hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music, tech

Posts Tagged ‘Isaac Asimov’

A Review of Nemesis

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 20, 2016

NemesisNemesis by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of Asimov’s later works, perhaps his last work, I can’t recall. Much of it is pretty interesting, but it has its weaknesses as well. To me, that sentence sums up Asimov as a writer and his career as well. At times brilliant, at times a total dud. You never know what you’re getting with him until you start reading.

Nemesis is the story of an Earth colony called Rotor that seeks to escape from the solar system, wanting to create its own upstart civilization free of Earth’s constraints, and even the other settlements’, and it somehow amazingly with Asimov’s amazingly spurious scientific mumbo jumbo moves the colony to a new area of a neighboring star system that is concealed from Earth by huge clouds (no, Hubble couldn’t see through that, thank you), and the star is called Nemesis by the woman who discovers it. The moon that orbits it (there’s an insignificant planet too) is called Erythro and Rotor comes to orbit all of it. And everyone in the solar system is amazed at Rotor’s disappearance and wonders how they did it and where they went. Earth finds the best scientists and puts them on it.

The main protagonist in this book is a fifteen-year-old girl named Marlene. At first, you kind of like her because she’s smart, individualistic, and has big dreams. You also feel sorry for her because she’s basically described by everyone as being ugly but smart. Then you start to realize she’s crazy and she started to get on my nerves in a big damn way. She pretty much ruined the book for me. She turned into a spoiled, dictatorial, tyrannical brat who literally physically made others do her bidding by her mind control, because yes, she has this bizarre ability to “read” other people’s body language, their movements and actions and reactions and facial expressions and other bullshit like that and be able to tell people to their face every thing that person has ever done, thought, is thinking, ever will think or do in their lifetime, etc. I’m slightly exaggerating, but you get the picture. It’s unnerving to everyone around her and doesn’t make her very popular. Indeed, the more she uses her power, which she does, the more eerie and creepy she becomes and the more power hungry she becomes.

And here’s the really weird thing about Marlene. She’s obsessed with Erythro. She wants to go visit it, so she engineers a way to get it done. When she’s there, she makes sure she gets out on the planet’s surface, which is very dangerous, since there are minute alien life forms and a plague. And you need a space suit, since the air is unbreathable. She then keeps finding ways to keep upping the ante. Her super scientist mother is with her on the planet and her only purpose is to wring her hands, act like the poor, helpless female she is, and seek the companionship of the big, strong male character from her past who of course is in love with her and has been his whole life. Eventually, Marlene is so obsessed with the place, she wants to become one with it and insists in going out alone and takes her space suit off, but survives somehow, and then encounters the planet’s major alien life form, who communicates with her. It frightens her at first, but she goes back for more and they establish a relationship. It’s freaking bizarre.

Meanwhile … that’s a lot … the person in charge of Rotor is a scheming man who thinks he’s the only person who can save the colony from disaster. Marlene’s father, her mother’s ex-husband who deserted them before Marlene turned two because Rotor was going to migrate out into space and he was an Earthman and didn’t want to go (also because he was a spy and wasn’t going anywhere with them), is on a secret trip out to where Earth’s government thinks Rotor is, with some government scientists and a super fast new ship. When they find Rotor, he is hoping to reunite with his daughter, even though it’s been nearly 15 years.

Asimov has never been strong at character development in many of his books, as I’ve noted in many previous reviews. I guess this book is as good as any in most of his books, which is to say barely passable for most authors, but not too bad for him. The dialogue, though, is fairly bad. God, her father, Crile, repeated the same crap over and over so many times, I kept hoping he would get blown out an airlock. Marlene kept repeating herself so many times, I kept hoping the alien(s) would melt her with acid or something cool like that. I hated her that much halfway through the book. And it’s not only the repetitions. It’s Asimov’s typical formal language, even for a fifteen-year-old girl. Not remotely believable. Did he ever talk to a teenager that age? I just have a hard time believing that in the late 1980s, when this book was published, girls in their mid-teens sounded that formal. Not remotely realistic. Hell, the rest of the gang sounded incredibly formal too. They all sounded like they came from, ta dah, the same author!

Another complaint along these lines is that a lot of text got bogged down in infodumps, showing off Asimov’s alleged scientific knowledge about how a colony like Rotor got into orbit around Nemesis to the point where no one cares anymore, and who discovered the star and why it was named that, etc, etc. It’s just too much.

Also, the ending was unbelievably anti-climactic and simply unbelievable. Not remotely believable at all. I couldn’t believe that Asimov would have his readers buy that as a legitimate ending. I was stunned. Seriously?

This is a book that had a good premise. Seriously. I was excited to begin reading it. And then I started hating the characters. A lot. The schemers, the weak female scientists who need a strong man in their lives, the father figure who’s been holding out for the (weak) female love of his life, the Earth spies and scientists, the obsessed former father, the increasingly powerful and nearly evil teenager and her alien love-fest, which seems incredibly unhealthy. Etc. Just too much. The scheming, the manipulating, the using, the alien(s), everything just started annoying me a lot. I thought about not finishing it, but by that time I was halfway through, so I kept reading. I partially enjoyed the book, although as I said, I thought the ending was seriously weak. I’m not sure whether to give this two or three stars. I think there are too many issues to give it three, so I’m giving it two stars. Not recommended. Sadly.

View all my reviews

Posted in science fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Pebble in the Sky

Posted by Scott Holstad on June 2, 2016

Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire, #3)Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pebble in the Sky is Isaac Asimov’s first published novel, published in 1950, although from what I understand, it was first serialized in the early 1930s, so it had been around in one form or another for a long time.

It’s an interesting book. Not my favorite, but not bad. Better than some of his other books. Rather than focusing solely on galactic empires and things like robots, as is the case in so many of his other novels, this one deals to a certain degree with time travel, as well as, yes, a galactic empire as well as his fascination with Earth as the founder of humankind, though no one knows it, and how the planet is nearly completely radiated, presumably from nuclear wars of centuries ago, which seems like a complete scientific impossibility. Even though the planet is ravaged by radiation, strangely the Earthmen population is immune to it, although visitors to the planet have to take medication to protect themselves from it. As a result, Earthmen are treated like non-entities by the rest of the galaxy and are ostracized as third-class citizens. Asimov was constantly obsessed with nuclear annihilation and Earth being radiated for eternity in his novels, over many decades of writing. It’s a shame his fears were never allayed.

This time travel is a bit problematic because it’s not really spelled out very well. By way of bizarre chemical “science” (Asimov apparently called it a “wrinkle in nuclear physics” that was never replicated,) a beam of mysterious energy transports retired older tailor Joseph Schwartz, age 62, from 1949 into the distant future. Schwartz’s language, an “ancient” and near-illegible version of Galactic, is not understood by anyone on the new Earth he has found himself on. Neither can he understand current society, its customs, culture, medical treatment – anything.

For reasons no one (Asimov) ever explains, future Earth’s population is tiny, but everyone is obsessed with the notion that there aren’t enough resources for everyone, so two things: 1) Everyone over 60 is killed – euthanized, and 2) There is an underground cult of rebels who plan to take over and destroy the Galactic Empire so they can rule the galaxy and possibly expand as needs dictate. Crazy.

When Schwartz steps over a doll in his 1949 city, he is immediately transported to the future hundreds of years away, although he doesn’t yet know it. He knows something weird just happened though. When he discovers he can’t communicate with the locals, it’s bad. A local farmer takes him to the city and drops him off with an oddball scientist who is testing a “brain-enhancing machine” and, after he is tested, he finds he gets some serious major new powers, the first of which is rapid learning. For instance, he learns their language in several days. Soon, he discovers he can even kill with his mind! At the same time, the scientist and his (naturally) gorgeous daughter are caught in the middle of a deadly plot that could have galaxy-wide implications, which brings in a handsome (naturally) Imperial galactic archeologist to Earth and ultimately to their aid.

So ultimately, you have a dashing, strong, noble Imperial archaeologist who encounters a pretty Earth woman (which he finds hard to admit, as she IS an Earthwoman, after all), the daughter of a respected scientist, and falls in love instantly – so they wind up fighting against the Earth villains, as well as Imperial bureaucracy together. One thing of note: the uber-villain in this novel is one of the cheesiest Asimov wrote in any of his novels. However, that can be forgiven, as this was his first effort, so it’s understandable he was still trying to test his writing skills.

And how does Schwartz figure in the final part of the story? Well, he does in a big way, but if I say how, I’ll give away the ending and I obviously can’t do that, so let’s just say that it’s a generally satisfying ending, especially for a first effort, and to be frank, more so than some of Asimov’s later works.

So, good effort, decent story, a little cheesy at times, but overall, good first novel. Shows potential for what Asimov later became. Four stars and recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in science fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of The End of Eternity

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 26, 2016

The End of EternityThe End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m just going to say it: aside from a few select novels and stories, Asimov annoys the hell out of me and is, I think, one of science fiction’s most overrated authors ever. There! Start stoning me now. I’m prepared. I know I have blasphemed. I have read a hell of a lot of Asimov, including all of the Foundation novels and all of the Robot novels, including the extra Robot-inspired books, as well as other books, and I’m always astonished – and always mentioning in my reviews – at what a below average writer I think Asimov was, particularly as a young writer. He barely knew grammatical rules, such as how to use transitions. He knew practically nothing about character development, little about plot development, and wrote the absolute worst dialogue of any type of literature of any author I have ever read anywhere, and I have read tens of thousands of books over the course of my life! The WORST dialogue ever! I’m not joking. The most wooden, stilted, unconvincing, academic, formal, boring, inauthentic excuse for dialogue I’ve ever seen in any novel form anywhere. I have three college degrees and have 13 years of university study. I’ve published 15 books of my own. My own poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and criticism have appeared in magazines, newspapers, zines, peer reviewed journals, online magazines and journals, and elsewhere in hundreds and hundreds of sources in dozens of countries in numerous languages and one of my books was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. I have taught literature and writing at three universities and colleges. I feel like I have some credentials. I feel confident when I say that I feel that there are literally dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of science fiction writers who are better writers and perhaps even scientifically superior to Asimov. His legacy is vastly inflated. But that’s my opinion, and as has been pointed out regularly in my negative reviews of his books, my opinion is worth shit regarding his books.

All that said, I’m going to skip the main synopsis of this book, other than to say it’s about time travel and is fairly innovative, especially for such an early time travel book, having been published in 1955. Pretty original, and I appreciated that. What I want to point out instead is something that I’ve pointed out for some previous books and something that several other reviewers have pointed out for this book, although to my total shock, not very many people at all. Asimov, the total misogynistic pig, is in top form in creating one female character in this book whose primary purpose is to be the sexual crush and ultimate seducer (because, after all, she IS a female, and that’s what they do to good men, right?) of our brave and good protagonist, Andrew Harlan, the Eternal. The beautiful, non-Eternal, Noys Lambent, a secretary or assistant of some sort, because after all, that’s what women do, aside from the scientist in I, Robot, creates a conflict with Andrew because women aren’t supposed to be part of the good old boy’s club in Eternity, his world, meaning he’s never gotten laid, I guess, so when she makes herself available on her world to him, he goes for it, initially feeling a little guilty, then goes for it with gusto and is drawn into her sinful female web, allowing Eternity to possibly be destroyed. Nice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Asimov write entire novels with either no female characters or just one or two minor background characters who comb their hair in their bedrooms (Foundation, anyone?). Sometimes there’s a more major female character, but they’re either helpless and dependent on a strong male lead (robot novels) or are seductresses (robot novels). To Asimov, women are evil and/or dangerous. Yet somehow he was married. Was he merely a product of his times, was he secretly gay, or was he a stereotypical engineering/science nerd who was an academic social misfit, scared to death of females, yet strangely married to one? Or none of the above? Why did he hate women so much? Yet why in his later books, like the Prelude to Foundation books, did he write in strong female characters? Did he actually grow with the times? Did his attitudes actually change? Maybe they did. Maybe there was hope. Maybe he was a 1940s/50s-era misogynistic product of his time who didn’t know any better than the Nuclear Era Virgin/Whore Syndrome and who wrote that into his novels. If so, fairly pathetic and that goes to show what a weak writer he truly was, backing up my original claim. But then, he wouldn’t have been the only one, so fair’s fair, I suppose.

In any event, I’m one of the very few to level this accusation against him regarding this or any book. The critics seem evenly split between genders, while the five star fans also seem evenly split between genders. In other words, just as many women love this book as men and apparently most women have no problems with him writing his only female character into the book as a stereotypical seductress whore intent upon making a male protagonist trip up and destroy Eternity. Apparently, women readers have no problems with this. While I find that astonishing, again, I am in the vast minority. I want to give this book a low rating, but at the same time, it was highly original, so that deserves a higher rating, so in fairness, I’m going to compromise and give it three stars. I think that’s a fair rating, given my criticisms versus its originality. Recommended for early sci fi time travel originality. Not recommended for fine quality literature.

View all my reviews

Posted in science fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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

Posted in science fiction | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Review of Forward The Foundation

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2016

Forward the Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #2)Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forward the Foundation is the second prequel to the Foundation Trilogy, yet the seventh and last book written in the series, literally right before Asimov’s death decades after he wrote the original trilogy. And I think it’s genius. Let me provide some perspective. I had heard of the Foundation trilogy for some time, of course, but when I finally read it, I was unimpressed. In fact, I thought the first two books were so poorly written, that the man clearly showed he had no clue of basic grammatical concepts, such as transitions, and writing devices, such as plot and character development. And his dialogue was atrocious! Since then, I’ve read a lot of Asimov, including many of his later works and have concluded that he grew and matured as a writer. He learned how to use transitions. He learned a little bit about plot and character development. He never did learn how to write dialogue that wasn’t wooden, stilted, overly formal, inauthentic, and just plain stupid, but no one’s perfect. When I picked up his fourth book, I loved it. Thought it was brilliant. So I bought the “last one,” the fifth, and hated it because of the nonstop sniping and bitching between two of the characters on every page of the book. I didn’t even finish it.

So it was with some trepidation that I picked up the first prequel a few weeks ago, the sixth book, Prelude to Foundation, where we meet Hari Seldon and his companions and learn about the beginnings of psychohistory and I was struck by how good it was. I loved it! And I thought the ending was spectacular. So I picked this book up, the seventh and last book – but the alleged “second” in the series – that is meant to be read last and just finished reading it a few days ago. I’m only now getting around to writing this review because I’ve had to let thoughts percolate for a few days.

Forward the Foundation covers a hell of a lot of ground and it has to if it wants to tie in with the first Foundation novel. Because of that, the book is divided into five parts, each concerned with a major character – and Hari – and each taking us one decade further in Hari’s life. These parts are of Eto Demerzel, Cleon I, Dors Venabili, Wanda Seldon, and an epilogue.

The first part of the book starts when Hari is turning 40 – 40! – and he and his colleague, Yugo Amaryl, are working to improve psychohistory so that one day it can help foretell future probabilities and create a second Galactic Empire after the fall of the Empire they currently live in. Demerzel is the emperor’s First Minister and a very interesting individual. We meet him in the previous novel and he turns out to be Hari’s champion. Unfortunately, there’s an opposition leader who’s gathering populist support in an effort to unseat him and take his position and Demerzel can see his days are numbered. Even as Demerzel defeats this challenger, saving his position, he gives it up by turning in his notice to the emperor and naming Hari as his successor, much to Hari’s horror. Demerzel then disappears.

The second part of the book has to deal with Hari at age 50 and as acting First Minister to the emperor. An early attempt is made on his life and Dors, his wife and protector, saves his life. She doesn’t have the most pleasant personality and is kind of a little too focused, but she’s extremely devoted. Meanwhile, Hari continues to devote time to the research and pursuit of psychohistory. During this time, it seems the empire is crumbling. Infrastructure is decaying, money is disappearing, fringe planets are fleeing the empire, rebellions are fomenting, and the opposition party from the first part still exists. Hari hears rumors of this and, rather stupidly, convinces his now grown son, Raych, to go to Wye to infiltrate and report back. What he doesn’t expect is for his son to be recognized and to be used as an assassin to kill Hari. At the section’s climactic end, two things happen. Raych raises his gun and points it at Hari, as does as second assassin, and a female undercover agent who Raych took as a lover blows the other assassin away, saving Hari’s life while Raych is overcome. However, shots are heard and elsewhere on the property, the emperor lies dead at the hands of the new chief gardener, who didn’t want his promotion. The empire is about to disintegrate.

In the next chapter, titled Dors, Hari and Yugo and a huge team of scientists and historians have made substantial progress in psychohistory. But Hari is getting old. He’s now 60 and feels it. The government is run by a military junta and things have fallen apart. Hari has landed back at the old university he used to teach at. Raych has married that agent and has had a young daughter, Wanda, now eight, and another small child. Wanda has had a bad dream just in time for a three day birthday party celebration thrown in Hari’s honor. She’s dreamed he’s going to die, be killed. She overhears two men talking about it. No one takes her seriously. Except for Dors. Who starts questioning people. And questions a new, young supergenius mathematician, who has been instrumental in bringing psychohistory along. She confronts him and he levels some accusations against her, and attempts to kill her, weakening her greatly before she somehow kills him first. She reaches Hari, tells him the story and dies in his arms. It’s tragic.

In the Wanda section, Hari is now 70. His friend, Yugo, has died at a young age from overwork. His friend Demerzel is no longer with him. Dors is dead. Psychohistory is in danger of dying out due to lack of funding. The empire is nearly dead. Crime and anarchy are everywhere. Hari is attacked multiple times. On one occasion, Raych saves him. On another, a young researcher named Palver saves him and becomes his bodyguard. Wanda is growing up and is obsessed with psychohistory. And it appears she has some interesting mental powers. These intrigue Hari. See, he has some ideas about something he calls a Foundation. Or rather, two Foundations. To save the galaxy. With Wanda’s help, they encounter more mentalists, including Palver, and these people form the foundation of the people who will become the Second Foundationers. But Raych and his family, minus Wanda, move to another planet, saying goodbye to Hari forever. Now Hari has been abandoned by virtually everyone he has ever cared for in his life at this stage in his life. He feels old and helpless. Yet he must plug on. However, by the end of this section, Wanda and Palver leave Hari too, to go in search of others like them, to form a Foundation for the future of psychohistory and the galaxy. Hari is now truly alone.

The epilogue is quite short, just a couple of pages. Hari is 81. He has recorded his holograms for the First Foundation crises he foresees. Psychohistory has done all it can do and he has too. Everyone has been taken from him. The last thing we see is his seeing his life’s work, Foundation, Dors! And he is found slumped dead over his desk. It’s so fucking sad, I literally cried. I know there’s hope in Wanda and the two Foundations, but this book was so bleak and so sad, and yet so essential to the creation of the Foundation Trilogy, it was impossible not to read and understand and engage. But, damn, was it depressing! But, well done. Well done. Of course, the big secret about Dors comes as no surprise to anyone, but that’s okay. And not only was it sad to see Raych and his family leave, but to find that he is killed in a rebellion on his new planet while his wife and youngest child are lost forever on a starship that is never found. Hari’s tragedies. He dedicates his whole life to psychohistory and his fellow man and loses everything in the process. It’s a fucking tragedy. As is the case with all Asimov books, I’m not sure this merits five stars, due in part to poor dialogue, at a minimum. But I think I can overlook that in this case. It was an excellent book. Five stars. Recommended, but not as the second prequel. Instead, read it as the seventh and last book of the Foundation series to gain the greatest understanding as to what’s going on. Most definitely recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Review of Prelude to Foundation

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 23, 2015

Prelude to Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #1)Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the prequel to the infamous Asimov Foundation series, actually the sixth book written decades after the original trilogy was written. If you’re read any of my reviews of the original trilogy, you’ll remember that I wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t even finish the second one, it was so bad. The writing was horrible, the character development nonexistent, the plot development no better, the dialogue laughable. However, when I read the fourth Foundation book published around 1982, I was much impressed. He had come a long way, although his writing could still use some improvement. At least he had learned how to use transitions. His next book, the final book in the series, irritated me with its characters’ constant nonstop sniping and bitching at each other, so I didn’t finish it and gave it a poor review, although for all I know it could have turned out to be a decent book. I just hated the characters too much to finish it. So it was with some trepidation that I started reading this one.

Prelude to Foundation, the first prequel but actual sixth book in the series to be published, was published in 1988, late in Asimov’s career. His writing, again, was much improved over his earlier work, but it still could have been better. Nonetheless, I was very taken with this book. I thought it had a much better plot than I expected it to, a lot of action, more than expected, a shocking amount of sexuality, which is very un-Asimov-like, a direct tie-in with his robot series, which I enjoyed, and a marvelous finish to a rather tension filled ending. Frankly, I had a hard time putting it down.

The book follows the early career of the young mathematician, Hari Seldon, elder hero of the original Foundation trilogy and creator of the science of psychohistory, which can very nearly foretell the history of society and culture. In this book, he is always on the Galactic Empire’s capital planet/city of Trantor, home to 40 billion people and 800 domed sectors, where he gives a paper at a mathematics conference which garners a lot of attention and from which he is the next day brought to the emperor’s own quarters, and asked to use his psychohistory to help determine the fate of the empire. He tries to explain that it’s theoretical, not practical, that it would take decades, a lifetime, maybe longer, to mathematically prove what he has theoretically proved. He is thrown out in disgrace, later attacked by thugs, defends himself with a new friend named Chetter Hummin, who claims to be a journalist, and who tells him the Empire and the man behind the emperor, Eto Demerzel, is after him. He must flee.

Hummin takes him halfway across the planet, charging Hari with furthering the research and discovery of psychohistory because the empire is crumbling and decaying, and gets him a job as a professor at a university, where he meets a history professor named Dors Vernabili. Hummin tasks Dors with being Hari’s personal protector and she takes it seriously. But one unforeseen accident occurs with Hari coming close to dying, and Hummin arrives and takes them across the planet once again to a backwards sector which is really, really strange. There, hair is forbidden. They’re forced to wear skin caps and even cover their eyebrows, wear robes identifying them by gender, and no woman can talk to a man unspoken to. It’s a very patriarchal society. However, Hari discovers they maintain an ancient history of some sort, dating back over 20,000 years to the original planet of man’s founding. Determined to get the details of this, he continues his quest. At great peril. They discover the first world was probably called Aurora (from the robot series) and featured a lot of humanoid machines called robots, which no one had ever heard of. They begin to suspect the main temple has one somewhere and Hari vows to break in and interview it to learn about mankind’s history to help formulate his psychohistory. Well, they break in, find a broken down metallic robot that doesn’t look humanoid, are caught and are sentenced to death. Just at that moment, Hummin appears and talks their way out of it and takes them to another sector, another poor sector, where he rents them a room with a typical family, leaving them to just survive. Not knowing what to do, they travel around, hear rumors that an old fortune teller in a really bad part of town tells tales of an original planet and vow to go see her. But there are knife fights there, so Dors buys two and they go. They meet a dirty street urchin who takes them to this old woman, who tells them about a place called Earth and about a robot called Day-ee and a man called Bay-ee (both references to the robot series), and they don’t learn much more, so they leave. And are attacked by 10 armed men. Dors takes the leader on with her knives and seriously wounds him while Hari uses martial arts techniques to knock a couple of them around. They escape, but the wife of their rented room is ticked at them and barely lets them back in. The next day, there’s a near riot outside of the house while they go back into the bad area to meet with a local leader. While there, a soldier appears and wants to take them with him. They assume it’s Hummin’s doing, so they go willingly, but it soon appears they are going to the dreaded sector of Wye, where the mayor has been trying to take over the empire for some time now and where they have a major army and where Hummin has been telling them to avoid like crazy. And there they are! They meet, not the ancient mayor, but his younger daughter, who has taken over mayoral duties and who, naturally, wants to use Hari and his psychohistory for her own personal gains. They hope Hummin will come once again to rescue them, but he doesn’t. One morning, however, they are awoken to gunfire and find Wye has been invaded by Imperial troops and that the original mayor has ceded control over to the Emperor. They expect to see Hummin magically show up, but to their surprise, Demerzel appears. And all is explained. And is it a HELL of an ending!!! What a freaking great ending! I actually found it touching, I kid you not. I did not expect that. I expected Imperial involvement, but not that. And Dors. There were hints, but it was never fully explained. We were just left to speculate and perhaps that’s for the best.

One complaint though. The dialogue in this book, as in virtually every Asimov book, is atrocious! Simply horrible. Dors talks about her “gown.” A man they’re staying with unexpectedly just happens to have pairs of “underpants and foot socks” for each of them. The dialogue is overly formal and stilted, wooden and academic. Far too 1940s US and certainly not believable for 20,000 years in the future. Hell, no one talks like that now! It’s ridiculous! Hell, all I can figure is it’s the dialogue of Ivy League PhD ubergeek scientists who don’t know how to converse or interrelate in any way and this is how he has his characters talk, even when they’re talking about sex or something casual like that. It’s silly. I read some passages to my non-sci fi reading wife and she laughed her ass off. Said it was horrible. And it is. It’s an embarrassment. He may have had the reputation, he may have been a good idea man, he may have been able to construct future worlds, but he couldn’t spin a decent conversation to save his life. He had no idea how to do so. It’s rather sad. I would have hated talking to him. I suppose it would have been a fairly silent conversation. Again, in this book, people say things like, “Mistress Vernabili”
and Master Seldon,” in everyday conversation. Crap like that. Isn’t that just a little over the top formal? Oh well. It’s a darn good book. It’s a five star book that I’m knocking down to four stars because the dialogue is so incredibly bad. I desperately want to give it five stars, especially after such an outstanding ending, but I just can’t justify that. The grammatical and literary technical difficulties are too great to ignore. Nonetheless, strongly recommended.

View all my reviews

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »