Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review - David Starr, Space Ranger by Isaac Asimov

Short review: David Starr goes to Mars and becomes the interplanetary version of the Lone Ranger.

Starr goes out to Mars
Meets strange exotic Martians
Becomes Space Ranger

Full review: David Starr, Space Ranger is an Isaac Asimov story originally published under the pseudonym Paul French. This book was originally to form the basis for a television show aimed at younger viewers featuring a Lone Ranger type character set in space, and Asimov wanted to use a pseudonym for the story to avoid the possibility of being embarrassed by a shoddily made production. The show was never made, and Asimov later wrote books in the series under his own name.

David Starr, as presented in this volume, is a crime fighter for the Science Council, the governing body of Earth. (As a side note, for someone who said he was in favor of democracy as a form of government, Asimov sure loved technocracies run by "smart people" in his fiction). Starr is sent to Mars to try to uncover the source of poison that has cropped up in the food supply. Starr gets himself hired on as a new hand at a Martian farm and begins to investigate. On the way, Starr befriends a diminutive Martian farmhand named Bigman who fills in the Tonto role, meets up with some benevolent aliens who provide the substitute for the supernatural anointing of the Lone Ranger as the defender of goodness, and unravels a conspiracy to starve Earth into submission.

The book is very clearly the Lone Ranger in space, with easy to draw parallels. The science is also somewhat dated, especially with respect to conditions on Mars, which is balmy enough to serve as a prime producer of agricultural products, and for humans to wander about on the surface in nothing more than breathing masks. Mars also has a surprisingly dense atmosphere in the book. Granted, these failings were the result of the knowledge of the time period concerning Mars, but they do require one to suspend disbelief. Taking the story as a pulp adventure story, it works well enough, even if the plot is a little simple, and a little too much serendipity is involved (always explained away because David Starr's nickname is "Lucky").

For a younger reader, this book is quite good. For an older reader who will spot the derivative nature of the story and the dated nature of the science, it is merely a little above average.

Subsequent book in the series: Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids

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  1. I always learn something new when I venture here. Thanks for this. I didn't not know about this particular Asimov adventure....hmmm.

  2. @Parajunkee: It's actually the first in a six book series. I'm going to try to get reviews of the others posted soon.