Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

The Currents of Space, by Isaac Asimov

Review copy provided by Tor.

I know I've read this book before, but I think it was 20 years ago. This math alarms me, but it seems inevitable: I went on my big Asimov binge when I was 12, and I'm 32 now, and the ones I've reread were the ones that were big favorites, which this was not. So I'm pretty sure it's twenty years, which explains why it was like a whole new book to me.

The trade paperback reissue, like most of Tor's trade paperback reissues of classic SF, is a really physically nice volume. I don't just mean that it doesn't have people on the cover, but it turns out that's a really good start for me. Put a nice space scene on the cover, have consistency with the author's other reissued stuff, and I'm a happy kid.

As for the book itself, it was really interesting what was there and what wasn't. The world-building, for example, was immensely sketchy. The purely peasant world with no culture to speak of, where the vast amajority of people had no "book-films," so no books and no films, and nothing else that we hear of, either, was an example of what The Currents of Space wasn't trying to do. When people complain about how long and "bloated" modern SF is, I have been thinking about the Amber books, where each slim volume has to contain loads of recap and re-incluing from the previous books because each one is between separate covers and has to assume the reader has gone awhile since reading the one that came before. But I will now also think of The Currents of Space, where entire planetary cultures and economies can be summarized with a word at a time; that's not really what we expect of SF now, or at least not what I expect. The planet Florina grows one crop. One. It's raining on Florina, people, or at least we'd better hope so, or the kyrt harvest won't come in.

It was fascinating to me to watch Asimov attempt, rather clumsily, to tack on gestures towards racial equality in a book that had all sorts of poorly considered class politics (oh the poorly considered class politics) but exactly one black guy. The said black guy tries to tell Planet Of The Whitey how unusual they both are in galactic terms, since most of the galaxy is sort of middle brown-skinned, and Planet Whitey says, "We what now? Hey, mister, you look kinda different from us." And the single black guy rolls his eyes and sighs. And he is shown to be right to be rolling his eyes and sighing--and yet in an entire galaxy filled with brown people, Asimov "just happened" to choose to set the book on the planet that was full of white people. "Oh yah, we have tons of brown people! Tons! No, you can't see them. They can't be characters and stuff. But I promise we have them, and in the future they will be totally more normal than us and go around in their spaceships while we white folks farm an inexplicable fiber." So that was really rather odd, in a "Dear audience: get used to brown people! They are the future! Okay, but not in this book," sort of way.

There were psycho-probes and neuro-whips and running about trying not to get caught getting dangerous books from the library. So it was kind of a thing. I'm just not entirely sure what kind of a thing. An historically interesting kind of a thing, I think, more than anything else.
Tags: bookses precious

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