Friday, September 5, 2014

Azazel by Isaac Asimov

 Most of the stories in Azazel first appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine a few decades ago, and were all collected in this volume for the first time in 1988. I don't know who came up with the idea first, but it dates back to the story of the Monkey's Paw, at least, that one should beware of any wish fulfillment method, especially demons, and even sitcom genies' wish granting can have dubious results.

Asimov's friend, a 'Freddy the Freeloader" sort, George, has somehow or other summoned a very small demon, two centimeters tall, but far larger in the scope of his mischief. Against his better judgement - he has no better nature - George keeps trying to help his acquaintances to be smarter, stronger, wealthier, or more famous, as the demon is restricted from directly benefitting George with his wishes, and George keeps hoping that success will one day rub off on him, at least to the extent of the victims beneficiaries paying for drinks and meals.

The banter between George and Asimov's fictional self is bitingly satirical and quite amusing - I wish I could be so insulting without being crude - and the inevitable collapse of the demon's "improvements" is always quite innovative. I'm not sure whether it was more amusing to wait for these stories of Azazel to appear as long anticipated treats in the monthly magazine, or to gobble them up all at once in one long sitting.

Filled with bits like,

"His ex-mistress sang cantatas at the local church...I thought at the time that her morals didn't quite suit the surroundings, but Morrison said they made allowances for sopranos."


"I am, by nature, a courteous man, so I greeted him with a grunt and a glare, which he accepted in a calm way."

More fun than a barrel of...well, demons.

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