hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

A Review of The Stars, Like Dust

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 16, 2016

The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire, #1)The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve been saying for a long time that I don’t understand why Asimov deserves his gigantic reputation. If one dares make such a comment publicly, they are practically beaten to a pulp by his legions of fans. Don’t get me wrong – he had some good ideas and wrote some decent books that I’ve enjoyed, but he was never a GOOD writer. When he was young, he didn’t even know what basic grammatical things like “transitions” were, he barely knew about writing character development, and while he obviously worked on this his whole career, I think one of his real weaknesses was his complete inability to write realistic dialogue. His dialogue always came off to me as stilted and wooden, as though the protagonist were an overly aggressive frustrated male (usually) Ivy League engineer or scientist who had no social skills and who, frankly, wasn’t very scientifically advanced. Honestly, in Foundation, set over 20,000 years in the future, the main character at some point goes to the capital home planet/city of the Galactic Empire on a spaceship, having made some “jumps” to get there from Foundation, and immediately opens a paper newspaper. Seriously? Asimov couldn’t imagine a laptop, iPad, smartphone, nothing? Most sci fi writers at least have decent imaginations regarding the future.

Suffice all that to say, I was less than impressed with The Stars, Like Dust. Granted, it WAS apparently his second novel, published in 1951, so you have to cut him some slack for that, and I do, and it did have its moments, but on the whole, it’s pulp sci fi and fairly lame at that. It often reads as though it’s a cross between a Buck Rogers and Star Trek episode. It’s that cheesy.

This story is about one Biron Farrill, who at the book’s beginning, is studying at a university on Earth, when thanks to a colleague named Jonti, he is made aware of a radiation bomb that has been planted in his room. This same person then tells him of his father’s execution by the Tyranni, allegedly for taking part in a rebellion. His father held the highest position on Widemos, as the Rancher. Jonti then convinces Biron to travel to this planet, Rhodia, where his father was killed. Sounds like a good idea at the moment. Apparently, Biron is easily convinced. So, this is where he hears rumors about a rebellion against the Tyranni and it becomes his goal to find the rebel planet. With the aid of the daughter of Rhodia’s ruler and his brother. Her name is Artemisia and, naturally, she’s a hottie, because few women in Asimov’s works would be otherwise. And of course, the two rich kids just might go on to save the day, after naturally falling in love, right? Perfect cheesy sci fi love story. With the CHEESIEST ending to any type of novel I have ever read in my entire life! I have read that Asimov was forced by the publisher to put it in there, and if so, then it wasn’t his fault, but whoever was at fault, it’s bad, bad, bad, and it’s a terrible play at stupid 1950s American patriotism and it makes the book even worse. This book has so much melodrama in it, it’s not funny, and to end it like that, my God!

This book is possibly one of Asimov’s worst. None of the characters are likable, except perhaps the tyrant, if that’s feasible. The character development is nonexistent. The dialogue is putrid. The plot twists and turns too much with a few too many betrayals. The science, per usual with Asimov, is suspect. It’s not his worst effort at prose, nor is it anywhere close to his best. At best this is a three star effort, which I’m knocking down to two stars because of the horrible ending. Not seriously recommended.

View all my reviews

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