do think the 4 Robot NOVELS are superior to the Foundation trilogy. Actually, I think that's part of a fairly consistent pattern - with few exceptions, Asimov's fiction got better as he got older. Caves was written 3 or 4 years after the last of the component stories that were incorporated into the Foundation trilogy, Naked a couple of years after that, and Dawn & Empire, about 30 years later. Asimov's talent was growing the whole time.

If someone just wanted to sample Asimov's book length fiction and didn't anticipate reading much of it, I don't think I'd recommend they start with anything earlier than "The God Themselves". Which, BTW, didn't just win a Hugo for best novel, but also a Locus and a Nebula, which suggests I wasn't the only one to think well of it. I've argued elsewhere in this forum that he himself seemed to believe it was his best novel.

If on the other hand, they were pretty sure they DID want to do a more thorough survey, I WOULD suggest starting with the Foundation trilogy, not because it is so great (I liked it, but TBH, it's space opera writ large, it plods, and it lacks the lacks the subtlety of his later work), but because it's foundational.

OK, in honor of the ghost of Prof. A, I couldn't resist the pun. But it is still true. If you are going to read them all anyway, I think you'll appreciate them more if you read them in the order they were written, not the order of that universe's chronology.

As to style, as others have said, Asimov isn't for everyone. Some find him too talky, dull, moralizing, or cerebral. Most of his stories lack really evil characters. He didn't write sex scenes (unless you want to count the aliens in Gods, which was the nearest thing to erotica in any of his fiction - and yes, I've read "I'm in Marsport"). His heroes do not buckle their swashes. There are no ray gun fights, nor any Martian princesses.

TBH, if you don't like Dawn, I doubt you'll like any of his book length SF, although you might look at Gods or Prelude. His short stories, his non-SF fiction, and his non-fiction might be another matter entirely. Much of that is more playful.
 
Top