Science Fiction 9: Isaac Asimov – The machine that won the war

Original title: Nightfall and Other Stories.

Title of this edition: Science Fiction 9 Isaac Asimov – La máquina que ganó la guerra.

Author: Isaac Asimov.

Gender: Science Fiction.

Saga: —

Editorial: Luis de Caralt Editor S.A.

Edition year: 1, 1977.

Prizes: …

Synopsis [Warning: Spoiler]: Writing this review I found the English version of this book is called Nightfall and Other Stories, and includes many more stories than the Spanish version. I’m sad now, but anyway, I going to speak about the stories included in this book. They are:

The Machine that won the War. Asimov supercomputer, Multivac, is in charge to make the decision to win the war… unfortunately it’s outputs are so strange that they need a human mind and human decisions to be interpreted. What was not known is that it’s inputs where also changed by a human mind to make sense. So in the end… did Multivac win the war or just helped humans to be motivated and think decisions twice?

Green Patches. A new planet. A exploring mission. The first mission failed because it was contaminated by the alien life forms. It seems this forms are able to mimic almost anything and they form a big entity like Gaia. If this new mission is contaminated everyone has to be killed to not contaminate the earth… in the end, the alien kills itself because he mimic a piece of wire and when current tried to circulate the wire…

C-Chute. There is a war against an alien race that breaths chlorine gas… one transport ship is captured (this race doesn’t have very high technology, so they need to scavenge earth ships). The people aboard are quite different but they manage to team up (kind of) and kill the two aliens guarding the ship.

In a Good Cause. It’s basically 3 moments in the life of a man who was claiming not to do war… and unite the human worlds against the alien race. That race decided to diplomatically keep humans fighting while they take over the rest of the galaxy. In the end he was true and people needed to fight against that race… but it’s methods where not the best ones to deal with so many human worlds all fighting against each other.

Strikebreaker. In an isolated planetoid the population has developed an aversion against those who take care of waste disposal. So big is that aversion that they are not considered humans, and no contact with them is possible. The Strikebreaker is a guy in charge of stooping the strike from the waste disposal team… and become hated by the rest of the planetoid.

My Son, the Physicist. A physicist has the problem of how to communicate with Pluto, 6 hours away at the speed of light. No conversation is possible with that delay, and communicating things… almost impossible. But there is a trick from the physicist’s mother, just speak continuously and hear all the time. Your data transfer will be continuous and the reception as well.

Personal Review: In general, I liked them, but sometimes you know… Asimov likes very short stories.

The Machine that won the War. Obviously this one was written long ago, when computers where something like black boxes which outputs could be almost anything… Nowadays it is clear that the output will be something quite defined. But it’s a kind of fun imaging something as big and as expensive as Multivac (somewhere I rode it was 1 mile per 1 mile big) giving weird answers. I do agree with the idea of cleaning data before input it, and analysing the recommendations, but I don’t see how they can create a weird computer that gives weird answers.

Green Patches. To be honest, I don’t believe in the Gaia theory, for the simple reason that competition is the engine that pulls evolution, and for competition individuals are needed. But I think this one is good because it’s like a kind of standard in many stories: if the ship is contaminated, we have to kill ourselves to save the earth.

C-Chute. I like this one because there is one moment when normal humans do what heroes do, fight for their lives even when they are terribly scared. On the other side, it’s kind of innocent, nobody is left without supervision in a room with spacesuits…

In a Good Cause. I don’t like this one because it’s a kind of jump breaking the story. I never like that. The rest of the story is kind of good. It is obvious that if humans spread in to the galaxy, they will become independent worlds, and it is clear that troubles and fights between then are inevitable. The fact of leaving an alien race outnumber humans… I think is not so easy. We have exploit almost anything we get in touch. Aliens will be exploited too.

Strikebreaker. This is a mirror of some Indian cultures? I really don’t see how people can be excluded from civilization just for operating the waste disposal machines. It’s so silly… Anyway, I think humans can be quite irrational, and this might be true under the right circumstances…

My Son, the Physicist. You don’t send a spaceship to Pluto without thinking the problem of communication! That is silly. I think this was a fast story just to be proud of mothers. We don’t need that, I think everyone is proud of his or her mother.


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