Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Deal Me in Challenge: The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

So, according to the math, I have exactly 17 days to complete the Deal in Challenge for 2016. No doubt, an impossible feat considering the upcoming deadline and my penchant for procrastination but after all, there is a reason why this blog is called Literature Frenzy! It is high-time to jump into turbo mode and read voraciously, entering a ravenous statue of delirium where only literature can satisfy my insatiable appetite! Muahahahahhahahaha!! 


Anyways, I do intend to power-through this challenge and read every single short story or poem from my list. However, with such limited time constraints, it would be impractical to hammer out a full-length review for each one. Perhaps a few short sentences will suffice? Maybe. It all depends on how long it takes me to run out of gas or if these delusions of grandeur blow up in my face. Either way, I surely hope Jay from Bibliophilopolis hosts this challenge again next year so that I can redeem myself. That is enough dilly dallying, let's get this show on the road with the first short story picked randomly from the deck, which turned out to be (as if the title of the post or bold image did not already give it away but let's all pretend it is a surprise)...

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov! 

Entropy. The end of the universe. Isaac Asimov, you damn genius! My mind is blown right now and The Last Question is easily one of the best, if not, the best short-story that I have read in my entire life. Please, I encourage everyone to take 10-15 minutes out of their day (or however long it might take you) and read this story here. You won't regret it. Afterwards, if you feel up to it, come back and let me know what you think in the comments section. I would love to get a discussion going since this story is bound to spark some interesting reactions and interpretations. The debate between science and religion has always been a contested issue and here, Asimov puts forth a potential theory that is controversial as much as it is fascinating. On a side note, he also considered this story to be his personal favorite out of the almost everything he ever wrote and that is saying something since this dude was an extremely prolific writer throughout his lifetime. 

As a science-fiction fan, I am kicking myself for not reading Asimov sooner (I did start  his Foundation Trilogy during my youth but never finished it so that hardly counts) because as this story clearly demonstrates, he deserves to be recognized as one of the great writers of our time, regardless of genre. In addition to his literary ambitions, Asimov was also a highly respected scientist (biochemistry) and his scientific background unequivocally informs his writing. Yet, he doesn't alienate the reader with technical jargon; rather, his expansive knowledge of science influences his unique imagination that is beyond anything that I have ever encountered in literature other than perhaps Philip K. Dick who was surely influenced by Asimov. Both authors are capable of coming up with some of the most mind-boggling stories and concepts but it is difficult for me to say at this point as to who deserves the crown as the reigning king of science-fiction without reading more of Asimov's work. Based solely on this one story, it is safe to say that P.K.D. might have some competition. 

Although some people might find Asimov's writing to be cold and detached, which reflects his empirical 'scientific' approach to story-telling, one should not completely overlook the subtle irony and humor that underlies a lot of his work. Indeed, one can make the argument that this particular story is satirical, offering a critique on humanity's pride to fully comprehend the universe. The juxtaposition between ontology and epistemology is brought to the forefront and Asimov demands from the reader to ask those big existential questions after reading this story. He cleverly emphasizes the fact that humans are flawed; we will never have the answers to everything. Rather, we can only continue to ask more questions and must learn our limits. No matter how advanced our technology becomes, we cannot stop the universe from expanding but what happens after trillions and trillions of years later when space and time cease to exist? Asimov has a hypothesis and it is truly out-of-this-world. 


  1. Hey! You're back! :-) FYI - I WILL be announcing the 2017 Deal Me In Challenge within the next week, so "the path to redemption" is open for you. :-)

    I've "powered through" some major short-story marathon reading a few times myself. My favorite recently has been doing the 24 in 48 Readathon challenge, but reading 24 short stories instead of reading for 24 hours out of 48. It can be done! And don't forget - the "rules" for DMI specifically state you don't have to blog about the stories, just read them. Good luck!

  2. Hi Jay, thank you for the words of encouragement! Oh, I seem to have overlooked the rules for DMI. Phew, what a relief haha