Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review - Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids by Isaac Asimov

Short review: Hot on the trail of the pirate gang he tangled with in David Starr, Space Ranger, Lucky heads out to the asteroids to finish the job.

A ship used as bait
To catch asteroid pirates
A job for Lucky

Full review: This is the second Lucky Starr book, and the first Asimov wrote after it became clear that no television show would be made with the character. This is also the book where David Starr morphed from being a Lone Ranger imitation to being a Cold War counterintelligence agent. The books also began referring to the character as "Lucky" Starr, because Asimov apparently thought that David was too mundane a name for a planet hopping spy.

The Lucky Starr books were supposed to interest young boys in science, although it is hard to figure out how, as there is very little actual science in the books. They are, however, pretty good adventure tales. Having been to Mars in the previous book, Lucky heads out to the Asteroid Belt to take on the pirates referenced in the first book. Lucky accompanies a ship that has been booby trapped by the Science Council and intended to cause trouble for the pirates. Once in the belt, the pirates predictably board the ship, and seem to know all about the Council's trap. Lucky infiltrates the pirate band, has to fight to prove himself (something that seems common in the Lucky Starr books), and eventually figures out who the leader is, and has to undertake a daring maneuver only made possible by his Martian mask. On the way, Lucky finds out about the Sirian involvement in the pirate plots. The Sirians become the antagonists for the rest of the series, plotting against Earth over and over again.

This is not deep, philosophical science fiction, and some of the information in the book is now dated to a certain extent (planetary astronomy has made significant strides since the book was written). The book remains a solid adventure story aimed at teenage boys, and a reasonably good adventure story for older readers too, who will see some of the seeds of ideas Asimov fleshed out in books such as The Caves of Steel in this book. This isn't great science fiction, but it is fun and readable.

Previous book in the series: David Starr, Space Ranger
Subsequent book in the series: Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury

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