Aidan Moher has an interesting blog post on good introductory pieces to Science Fiction reading.
Made me think of my own introduction. It was fourth grade, the author was Asimov and the book was the Robots of Dawn; part of the Robot Series. I didn't understand a lot of the words, and I was too entranced to take the time to grab a dictionary, but it was good stuff. Dealing with a far flung future where humanity is confined to large cities within the construct of massive domes—a result of our pollution and haphazard use of the environment for too long. Spacer communities spring up in nearby space with an increasingly select and recluse community that comes to look upon their earthly forbearers as primitive and dirty. In this world a robot of incredible intelligence, fashioned into the likeness of its creator to exquisite detail is thrust and found in the middle of a murder mystery that draws in the main protagonist that has a distinct distaste for robots.
I don't know if I wouldn't recommend it as a first to the genre, but it was good for me and it's been a while, so...maybe.
One of the suggestions on Aidan Moher's post was I, Robot—a collection of short stories also by Asimov, dealing with robots built with hyper-advanced positronic brains. They were the very stories that he used as jumping boards to conceptualize how advanced robots capable of thought and emotion would interact with humans, and what kind of benefits and perils would arise. I'd personally disagree with it as a good intro as the stories in it are more involved with exploring different concepts, instead of telling compelling stories.
But, do they have value? Yes.
But I don't think it is the same kind of value that they may have once held, from their first publish. The book left me with the impression that some older science fiction may have been more concerned with ideas and concepts than storytelling. Science Fiction was a new frontier of fiction (relatively) and explored things that were yet to come. Certainly something that could invigorate minds and capture imaginations. But also one where story takes the back seat while an author becomes immersed in a fantastic new idea that carries their imagination away to a future of incredible possibility.
This was not the case with the novels of the Robot series; including my, above mentioned, first foray into science fiction. Of the four novels I think Robots of Dawn was the most incredible, but Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and Robots and Empire were all amazing reads. In these books you have the future advances of science explored alongside great characters and an engaging story.
Of course, my memory of Asimov's work is colored by time. I haven't read any of these in a number of years. Makes me wonder what I would think of them now if I were to make a return to the series, but it also makes me hesitant to ruin my fond memory.
So, what was your first sci-fi book? And what do you think about my feeling that older science fiction may have been more interested in ideas than story? Do I lack a base for that assumption, or is there more support than I may realize?