Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Review - The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov
Short review: A man with no memories upsets the unequal political balance between two planets and a now discredited scientific theory features prominently.
He's trapped on a slave planet
Matter flows through space
Full review: The Currents of Space is part of Asimov's Galactic Empire trilogy (although they weren't really written as a trilogy as most people use the term today, and they can be read separately without any trouble). I found this to be the best of the three.
The novel is set on Floriana, a planet that is essentially a fiefdom of the planet Sark. Floriana is valuable for a rare and irreproducible agricultural product, and the rulers of Sark have no intention of ever losing control of this valuable resource. Floriana is a heavily controlled society, in which education is denied to all but a handful, and the inhabitants are taught to perceive the "Squires" of Sark as almost godlike beings. Into this situation a man with no memory and no past is found and taken in by the denizens of a small Florinian village. First the stranger's mere presence, and then his slowly recovering memories upset the society imposed upon the Florinians.
Running in parallel to this story is the tale of agents of the Galactic Empire at Trantor seeking to break the power of the Squires of Sark without resorting to war. Eventually, the two sides of the story weave together, until several surprising secrets are revealed concerning the wealth produced by Floriana, the threat it is under, the identity of the mysterious amnesiac stranger, and how all three are interrelated.
This is one of Asimov's better novels - not as good as the Foundation or Robot books, but in the groups that falls right behind them. The characters are well-written, and (unlike those in some other Asimov books) have rational reactions to the events they find themselves confronted with. The story is quite good, both as a story of political intrigue, and a story of the impact of the surrounding environment that affects the skulduggery (although the science behind the science fiction in the book is well out of date). I found it to be an interesting and engaging book that is well worth reading.
Previous book in the series: The Stars, Like Dust
Subsequent book in the series: Pebble in the Sky
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