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  1. #1
    Administrator Whiterook's Avatar
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    Nov 2017

    "The Stars, Like Dust", Isaac Asimov

    For me, there are certain things in life that anchor memories and events; certain things that play a powerful role, through mundane they might be. Something so simple, as to go somewhat unnoticed to people around me because they are just a drop in the ocean, but had such an impact on me that the feeling stays strong decades later. This is true of several things: Music, books, experiences, friends.

    There's a book (among a few) that had such an impact on me, and I am not entirely sure why, but to this day makes me smile with fond remembrance at its reading. The tile of this book is, The Stars, Like Dust, by the great Isaac Asimov

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    I read it back in high school...the 1970's. I used to frequent my town book shop and usually found myself in the Science Fiction isle. It was an extremely popular subject back then, especially amongst my friends. I loved the adventure within the pages, and often found myself looking for a storyline that I could transport myself into, imagining being that lead character. Youth...a time of trying to find oneself, as we sill do today.

    This book hit me like a ton of bricks! I was immersed to a point I'd never actually never experienced in quite the same way as I did with this story, and I had no incline why. I ascribed it simply was just that damned good!

    In essence, the story revolved around Biron Farrill, about to complete studies at the University of Earth. That concept alone struck me...such a grand scale that there was such a thing as the "University of Earth". I guess you have to come from a small town to understand how 'big' that feels. He is told that his father, a rich planetary leader who is known as Lord Rancher of Widemos, has been arrested and killed by the Tyranni and that his own life may be in danger. I think it was the immediacy of being thrust into an unknown and dangerous journey, out of the blue that really resonated with me.

    He finds that he must travel to a distant planet, Rhodia, and begin a search of an unknown world where a rebellion against the Tyranni is afoot.

    On Jonti's advice, he travels to Rhodia, the strongest of the conquered planets. There, he hears rumours of a world on which rebellion against the Tyranni is secretly being plotted. From there the action ramps up, particularly with a beautiful girl named
    Artemisia oth Hinriad, the daughter of the Director of Rhodia; and also, the Director's cousin Gillbret. Together, they travel to the planet Lingane, where they meet the Autarch of Lingane, who is revealed to be Sander Jonti, the man who sent Farrill to Rhodia from Earth! Joni seems to possess knowledge of a rebellion world. From there, it's a journey to the heart of the Horsehead Nebula being what is believed, must be secluded enough for a rebellion world to even possibly exist and not be known to the Tyranni.

    Unbeknowst to Farril, the stollen Tyranni spaceship they are in is being tracked by a fleet of Tyranni vessels, led by Simok Aratap, the Tyrannian Commissioner. With the Commissioner is the Director, who fears for the well-being of his daughter and his brother. They keep themselves at a distance for fear of Farrill discovering them until Farrill lands on one planet in the heart of the nebula.

    The Autarch believes that the planet is the rebellion world. However, there is no sign of life anywhere. When the Autarch and Farrill leave the spaceship, apparently to set up a radio transmitter, Farrill faces the Autarch and accuses him of getting his father killed at the hands of the Tyranni. The Autarch affirms the accusation, and Farrill adds that the Autarch feared his father's growing reputation and so Farrill's father's death.

    In a fight, Farrill subdues the Autarch with help from the Autarch's aide, Tedor Rizzet, who reveals that he is ashamed of the Autarch for killing a great man like Farrill's father. Later, as Farrill and Rizzet try to explain everything to the rest of the crew they picked up from Lingane, the Tyranni fleet arrives and takes them prisoner. Aratap interrogates Farrill, Artemisia, Gillbret, and Rizzet to ascertain the co-ordinates of the rebellion world, but they do not know where it is. However, the Autarch reveals the information to Aratap. Rizzet kills the Autarch with a blaster in anger.

    While Aratap interrogates Farrill, Gillbret manages to escape to the engine room of the spaceship and short the hyperatomics. Farrill, realizing the danger, manages to contact Aratap. The engines are repaired, but Gillbret is injured and later dies.

    The space jump is made with the co-ordinates given to them by the late Autarch. However, they find a planetless system with only of a white-dwarf star. Aratap lets Farrill and the others go, believing that there is no rebellion world. Aratap makes it clear that he will never to be chosen as Director. Biron and Artemisia are allowed to marry.

    It is eventually revealed that there is indeed a rebellion in the making, on Rhodia itself. The Director is its leader; he deliberately took on the persona of a nervous and timid old man to throw off suspicion from himself and his planet.

    It is further revealed that the Director, who possesses a collection of ancient documents, has searched for and has found a document that will help a future empire, likely Trantor, govern the galaxy. The document is eventually revealed to be the United States Constitution.

    Like I said...Adventure! It was remarkably satisfying back then, to place myself in Biron's shoes and imagine in my mind what that would be like. Great escapism.

    A couple years later, a little movie named "Star Wars" came out, and a hero called Luke Skywalker emerged into the world consciousness. After seeing that movie, an all-time favorite, it started to truly dawn on me, the fun and excitement of throwing yourself in a role. There are some great parallels there, if you look close enough!

    The Stars, Like Dust to this day, remains not only one of my favorite Asimov books, but also one of my most favorite reads of all time.
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." - George S. Patton.

  2. #2
    Love it. Love it. Love it.
    Asimov is a spectacular example of how to write a book using dialogue, rather than explication or narrative.

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