Book Review: The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

Book Review: The Currents of Space (Galactic Empire #2) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

“Don’t you know that everything in all the Galaxy is mostly Nothing?”

“No school like the old school.” Published in 1952, this story is better than much of today’s science fiction. Asimov competently weaves the science of his day into an engaging tale of amnesia, power, and apocalypse.

‘It took hours to reach a point far enough from star-mass distortion of the space fabric to make a jump possible.’

Many tropes of subsequent science fiction are already present: faster-than-light jumping, galactic empires, and orbital dynamics. He also addresses social issues of his day—racism, sexism, classism, power politics—though from the point of view of mid-twentieth century. (Younger readers may have doubts.) Of course, there’s a lot of pseudo-scientific hand waving, but its no worse than subsequent franchises.

‘No Florinian could, of course, be more than a clerk, regardless of how much of the actual threads of office ran through his white fingers.’

His character building and storytelling stand up well. His language and social habits are credible and inoffensive. Though this tale becomes an origin story for his Foundation series, the story admits standalone reading.

“May the Spirit of the Galaxy watch over the Squires as they watch over us.”

Book Review: Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire #3) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

Book Review: Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire #3) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

‘Schwartz was a believer in the goodness of human nature. He didn’t think there would be another war. He didn’t think Earth would ever see again the sunlike hell of an atom exploded in anger.’

 Fun science fiction classic. Don’t let the series sequence number fool you, this is Asimov’s first science fiction novel. First. If you think you like science fiction and haven’t read this, you should. It’s not as good as his later work, but worth reading.

“By the life of the Emperor, your comrades of Earth are themselves the best such missionaries. Living here, as they do, cooped up on their deadly planet, festering in their own anger, they’re nothing but a standing ulcer in the Galaxy.” 

First published in 1950. Before the Cold War got cold, before Sputnik, before molecular biology. Allowing that, it works. In fact, Asimov seems prescient. I first read this decades ago; enjoyed it more now, especially as contemporary offerings are such thin soup.

‘The bloody fools! Who the devil did they think they were? Yes, yes, he knew. They thought they were the original humans, the inhabitants of the planet—The worst of it was he knew that they were right.’ 

Asimov’s ridicule of racism, sexism, novelists, and bureaucrats should resonate with modern readers, even as he suffers from a cringe-worthy quaintness endemic to his youth and time.

“It’s like a visicast, isn’t it, with the great all-conquering heroes zooming to victory in the nick of time? That’s where they usually end it. Only in our case the visicast went on and we found that nobody believed us.”