LUCKY STARR AND THE PIRATES OF THE ASTEROIDSA novel by Isaac Asimov
(2001, Science Fiction Book Club)
[original copyright: 1953, Doubleday]
The Adventures of Lucky Starr, book 2
Lucky Starr tries to infiltrate the pirate bases on the asteroids, in order to prevent an interstellar war.
-- First reading (multibook hardcover)
There wasn't much of a mystery, nor an adventure here. This book almost feels like an interim story, something to get from one place to another. Was there real mention of possible war with the Sirians back in Space Ranger? I don't recall.
Lucky, as he is now called within the Council of Science, stows away aboard a ship intended to be used to find a pirate base. The pirates know of the ship's intent, however, as they don't even bother to shoot the escape pods, and don't even have blasters drawn when they board the ship. The pirates don't trust Lucky, and for good reason. The leader knows who he is right from the start, which puts Lucky in a poor position.
Still trying to maintain his disguise, Lucky chooses to fight for his honor, and it becomes a push-gun fight (using propulsion guns normally designed for moving around in space). It comes as no surprise that his suit is rigged to fail, but Lucky is quick and turns the tables on the man, forcing the pirates to rescue them both, instead of leaving Lucky to die. They drop him off at an asteroid base, where the hermit, Hansen, recognizes Lucky after having known his father. Knowing that Lucky wants to escape, he convinces the boy to take him when he leaves. This is suspicious, both to the reader and to Lucky. But they arrive on Ceres, where there is a Council of Science base, and where Lucky tries to figure out where the pirates' base is.
The mystery deepens, at least for Lucky, when nobody can find the hermit's asteroid. Having failed in his mission, Lucky convinces Bigman to get himself arrested (in an unlikely scene where he goads some military men into a fight), so that he has a valid reason for leaving Ceres, and to infiltrate the pirates. He meets up with Lucky when Lucky realizes that the asteroid must be moveable, and they go in search of it.
The pirates are one step ahead, though, as they are waiting for him. Bigman is supposed to leave to transmit Lucky's observations if Lucky fails to arrive, but waits a little longer, so that the pirates have a chance to fire upon him, nearly disabling the ship. Lucky is thrown off the asteroid without a push gun, but uses his oxygen supply to direct himself back to the ship, arriving barely in time.
When they get back to Ceres, there is a raid by the pirates, where they destroy several buildings and take Hansen back. Lucky finds it unlikely that they would go through all this trouble to take back a spy, and figures out what the readers must already know: that Hensen is actually the big pirate boss. It wasn't clear what Hansen was really doing on Ceres, though, why he wanted to go there in the first place.
After the raid, Lucky uses his mask to follow the lead pirate ship to Ganymede, by going so close to the sun that he has to use his special mask to prevent the radiation from searing his body. He fences, both with weapons and with words, with Alton, who captured him earlier, and with Hansen, who eventually surrenders.
Some parts of this book were better than the previous one, while other parts were not as good. While the mask was only used once, at least it wasn't part of a race of mystical superbeing like the Martians. I was initially disappointed in the quick use of the mask, but then figured that it was good to show how it could be used differently.
I typically like mysteries where I at least have a chance to figure things out. But here, the association between Hansen and Lucky's father was rather thin, with Lucky reasoning that Hansen must have killed his father because that's the only way Hansen could have remembered the man's face, since a Councilman is always anonymous and his father's friends -whom he was always with- didn't recognize Hansen. That, I think, is a faulty premise. Surely when Lucky was conceived, his father wasn't among his male friends! There must have been other times, too, not just on the space liner to Venus. As for being anonymous, I think Lucky must be well known, now, having even earned a nickname, and having shown himself on Mars and now on Ceres and among the asteroids.
And the pending war with the Sirians seems to come out of nowhere. Wouldn't the Terran government have some warning, as the Sirian ships enter the solar system and have to travel all the way to Earth? The Terran navy seems to be rather vast, and they seemed to know about the threat, so I wonder how they really would have been overwhelmed.
In general, I am not really enjoying this series, but will continue to the end!
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