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The Ugly Little Boy Hardcover – September 10, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
This expanded version of the late Asimov's classic 1958 tale is a collaborative effort that surpasses the original. There are no plot surprises; the authors have retained the basic story of an alien four-year-old child who is kidnapped from his time zone and brought into a future world. Yet this is a fresh and satisfying version, primarily because the characters have been made richer, the depiction of 21st-century society rounded out and the history of the Neanderthal tribe from which the eponymous boy was abducted more fully given. When the woebegone waif, now named Timmie, was snatched from his epoch, he was brought into a pool of no-time, which exists coincident with the present. Since Timmie is condemned to living within that pool forever, his presence raises moral questions: Is it abusive to leave him alone in this limbo for eternity? Would it be equally cruel to send him back to the Ice Age? Asimov ( Foundation ) and Silverberg ( Lord Valentine's Castle ) explore these issues in an intriguing story supported by seamless writing.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Little Robin Martin is three years old and has lived for as long as he can remember in a small boarding house. The other people who live there are to him a part of his environment which he accepts totally. There is of course his mother Sue Martin who works as a nightclub entertainer. There is Sam and "Bitty' Bittelman who own the boarding house, quietly look after their guests and pay special attention to Robin when his mother is asleep or working. There is Anthony O'Banion, a lawyer from a 'good' family, who has become Robin's special buddy. There is Phil Halvorsen who works in vocational guidance and has a very observant and inquisitive mind. There is Mary Haunt who works as a secretary at the local radio station, but who has her heart set on being a movie star. There is Reta Schmidt a nervous and uptight school librarian. Then there is Robin's special friends "Boff" and "Googie" who nobody else sees but who he believes in with a certainty of a child. Observing all of these people are two aliens who wish to know if the human species uses "Synapse Beta sub Sixteen", which is vital to long term species survival. In order to speed up their scientific work the aliens decide, against their better judgment, to run an experiment, so they tinker with their "new-model [widget]" and their "[miserable] [primitive] [battery]-powered [wadget]" and commence meddling with the lives and minds of their human subjects.
Theodore Sturgeon is one of the 'classic' authors of science fiction and horror, but he is unfortunately now largely ignored. Here is an excellent chance to remedy any ignorance you may have and take up my own thirst for the 'oldies-but-goodies'. In this novella Sturgeon delves into the human mind. He depicts the struggles that make us all to fragile, yet which we overcome day by day in our efforts to grow. There may not really be a "Synapse Beta sub Sixteen" to magically help us solve these problems, yet we never the less do solve them, sometimes coming to the answer unconsciously, even at the snap of a finger. The psychologist Rollo M ay has in fact written the book <The courage to create> about the unusual phenomena of suddenly having the answer to a complex problem drop fully formed into ones consciousness. By writing on this theme of human consciousness Sturgeon raises the work far above those science fiction stories that simply rely on depict advanced technology as a background for adventure. This novella says something to us about who we are as people. It speaks to our real lives, rather than just our fantasy world.
Sturgeon keeps the story interesting by, each chapter, telling a new story about one member of the boarding house. This way we are constantly presented with new material to capture our imagination. This way we also learn, at a convenient pace, about the backgrounds of the five boarders. Handled in another way the story might have been too complex for the reader to understand and gain an empathy for so many different people. Sturgeon writes with wit and sympathy for all his characters (including the aliens), but also includes tension, surprise and high drama in the narrative. Being just sixteen short chapters long this novella would make a good choice if you have just one day free for reading.
The Ugly Little Boy
Miss Fellows is a nurse and very businesslike in her profession. She has answered a job advertisement from Stasis, Inc. but during the interview realizes that she still does not know exactly what the business does or what her job will entail. The only requirement seems to be that she be able to look after a child, any child, even an ugly one. Miss Fellows has dealt with disfigurement and feels she is competent for the job. Immediately after the interview she is taken by Dr. Hoskins, the head of the company, to the place where her work will commence. Here she is to witness the final experiment culminating fifty years work. She finds herself looking from above down into a suite of basically empty rooms. There are men near her working on electronic machines. At first there is a hubbub of voices speaking into microphones, then silence, then the sudden wail of a child. Miss Fellows is propelled down a stairwell and into the empty rooms and there she finds the child, but no ordinary child. Miss Fellows finds she is to look after a three year old Neanderthal who has been whisked away from the frightening past into the safe, but sterile, future. The experiment has been a brilliant success, but there is one catch. The Neanderthal child can never leave the few rooms where the experimental conditions remain finely in balance.
Isaac Asimov is an excellent writer and this long short-story is no exception. Here Asimov takes up the theme of the coldness and unfeeling calculations of science when it is run as a business, motivated by profit rather than a desire to benefit man. We all can maintain a sense of our own professionalism, but is this an excuse to stop feeling, to stop being human? As with Sturgeon's novella above this story simply uses technology as a background to a wholly human, and self-revealing tale. We learn something about who we are and the world we live in. This is science fiction at its best. Although this story was first published way back in 1958 it is still amazingly relevant.
In just sixty pages Asimov manages to make us feel for his characters, growing as they grow, building to the final emotional climax. The reader really understands Miss Fellows, the Neanderthal boy and Dr. Hoskins. Without preaching in any way Asimov makes his point wholly through the action and dialogue. We are easily carried along by Asimov's narrative. This story would serve admirably if you want to be entertained for two hours, or so.
Most recent customer reviews
Title: The Ugly Little Boy (this is a short story)
Author: Isaac Asimov
My Rating - 5 Stars
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