Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov (1950)


I realized last year that I hadn’t read much classic science fiction despite claiming to be a sci-fi fan. So I am going to remedy this, starting with Isaac Asimov.

I now have plans to read the Empire, Foundation and Robot series, but in publication order, meaning I’ll be hopping around between series as I go. So, first up: Pebble in the Sky (1950).

It was simply splendid.

Here’s a bit from page 2, to give you the flavor of it.

In another part of Chicago stood the Institute of Nuclear Research, in which men may have had theories upon the essential worth of human nature but were half ashamed of them, since no qualitative instrument had yet been designed to measure it. When they thought about it, it was often enough to wish that some stroke from heaven would prevent human nature (and damned human ingenuity) from turning every innocent and interesting discovery into a deadly weapon.

Yet, in a pinch, the same man who could not find it in his conscience to curb his curiosity into the nuclear studies that might someday kill half of Earth would risk his life to save that of an unimportant fellow man.

Can you tell that WWII was fresh in Asimov’s mind?

Oh, I could hardly put this book down. And then, when I finished, I wanted to jump up, run around the world, yelling in glee and telling everyone that it was such a good book. I didn’t do that, but suffice it to say: this is a living book.

A man named Schwartz from the 1950s is accidentally sent untold eons into the future, so far that no one remembers that humans, who now populate millions of planets throughout the entire galaxy, were originally from the planet Earth.

Earth is still inhabited, but it is the only radioactive inhabited planet in the entire Galactic Empire… in theory because of some nuclear shenanigans in ancient history. And citizens of the Empire look down upon Earthmen as less than human… Surely all that radiation has made the people of Earth inferior to the rest of humankind! (Can you say, excellent opportunity to think about racial issues?)

Anyway, all this hate toward Earthmen has naturally led the people of Earth to hate the rest of the Empire in return, and so… Earth decides to destroy the rest of humankind, and only Schwartz (the random 1950s guy), an archeologist, a physicist and his super cute daughter can inform the Empire of this evil plot!

And then the Empire laughs and says, You’re kidding, right? Puny little, stupid Earth can’t destroy millions of planets! Haha! 

And so, doom. Or is there doom?

And all of this exciting plot is couched in questions like, when a repressed people revolt, where is the line between seeking real equality and seeking to become the new tyrants?

This is an exceedingly pertinent issue in our day. Sometimes it seems as if (to use one current example, though I can think of many) the feminist agenda goes beyond promoting equality for women and instead puts down men while glorifying women: effectively replacing themselves as new dictators. Who hasn’t seen the new popular image of men in the media: the stupid, lazy buffoon? At one point I saw an ad with a woman in bright red high heels climbing up in the world by trodding upon men. Nowadays, I am less worried about finding my daughter role models of amazing women in the media than I am about finding appropriate male role models for my sons!

And the saddest thing about it all is, equality for women has still not been achieved in many respects.

This book is definitely worth a read for the portrait of Earth-Empire relations alone. It is a warning to us–not to shoot beyond the mark. As we seek to make the world more comfortable for ourselves, do not simply transfer the tyrannical leadership to ourselves.

And this is only one of the many ideas in the book I could have expounded upon!

So, conclusion:

Good book. You should read it.


One thought on “Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov (1950)

  1. Good to know. I am also a bit deficient in Sci-Fi reading. I’ve got some Asimov lined up somewhere in the not too distant TBR. Nice review.


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