The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

The Stars, Like Dust book cover

Timeline discussion:
Here are a couple quotes — “Atomic warfare had done its worst to Earth. Most of it was hopelessly radioactive and useless.” and “The radioactivity of the soil was a vast sea of iridescent blue, sparkling in strange festoons that spelled out the manner in which the nuclear bombs had once landed, a full generation before the force-field defense against nuclear explosions had been developed, so that no other world could commit suicide in just that fashion again.” — The Stars, Like Dust

This explanation contradicts what took place at the end of Robots and Empire, which was written 35 years later. I guess Asimov has the right to change history, or we can attribute the discrepancy to historical inaccuracies within the world he created. After all, the Horsehead Nebula in the book is named after “Horace Hedd” rather than for looking like a horse’s head. About 50 years before, the Nebular Kingdoms have been conquered by the Tyranni. They rule thousands of worlds from the home planet of Tyrann.

The main plot in this novel revolves around Biron Farrill, son of the Rancher of Widemos. The Rancher is implicated in a conspiracy against the Tryranni. Biron had been sent to Earth on a mission to recover a mysterious and dangerous ancient document which is supposed to be the key to the rebellion. Biron is thrust into a whirlwind of action and mystery after there is a failed attempt to kill him with a micro radiation bomb. He finds himself being guided to Rhodia, one of the strongest worlds in the Nebular Kingdoms, to plead for asylum with the planetary Director. From there he learns about a “Rebellion World” which might be the only hope of defeating the oppressive Tyranni.

At 200 pages this book is rather short, and the pacing moves pretty quickly. The overall feel of the book seems like it could happen in medieval times, except for the fact that there are thousands of worlds and ships that use hyperatomic motors. It seemed pretty obvious when Asimov shifted into Sci-Fi mode when explaining how much of the technology and concepts about planetary systems and space travel. I think that his later books are integrated better, but considering this book was written in 1950, it seems to hold up rather well.

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Isaac Asimov’s Robot City Book 5: Refuge by Rob ChilsonIsaac Asimov’s Robot City Book 5: Refuge by Rob Chilson

Robot City 5: Refuge book cover

This review will most likely contain spoilers for any previous books in the series, read at your own risk.

After a close call with Dr. Avery, the crazed mastermind of Robot City, finally returned to check on its progress. He captured Derec and Ariel, but eventually they escaped with the help of Mandelbrot and Wolruf. Derec, Ariel, Mandelbrot, and Wolruf escape by stealing Dr. Avery’s ship. Unfortunately the ship had no star charts in the computer, so they were unable to jump to safety. Ariel’s health had been deteriorating considerably, and eventually Mandelbrot demanded that something must be done. Derec and Ariel use a Key to Perihelion that was found in the ship in hopes it takes them to a place that might have a cure for her disease and possibly Derec’s amnesia.

This book mainly covers Derec and Ariel’s adventures on Earth, the destination the Key takes them to. They search out for a cure for Ariel and what possible interest Dr. Avery might have in Earth. We see here the claustrophobia Derec and Arial experience. This is a fitting contrast to Lije Baley’s agoraphobia which Asimov described in The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn.

I, Robot by Isaac AsimovI, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I-Robot Book Cover

    The Three Laws of Robotics

  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

First things first, the Hollywood movie I, Robot (also reviewed) with Will Smith has only has a few things in common with this book of short stories. Keep in mind that the NAME was licensed to the movie studio after the script was already written. Scenes were adjusted to include the Three Laws, Susan Calvin, and Alfred Lanning. That is about where the similarities between the book and the movie end. There might be a few concepts stripped from some of the stories, but by no means is the film “based” on the book. To give the movie makers credit, they only say “inspired” by in the opening.

I, Robot is a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov. Keep in mind these stories were mainly written in the 1940s then published together in 1950. These stories describe the basics of the Three Laws of Robotics and what can go wrong with them. Asimov uses the Three Laws as a literary device to create puzzling situations. Several of these stories involve Susan Calvin, the top robo-psychologist for the only robot manufacturing company, US Robots and Mechanical Men, Inc. If anyone is interested in reading the Robot Novel series, this book kind of acts as a nice introduction to the basic concepts. As a matter of fact, anyone with any interest in Sci-Fi should read this book. I consider it required reading.

Isaac Asimov’s Utopia by Roger MacBride AllenIsaac Asimov’s Utopia by Roger MacBride Allen

Utopia book cover

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