Saturday, November 12, 2011
Review - Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
Short review: Spontaneous time travel results in telepathy and regime change
By flying through time
To irradiated Earth
He changes everything
Full review: Joseph Schwartz is an ordinary man, a retired tailor in the twentieth century. He is catapulted forward in time and winds up on a devastated radioactive Earth that is so poor every inhabitant who reaches the age of sixty is euthanized. This poses quite a problem for Schwartz, as he is sixty-two. Unable to speak the language due to language drift, he is taken to be mentally defective by the first people he meets, and they send him (in exchange for a bribe) to a scientist working on enhancing mental abilities. As a result of the experiments Schwartz becomes much more intelligent and acquires telepathic abilities.
Once able to communicate, Schwartz and the reader learn that Earth is a poverty stricken backwater in a Galactic Empire. Earth is also known for its rebelliousness and is discriminated against. Schwartz then becomes involved in a plot by pro-Earth fanatics to kill everyone else in the Empire with a super-virus, a plot he foils. The novel ends on an up note as the Imperial Procurator of Earth agrees to try to restore the planet by bringing in uncontaminated soil.
Aside from the rather odd time travel element, this is a pretty straightforward story. Some things seem implausible - the ability of humans to survive on the radioactive earth (the improbability of which Asimov talks about in a later added afterward), the implausibility of the plan to restore Earth, and so on, but the adventure in between holds up well.
Previous book in the series: The Currents of Space
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