Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Currents of Space, by Isaac Asimov

Today I'm looking at the middle book of the Empire series by Isaac Asimov, The Currents of Space. This is another one of Asimov's serialized novels that was published chapter by chapter in the sci-fi pulp magazines of the mid-century and later collected into a single book. As I've said with Pebble in the Sky and The Stars Like Dust, this book is okay, but I don't think it's necessarily something to write home about.

This book is set after the rise of Trantor and its empire, but before Trantor has become a truly galactic empire, with significant portions of the outer rim still independent. The action of this book focuses on the worlds of Florinia and Sark. Florinia has been thoroughly colonized by Sark and the source of Sark's tremendous wealth, wealth which is only exceeded by Trantor. This is because Florinia is the only planet in the world capable of producing kyrt, a fabric stronger than steel at a fraction of the weight, impossibly glamourous, and the unrivaled king of textiles. The demand for kyrt throughout the galaxy is so high that the squires of Sark are able to live in absolute luxury, while keeping the half a billion people of Florinia in almost abject poverty.

In some ways, this book is a lot like Pebble in the Sky. There's a male character who ends up in a completely unfamiliar situation. Instead of a twentieth-century tailor transported to the distant future, however, we have Rik, a deep-space explorer whose mind has been subjected to a psychic probe which has left him unable to even walk or feed himself. However Rik's memories slowly return and he finds himself at the center of a plot of interplanetary intrigue which promises to affect the future of Trantor and the rest of the galaxy.

As I've said with the other books in the Empire series, plus the Robot novels, I think I'm just not very good at detective novels because I found myself pretty darn confused by the twists and turns and the ultimate ending I didn't really see coming. Granted, I could kind of see parts of it in hindsight, but it seemed a jumbled mess to me. And it may be that I'm just not used to picking apart a thrilling detective novel for clues to find and help me figure out the ending. I'm certainly willing to say that before I say that it's poorly written.

Otherwise, it's very much a pulp mid-century sci-fi adventure. I do wish we could have seen more of the political intrigue aspects and seen more about the rise of Trantor and its growth into a galactic empire, but you can't have everything. And if you like mysteries and pulp sci-fi, this is definitely worth a read.

- Kalpar

No comments:

Post a Comment