The Youth of Future Past

As a bookseller, I see it once a week: a young reader comes through the door with a look of hungry intelligence in his or her eyes.  They’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy. Madeline L’engle? Yup. Dianna Wynn-Jones? Check.  Zusak’s Book Thief? Uh-huh. Paolini? Gaiman? Done. They feel they’re too old for Brian Jacques and they’re certainly too young for an unguided tour through the vast array of adult science fiction.  Problems may ensue if they go home with, say, Paolo Bacigalupi’s Wind-Up Girl,  or Michael Swanwick’s  Stations Of The Tide, and a foray into Gene Wolfe’s allusive prose just might bore them to tears.  In other words, you don’t know this young and hungry mind. How do you answer these needs? I have a few offerings; books from my tender youth which inspired me to think and dream in new possibilities.

Beast Master’s Planet: A Beast Master Omnibus – Andre Norton (Tor Books) 17.99  Hosteen Storm is a Navajo soldier who has a telepathic link with a cat and an eagle. The time is the future, when Earth has been devastated by interstellar war with the alien Xik. This quartet of stories built around Storm Hosteen’s unusual trio is dramatic, intense,  compassionate, and filled with wondrous mystery. Norton’s protagonists are often very young, resourceful and always enthralling, whether you’re 10 or 110.

Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov: Foundation/Second Foundation/ Foundation and Empire (Spectra Books) $7.99 each For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire has ruled  the galaxy. Now it is dying.  Hari Sheldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, can see into the future–to a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that will last thirty thousand years… or only a thousand years, if  the best minds of the galaxy are willing to preserve knowledge and save mankind. Seldon gathers the best minds in the Empire and brings them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for the future. He calls his sanctuary the Foundation.  We follow Asimov’s sweeping story of the battle of the forces of light and reason against barbarism (Foundation), to the Foundation’s ostensible destruction by the Mule; a mutant of vast and terrifying power (Second Foundation), and finally, to the Foundation’s ongoing challenges to maintain the human culture it has saved after a brief period of chaos and barbarity (Foundation and Empire). Recommended for ages 13 to 300.

I,Robot-Isaac Asimov (Spectra Books) $7.99

The 3 Laws of Robotics are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Dr. Asimov forever changed my perception of robotics and robot development with these simple and profound Laws, setting the way I would think about AIs forever. I find it interesting to observe that those who have read the Robot stories seem to be more comfortable with the possibilities of AI than those who have never read this series of groundbreaking stories.  These works are  often locked-room mysteries whose solutions move forward from these rules.  There are good robots, crazy robots, robot politicians as well as robots who rule humanity in secret and may eventually render humanity obsolete. Asimov creates a timeline of robotic development that has become a part of our mythology.

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