Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review - The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

Short review: A student on irradiated Earth gets embroiled in interstellar intrigue and must find an "ultimate weapon" that turns out to be pretty silly.

On the run in space
Fleeing from the Tyranni
And a banal end

Full review: The Stars, Like Dust has what I consider to be one of the most evocative titles of any science fiction novel. Unfortunately, the novel itself is, at best, mediocre. With Pebble in the Sky (read review) and The Currents of Space (read review), this book forms the Galactic Empire trilogy, although there is very little Galactic Empire in this book.

The book is more or less a standard adventure story with a helping of political intrigue, a serving of betrayals and backstabbing, and a somewhat groan-inducing ending (although, to be fair, the attachment of the "ultimate secret weapon" at the end of the novel was apparently not Asimov's idea, but was insisted upon by his editor). The story is, like a lot of Golden Age science fiction, somewhat dated as Asimov didn't anticipate developments in computers, but it is still readable. The Tyranni are a fairly stock enemy, but are drawn malevolently enough to make the fight against them worth reading. Some of the characters are fairly wooden, but the protagonist is reasonably engaging, even if he is overly naive and foolish at times.

The Stars, Like Dust ends up as a serviceable Asimov science fiction novel. There isn't anything particularly good or bad about it. A fan of Golden Age science fiction will find it worth reading, especially to see how the novel bridges the gap between the pulpy adventure stories of earlier science fiction and the more involved stories that came after it - one can see the seeds of stories like Foundation (read review) and The Caves of Steel (read review) in this book, and for that, it is probably worth a read for the science fiction fan.

Subsequent book in the series: The Currents of Space

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  1. It is a great title! But far from my favorite book.

  2. @Julia: Delany has a much better (albeit more confusing) book with the title Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, which is one of the few titles that I think rivals The Stars, Like Dust.