BOOK REVIEW – ISAAC ASIMOV – THE STARS LIKE DUST. 1955 Panther Science Fiction.

 

One of Asimov’s weaker novels. Biron, am American student, on the brink of graduation, finds a radiation bomb in his campus apartment. Summoning help, he is rescued by his friend, Joni, who convinces him that the devise was planted by assassins serving The Tyranni, a galactic dictatorship that control fifty planets in a distant galaxy. Biron’s father serves as an ambassador from Earth to the Tyrani world, and Biron learns that he has been assassinated. Biron, as his hereditary successor, is now in danger from more attempts to kill him.

 

Joni advises Biron to head for the Tyranni system, and to seek sanctuary with ambassadors on the planet Rhodia, who have some immunity from Tyranni rule.

 

Biron heads into space, and arriving on Rhodia, he meets Artemesia, and her eccentric father. When Tyranni soldiers learn that Biron may be trying to contact members of a suspected rebellion against their powerful order, they move in to arrest him, expecting the princess to surrender him to them. The Tyranni rarely kill in cold blood, preferring to conduct show trials for their enemies and suspected traitors.

 

Artemesia falls in love with Biron, and with her father in tow, they steal a Tyranni battle-cruiser and head out into space. The Tyranni, (able to track their own ships) and their allies, The Linganians, give pursuit.

 

Biron (who has learned how to fly space craft on Earth) has no set course, but Artemesia’s father has a theory that there is a World in a distant obscure nebula cloud that is preparing for war against the Tyranni. Biron decides to try to find it, and he is then captured by the Linganians, who are led by no other than Joni.

 

Biron now realizes that Joni has manipulated his descent into galactic fugitive, in order to engineer his own political rise. Biron has been a pawn in an elaborate struggle. Even the bomb in his room was faked to make events happen.

 

Jonti alone knows how to calculate where the rebel planet might be, so when Biron realizes that he killed his father, he still can’t kill him. However, Joni manages to make the Tyranni kill him.

 

When the Tyranni deduce for them how to find the rebel World, Artemesia’s father tries to destroy the space ship he, Biron and Artemesia are on board. Biron, now set for trial, warns the Tyranni in order to secure the safety of his girlfriend. The Tyranni know they cannot put their rescuer on trial, so they let him go free to. They head for the rebel World to discover that it does not exist.

 

Back on Rhodia, Biron learns that there is a growing secret rebellion there, right under the Tyranni noses, and that it is based on an old Earth document – the American Declaration of Independence, which the Rhodians hope to use to stir up the masses against their oppressors.

 

This is a very talky book given its potential for so much more action. Biron seems utterly unphased by danger, or love, and seems strangely unemotional when his father’s killer is discovered to be his best friend. The terribly conservative, stilted dialogue, and the American patriotic ending (used in an episode of star Trek a decade later) ruin the story.

 

Arthur Chappell

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