Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Currents of Space

by Isaac Asimov


When an Earthman discovers that a planet is about to be destroyed naturally he wants to tell everyone. But the first man he talks to decides that the information should go no further. So the Earthman winds up working at a mill on the doomed planet of Florina with his memories wiped, where everyone calls him "Crazy Rik" because he can't even remember his own name.

The Currents of Space is a mystery based around discovering the identity of the man who left Rik in this state, and working out why he did it. It's set against the backdrop of the deeply divided society of Florina, which is ruled by the neighbouring planet of Sark. Florina is where they make kyrt, a beautiful and precious fabric which can only be produced on one planet in the galaxy. The Squires of Sark exploit this resource whilst keeping the hard-working natives under the boot of heavy oppression. It's so severe that the natives aren't even allowed to look at a Squire without getting into trouble.

As some of Rik's memories begin to return he flees life at the kyrt mill with the help of his clingy friend, Valona. But they soon find themselves on the run from the law, and tangled in a complex web of intergalactic political intrigues. Can they uncover the plot against Florina and save its citizens before they get themselves killed?

This is quite a fast-paced thriller which turns out to have far more to do with politics than it does with space. The far future setting provides a colourful backdrop, but this is less about technology or strange new worlds and more about oppression and racism. It's cleverly plotted and the whodunnit element makes for a good puzzle. There's lots to admire in Isaac Asimov's concise style.

However The Currents of Space doesn't break new ground in terms of its concept, even for a book written in the 1950s. The characters slot into their clearly defined roles like pieces on a chess board, but much like those pieces I didn't find myself feeling a great deal for them one way or another. This is the kind of book that's very satisfying for the logical part of your brain, but less so when it comes to its emotional side. Even so it's generally a well written story, and it makes for a diverting read.

1st December 2010

Book Details

Decade: 1950s

Categories: Books

  Science fiction

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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