There was no football on last night, but still I couldn’t go to sleep – this time because I just had to finish my book, Asimov’s The Naked Sun.
I told you when I bought it and I told you when I started reading it how this book has some historical significance for me. It was my second science fiction book read and the first ever adult hard cover book I got to read, and it was funny how 25 years later on I still remembered a lot of it from that first read. I am privileged to have read lots of good books, but with most of the books I have reread recently I hardly remember a thing; I take it as a sign of this one being a truly good one. I was probably blessed to have hit off my career in adult fiction with such a fine creation!
Reading the book I remembered how Asimov’s books were labelled in Israel: Sometimes it would be just “Asimov” on the cover, sometimes it would be “Isaac Asimov”, sometimes it would be “Itschak Asimov” (the Hebrew version of Isaac), but most of the time it was just “I Asimov”. As a kid I always wondered how many writers called Asimov are really out there.
Reading the book I made me remember that my parents took a photo of me reading the book: a fat kid lying/sitting on the sofa with just shorts on in a typical sunny Israeli summer before the age of the air-conditioner. I should look around for that photo, my mother may have given it to me already and if she hadn’t I can rescue it when I visit her come September.
But oh, how I liked this book! I apologize for breaking into clichés, but the book feels like an onion – it worked in different layers, each one tastier than its predecessor.
On top you have what is basically a detective story – a detective is sent to investigate a murder mystery. That’s a fine story for you on its own.
Then we have the futuristic elements layer that gives the book its unique charm: It’s set in the future with futuristic environments; it involves space and space travel. But most of all, this book is remembered as one of Asimov’s classic robot tales with Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics. It certainly worked its charms on me back then at 5th grade.
Asimov is obviously no fool, and all the messing around with robotics and space and stuff is not there just so the book would impress the imaginationaly challenged amongst us; he is telling us these things in order to reflect on contemporary society. And that’s the next layer, where he is saying quite a lot about where our society is heading for with the industrial revolution, technological revolution and informational revolution.
His warning about people enclosing themselves with technology and becoming more and more individualistic and selfish has reminded me that back when I first read the book I would spend most of my leisure time playing with my friends in the outside. It was mostly football, despite the fact I was always the emblem of crap when it came to sports. I had a Tango ball (that’s the old World Cup ball for you) my father got me from the USA, and we used to play almost every afternoon. When did this stop? When I got my Atari games console. Just like the robots in the book, it was technology that changed my lifestyle, and not in the most positive of ways.
To add on top of that there’s a more personal layer. The book’s hero goes into a new world out there in space and gets exposed to stuff inconceivable to him before, on his old world. He comes back to his world and he finds he can’t stand that world anymore. I remember someone who, not that long ago, visited Australia from Israel, and when he came back to Israel he couldn’t stand it anymore and couldn’t see himself living there anymore, so he made his stand and changed his world. On a wider level, I think that people who didn’t get to travel much, see the world around them and most importantly allow what they see to penetrate them just don’t know what they’re missing by having their own narrow perception of the world around them dictate the way they live (and effectively, waste) the gift that is their stupidly short life.
The Naked Sun by I Asimov: One of the best three books I ever had the pleasure of reading.