What happens when an overachiever with almost perfect recall is let loose on autobiography? You get length, for a start. Documenting birth through age 34 enables Asimov to dwell lovingly on the minutiae stored in the temporal lobes, aided by diaries compulsively chronicling events (especially birthdays), habitats, typewriters or telephones acquired. You get excess. The writing persists in the look-at-me-I'm-cute/precocious/fat/erratically brilliant/flirtatious/honest style that marks Asimov introductions. You get cliches. The text contains lines like "we settled down in New York City's borough of Brooklyn where I was to spend my formative years," or "But it was off with the old and on with the new." The story itself, however, has a certain New York nostalgia appeal, Poor Jewish boy grows up in Brooklyn, Russian immigrant mom and pop run a candy store, work, work, work, eat, eat, eat, be the best. And of course Isaac was the best: skipped liberally in the lower grades, he went on to pimply-faced, skinny adolescence, rejection by the quota system from Columbia College (and later, by medical schools), always reading, doing things for himself, by himself: an erudite but totally sheltered existence. The familiar pattern of the first-born son pleasing a stern and demanding father (but there is affection) and a protective mother. There follow the Sad-Sack army days, the bliss of marriage, the beginning triumphs writing for the pulps, and finally the Ph.D. in chemistry, plus, at volume's end, a respectable assistant professorship at Boston University and renown as one of the luminaries of sci-fi's Golden Age. Of particular interest is Asimov's inside story of the evolution of that literary form, and the editors and agents who helped shape it. At half the length and with half the schmaltz, this 200th Asimov title would have been distinctly more memorable.