Lucky Starr, Space Ranger

by Dylan
(Illinois, Wisconsin)



While Bradbury's Martian Chronicles was my first OSS read, Isaac Asimov's I,Robot was my doorway into science fiction literature of any kind. I've come to love his dry style and his work holds a special place in my heart- so I was of course thrilled to discover he published a series of young adult OSS books!

Written in the 1950's, Isaac wasn't thrilled when his publisher approached him about writing a "juvenile" book with the intention of adapting it into a television show. He feared it would be like the "uniformly awful" programs on at the time, and so wrote the books under the pseudonym "Paul French". Later collections were published under his name, thankfully.

The series is not unlike Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet, only the adventures don't end after a single book. David "Lucky" Starr is an adventurer for the Council of Science, blasting between planets and solving problems in feats which require both daring due and considerable wit.

Mr. Asimov was ever concerned with scientific accuracy, so we can be grateful he wrote these books when he did. We are left with this list of treasures:

David Starr, Space Ranger (Set on Mars)
Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids (The most scientifically accurate of the books today)
Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus
Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury (featuring a tidally locked Mercury!)
Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter
Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn

The final two, set around Jupiter and Saturn, I have yet to acquire and read. However, if they are at all like their predecessors, they will be exquisite little romps through the OSS. Lucky Starr can stand proudly beside Captain Future in the world of young adult OSS fiction.

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Mar 14, 2016
That was me!
by: Dylan

I just realized the previous comment is labeled as "by anonymous". As I have an enormous ego and don't wish to go unrecognized for my hard work, I'd like to clarify that I wrote "That Asimovian Feeling"!

[Note from Zendexor: As one cosmic ego to another, I applaud your decision to go public.]

Mar 04, 2016
That Asimovian Feeling
by: Anonymous

Analyzing Asimov's books is a daunting challenge for me; the man looms large in my mind as one of the grandmasters of science fiction as well as the gateway author for my love of the genre.

I am unsure of myself in relaying the feeling one gets while reading his books. He writes with crystal-clarity so that one is never confused even for a moment, inducing a sense of calm, easygoing enjoyment. Even so, Asimov educates and challenges the reader, takes them on fantastic voyages (har har) and leaves them throughly engaged. Few books can make me think like an Asimov book.

I've dubbed this feeling of calm engagement "The Asimov Effect". That effect is present in the Lucky Starr books, combined with more lighthearted optimism (Stid would call it naiveté) appropriate for a young adult novel of the 1950s. That's not to say things don't get dicey. Rarely have I encountered a hero in so impossible a predicament as David Starr at the end of Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus.

Zendexor should enjoy them especially. One thing I've often said about Asimov's worlds is that he populates them with reasonable, decent characters. It is possible, in a story by Asimov, to argue someone out of their fallacious ideas by means of a well-reasoned arguement, something often impossible in the non-fictional world. That's not to say that characters don't act vindictive, impulsive, or irrational. They are as believable and relatable as the characters of a high caliber writer should be. But, by the end of a story, Mr. Asimov will have you believing in the power of reason.

In regards to the characters of the planets. Asimov does exploit the unique aspects of each locale, based on what was known at the time. So, while Mercury lacks a fertile twilight belt, it does have a sunside which plays an important role in the story. Alien life also appears in three out of the four stories I have so far read, though I won't say which for fear of spoilers.

As far as descriptions of planetary scenery go, the books are somewhat lacking. Asimov does not hesitate from having a character admire a beautiful vista or string of asteroids, but for the most part he is willing to leave such pleasantries to the reader's imagination and get straight to the character work.

I would be interested to see Asimov's Mercury worked into the existing Mercurian character. It shouldn't be a hard fit, it is tidally locked, but it does have some unique characteristics. Asimov's Venus should be easy, coated as it is in a planetary ocean. Despite his focus on realism, Asimov couldn't help but be influenced by gestalt Mars, as should be evident in the reading of the first Lucky Starr book.

Mar 04, 2016

by: Zendexor

I have been wondering about those books. One of the gaps in my knowledge of the OSS is an unfamiliarity with the Lucky Starr series.

Any further comments? How are they for 'atmosphere', I wonder? Judging from Asimov's other work, I'd guess that 'atmosphere' emerges indirectly... mysteriously... as in the Foundation series, where his monochrome style somehow produces a vastly rich vision...

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