The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov
Published : Doubleday, 1951
Series : Book 2 of the Galactic Empire
The Book :
“Biron Farrell was young and naïve, but he was growing up fast. A radiation bomb planted in his dorm room changed him from an innocent student at the University of Earth to a marked man, fleeing desperately from an unknown assassin.
He soon discovers that, many light-years away, his father, the highly respected Rancher of Widemos, has been murdered. Stunned, grief-stricken, and outraged, Biron is determined to uncover the reasons behind his father’s death, and becomes entangled in an intricate saga of rebellion, political intrigue, and espionage.
The mystery takes him deep into space where he finds himself in a relentless struggle with the power-mad despots of Tyrann. Now it is not just a case of life or death for Biron, but a question of freedom for the galaxy.” ~barnesandnoble,com
This is my second novel read and reviewed for the Grand Master Reading Challenge over at WWEnd.com. I’ve been a big fan of Asimov’s work, ever since I discovered I, Robot as a kid. I’ve since read the majority of his novels and short stories, but I’d never read any of this particular trilogy (Pebble in the Sky, The Stars, Like Dust, and The Currents of Space). Thus, when I saw The Stars, Like Dust in a used bookstore, I grabbed it. If I’d done a little research first, I suppose that I would have discovered Asimov has apparently referred to this one as his “least favorite novel.” In any case, it’s an interesting look at a lesser, early novel of Asimov’s. The Stars, Like Dust, contains a standalone story, so I don’t think the novels that comprise this trilogy need to be read in order.
Sadly, there won't be much more Asimov featured on my blog, only because I've pretty much read most of his work, and I don't generally re-read. If you really want to get into Asimov (and who wouldn't?), his robot short stories are a good place to start.
The Stars, Like Dust seems like a pretty typical pulp SF adventure story. There’s an evil empire (the Tyranni), a plucky young hero with a crew cut and well-trained muscles (Biron), a secret rebellion, a feisty love interest (a pretty girl named Artemisia), and even a helpful old inventor. Most of the details of the plot, and the various twists, seem pretty clichéd, though I imagine that might not have been the case back when it was published.
The characters do little to break out of their one dimensionality. Artemisia has little to do in the story besides fall for the hero; she’s an aristocrat on the run from her arranged marriage with a powerful older man. Biron is the typical naïve, ignorant young man who ends up being somehow vastly more capable—physically and mentally—than everyone around him. It doesn’t help that the writing itself also seems clunky, and the dialogue doesn’t seem to flow naturally. There is also a rather ridiculous subplot about mysterious ‘important Earth document’, which I have heard was added against Asimov’s will.
If you’re willing to go along with a fair amount of cheesiness, however, the story is pretty fun. I think that The Stars, Like Dust is clearly one of many similar stories that contributed to the imagining of Star Wars, though this earlier novel misses some of the strengths in plot and character that made Star Wars such a cultural phenomenon. The Stars, Like Dust, is a fast read, and I kind of enjoyed reading such an example of campy 50’s Sci-Fi.
My Rating: ~/5
The truth is, I don’t want to rate this novel. Therefore, I won’t. I can’t in good conscience say it is a good novel. However, I did enjoy it, at least as a glimpse into Asimov’s earlier, lesser-known work. This is also, apparently, Asimov’s least favorite novel, so it was interesting to see what he considers the worst of his large and mostly impressive body of work. I think The Stars, Like Dust is a novel that would mostly appeal to Asimov completionists, though it’s also a fun, short little novel for anyone who wants a dose of good-natured, corny, 50s-style, pulp SF star-spanning adventure.