cover image The Ugly Little Boy

The Ugly Little Boy

Isaac Asimov. Doubleday Books, $22.5 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-385-26343-6

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. (Oct.)