What a treat to read. This 'ancient' book is technically Isaac Asimov's first book, from the same years as the genius "I, Robot" short story collection. 'Pebble in the Sky' is almost a classic science fiction adventure, but with a few added wrinkles. Our hero is a sixty-two year old retiree from 20th century earth, with precisely zero applicable skills for a far-flung futuristic sci-fi adventure, a fish out of temporal water who can't even speak the language. Earth is now a pitiful backwater ruled by a Galactic Empire convinced that all life inevitably evolves into humans. And just for fun, our hero's desperate actions are mistaken for the activities of a master of espionage by the local government in a 'Man who Knew Too Little' style plot.
The story is, in truth, about group prejudice and the dangers of assumption. In a setting populated entirely by humans, racism is alive and cruelly sharp. 'Pebble in the Sky' explores prejudice both from the perspective of the privileged, and the not.
This is the book that did it. Back in the early 70s when I was a geeky teenager in search of something new I picked up my big brother's old battered copy of "Pebble in the Sky" (with the great Paul Lehr artwork on the cover) and I was hooked after the first chapter. Forty years and hundreds of books later it remains my sentimental favourite. Even though, as someone already mentioned, it's more "sci-fi lite" it was still a wonderful introduction to an often maligned genre of literature and enough to get me acquainted with the likes of Bradbury, Blish, Heinlein (before he became a dirty old fascist), and Clarke et al.
Despite Asimov's status as one of the pioneers of science fiction (and this book's future setting), this book doesn't really read like science fiction. It just reads like a novel that happens to be set in a science fiction setting. (This is different from the Foundation series - which felt *very* science fiction-y.) Enjoyable story and quick light read.
The best part of an Asimov book is while though you know something is coming, (which you know because the author hints at it, at times blatantly), you still don't know HOW it will happen; it's still a surprise. This is one of those stories, well crafted and interesting. iRobot is possibly the best way to get into Asimov stories, this rates a very close second.
As usual a good story by Asimov. The last of the Empire novels. Again, this novel proves that Asimov was uncomfortable writing about love/sex/romance. His descriptions dealng with them are the most stilted sections of the book.
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