So. Inspired by a question over at TrekWeb about the best order to read the Empire/Foundation/Robot books, I’ve decided to finally give this a go in the order of initial publication. Last night I started reading Pebble in the Sky, and got about three chapters into it. I expected a larger book, and I expected something different from what I gotten so far from the story.
Which isn’t to say I had any very solidly-formed expectations. Such expectations as I had were formed, I’m sure, twenty-odd years ago seeing a line of thick sci-fi paperback novels packed on the shelves in the basement of a friend. This visual, along with some modest discomfort at the idea of reading something purporting to deal with a galactic empire and something called a “foundation” probably kept me from these books all this time. It was just too much. I knew Asimov was a Big Deal Author, and had enjoyed “I, Robot” but just wasn’t ready for what I expected to be a big commitment. Then for years and years I just didn’t have much tolerance for fiction.
Like any of that matters.
So, here are my initial thoughts. Given the publication history, I’m going to assume that Larry Niven was profoundly influenced by Asimov, since I felt like I was reading something by the author of Ringworld. Early this year I re-read All the Myriad Ways, and last month read Ringworld. When I wasn’t reading Asimov twenty-odd years ago, I was reading a bunch of Known Space stuff, but I don’t think I ever read Ringworld.
Again, so what? So what is this. This sort of science fiction, maybe it has a category name, is like reading a lecture punctuated with bits of insider knowledge masquerading as levity. I found this especially true in the opening chapter when the tailor tries to figure out if his experience is a dream. Also, the initial conversation between the archaeologist and governor smacked of the Author Lecturing. Possibly the information needed introduction when the book was initially published.
On the other hand, maybe not. In the second chapter we are introduced to the world and culture of Earth in the future. This was done through characterization and dialog, and done effectively. As a reader I felt immersed in a world I didn’t understand, but which was effectively introduced and by the end of the chapter I felt both that the plot had advanced in a meaningful way and the world had been illuminated somewhat.
More when I’ve read more.