The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

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AsimovStarsLikeDustWhy I Read It: The Currents of Space and The Foundation trilogy were worthy.

Where I Got It: My library.

Who I Recommend This To: Space-Spy-Thriller fans would enjoy this book.

Narrator: Stephen Thorne

Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America (2008)

Length: 7 hours, 22 minutes

Series: Book 1 Galactic Empire

The Galactic Empire series is made up of three very loosely connected books. In publication order they are: Pebble in the Sky (1950), The Stars, Like Dust (1951), and The Currents of Space (1952).  The series order is as follows: The Stars, Like Dust, The Currents of Space, Pebble in the Sky. Or as near as I can tell, according to the various Wikipedia articles. So far, I have read 2 of these books and each stands alone just fine. I expect Pebble in the Sky will be the same.

When I finished reading this book, my impression was that Isaac Asimov watched several black and white espionage flicks, took his 3-4 favorite plot lines, twisted them together and wrote The Stars, Like Dust, and set it in space. The characters are a bit one dimensional, the plot predictable, and cliches have a free run. I think this is one of his earliest published novels; I can tell a significant difference in his story-building skills just between this novel and The Currents of Space.

With that said, it was still fun. Biron Farrill, a young physically fit male, gets tricked into a plot deeper than he is mentally prepared for. Of course, it starts with the death of his father, which could off-set anyone. He believes he must flee his university and Earth for his own safety. Along the way, he meets unexpected friends, and certain friends unexpectedly turn out to be villains. Artemisia, daughter of a powerful ruler, is the main, er…only, love interest being the single female character of the story. She disobeys her patriarch and has a mind of her own, even if it is mainly interested in Biron’s thigh strength. In the end, the good guys win while Artemisia was taken in a swoon, poor lass.

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The narrator, Stephen Thorne, pulled off the different male voices well, with enthusiasm in the correct places. As there was only 1 lady, he only had to employ a semi-feminie voice on occassion, which worked well enough.

What I Liked: Asimov, even at his worst, is still pretty entertaining; Asimov pays attention to both male and female physique giving the ladies something to appreciate.

What I Disliked: Predictable plot; only 1 female and she doesn’t get a weapon and spends time in a faint.

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This review is part of both The Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage SciFi Month and Stainless Steel Droppings’ The Science Fiction Experience. Vintage SciFi Month runs through January while The Science Fiction Experience runs through the end of February. Make sure to stop by both blogs to see what other scifi aficionados are up to.

15 thoughts on “The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov”

  1. they can’t all be winners. 🙁 I’m so sure I’ve read this one. . . but it’s been forever. if it counts for anything, the Heinlein short story collection I just finished (and I love, love LOVE that man!) for the most part was not a winner. review coming soon.

    1. It was still a comprehensive story, just not his best or medium work. I think when you love an author and you know what s/he has to offer in ability and you come across an earlier work, you have to be realistic and note that it might not be as good as later, more polished efforts.

  2. Okay, I’ve got to tell this story. Sorry.

    When I was a kid my uncle had this book on his shelve that I thought had a really cool cover. I never read it and I couldn’t remember the title at all except that the title reminded me of something similar to The Stars My Destination. Years and years of searching used bookstore shelves revealed no cover image…and I could remember the image well.

    Back in ’05 I was in Chicago with friends for a Neil Gaiman event. We plotted out visits to a bunch of used bookstores and while we were in this tiny SFF used bookstore I was telling the above story to my friend Jeff. As I was telling the story I literally grabbed a book off the shelf and there it was! The Stars, Like Dust. It was such perfect timing that it made me laugh. I then later wasn’t laughing when I knocked over a small stack of paperbacks and the store owner came over and yelled at me.

    After all that I ended up reading the story and felt very disappointed in it. It really is one of Asimov’s weaker efforts. And you are right in that Currents of Space is sooooo much better than this one. There are signs of the Asimov goodness here, but it is pretty weak.

    Here is a link to that cover if you are interested:

    http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/d/d2/THSTRSLKDD0000.jpg

    1. That is a great cover. Not sure what it has to do with the story, but a great cover.
      I figure the greats had to start somewhere and if fans dig deep enough on their fave authors they will find less than superior works eventually.
      Thanks for the story. I do really miss a weekly browsing at a used bookstore, like I could do back when I lived in a city.

      1. With current novels I prefer cover art that indicates the artist either read the story or had really good art direction. But I also love that period of book illustration where you had these great artists painting wonderfully imaginative images of space.

  3. I suppose you get spoiled by certain books of your favourite authors and I guess there’s a reason why certain books become favourites whilst others languish in anonymity!
    I love Carl’s story about knocking over the books and being told off – it’s the sort of thing I would do and then no doubt cause even more chaos as I try to set everything to rights. It’s nice to know I’m not alone!
    Lynn 😀

  4. Wow, I picked up this book randomly from a bargain book sale because it was by Asimov and haven’t read it yet because I thought it was the second in a trilogy, so it’s good to know that I can read it, though I might not like it a whole lot. It’s also really entertaining to me that of all the books you could have reviewed, you reviewed one of the ones I randomly have on my shelf 😀 (since there aren’t actually that many >.>)

    1. That is funny. I hope you enjoy it. It wasn’t bad; but I know what Asimov is capable of, so I have that reference point in my head when I read his stuff. This simply wasn’t one of his best.

  5. That’s pretty amazing that even though you weren’t that impressed with the plot you still enjoyed the novel. I haven’t read much Asimov but I think he’s an author I could really get into. Some writers just have it.

    1. While I felt it was a bit cliched, and not his best original work, you can still tell that he took the time to lay out a decent plot, without major conflicts, etc.

  6. I enjoyed the Foundation trilogy, and will probably read more Asimov…eventually. Part of my reluctance is definitely his scarce and rather helpless female characters! Sounds like this is the usual.

    1. He can write the ladies with strong personalities, even put them in positions of power, but he can’t give them weapons training or survival in the wild skills, neither of which take a penis to accomplish. Still, I find myself attracted to his works…..

  7. I read the Galactic Empire series ages ago and while I remember liking them, I can’t recall much more. Which I suppose doesn’t say a whole lot for the stories. I read them after I read the Foundation Trilogy… which I loved, loved, loved.

    1. I was absolutely blown away by The Foundation trilogy. So going back and reading this earlier work… well, since I know what the man is capable of, it’s hard not to measure these lesser works against it. Still, was entertaining.

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