*No real spoilers, so please do read.*
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Asimov, an absolute science fiction great, is genius in his ability to remain timely with The Currents of Space, nearly 60 years after it was published. He has successfully woven a comprehensive and complex tale that weaves a valid story that features so many aspects such as politics, race and class, economics, love and loyalty, psychology, and good ‘ole basic human weakness. You’d think that with all of that, The Currents of Space would be a heavy read. Surprisingly, it isn’t, another testament to Asimov’s writing prowess.
I recommend it to anyone to read, including teens and adults. If my ten year old could handle the political stuff, I’d give it to her to read too.
The Currents of Space was published in 1952. This is the most astonishing point to me, as some of the insights into racial/cultural/class issues are ahead of their time, written with an understanding that comes from someone who might never have had to suffer the injustices he writes about with such fluency and sympathetic understanding.
Florina is a planet renown for growing kyrt, a product used to make clothing that only the most privileged can afford to wear. The native Florinians, fair-skinned and typically blond and blue-eyed are the “slave” labor used to produce kyrt. The Florinians are considered stupid and child-like. The Sarks, a ruling class that originates from the planet of Sark and has colonized Florina, benefits most from the production of kyrt. Kyrt cannot be successfully grown on any other planet, for reasons we don’t learn until the end of the novel, hence making it an even more valuable commodity.
The distinct parallels between our regrettable history of slavery, racism, and classism as compared to the lives of those in this book is significant. Kyrt=cotton. Florinians=Africans. Sarks=the wealthy. None of this however, is astonishing. The elements which captured and surprised me were Asimov’s insights into real human motivations, and how he was able to use this insight to create believable sympathetic characters…on both side of the divide. Actually, I should say on all sides of every division. As in real life, there really is no black and white, but instead multiple shades of gray.
The Currents of Space ends in that ever gray area, which is much more akin to real life. In other words, while there may be some elements of redemption, there are no true winners and everyone loses something. Nevertheless, the conclusion was a satisfying one.
When I took a political science course in college many years ago, I had to read Orwell’s Animal Farm. While an interesting read, I think that this book would have been even better as a unique fictional entre into the world of politics and issues of class and race. It would have been a tad more relatable in any case as here, we are dealing with actual human beings.
I didn’t know, until I started writing this review that The Currents of Space is actually the second book in a trilogy called The Galactic Empire series. The preceding book is called The Stars, Like Dust, and the succeeding book is called Pebble in the Sky. I’ll have to dig up the other two and get to reading those as well.
There is only one other science fiction book that I have read, with similar elements, that I liked as much, actually better, and that would be Robert Heinlein’s, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
I give this one 5 stars.