Isaac Asimov is considered by many science fiction readers to be one of the best SF authors of all time. I agree that he deserves this lofty pedestal, and Asimov has been a key influence on many writers who followed him. I believe his most important contributions to science fiction literature are his robot stories and novels where the “Three Laws of Robotics” feature prominently in the plot. In today’s world, humanity could be on the cusp of developing human-level artificial intelligence, and Asimov makes us think carefully about the ramifications of this development. What follows is a list of what I consider as his best novels.
The first novel of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy tells the story of a galactic empire that is falling apart, and the scientists who predict its downfall using a new discipline called “psychohistory.” It is my favorite of the Foundation novels because it describes the birth of a new area of knowledge that results in the persecution and arrest of the founder, a man named Hari Seldon. New discoveries can be worth risking one’s freedom for.
This is the second book of his Robot Series. The planet Solaris is visited by the investigative team of Elijah Baley and his humanoid robot partner R. Daneel Olivaw. The novel describes how one of the “Three Laws of Robotics” could be circumvented by clever maneuvering. It also hints at how robots could be used to fight wars once that law is manipulated.
The Gods Themselves (1972)
This novel won the Nebula Award in 1972 and the Hugo Award in 1973. It introduces the intriguing concept of aliens in a parallel universe that change the laws of physics in our universe in order to get energy for their universe where the stars are dying. The problem is that these changes are harmful to our universe and threaten to cause our Sun to explode.
Robots and Empire (1985)
In this novel, Asimov brings his Robot Series and Foundation Series together to form a more unified setting. There is a galactic scope to this novel that is lacking in his more localized robot books. The main protagonists are the robots R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Giskard Reventlov. A Zero’th Law of Robotics is formulated by Olivaw, part of a plan to stop a radioactive apocalypse on Earth.