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‘The Plum from Mars’
David Star, Space Ranger by Isaac Asimov

1952, 1971, Signet, 144 pages

Thanks to Tony Cox for the loan of this book.

David Star, Space Ranger paints the Cold War picture of a plantation of the mind that was such a compelling fantasy for readers and writers of the “Golden Age” of science-fiction who believed that postmodern technology was like the building of a wall of knowledge to enclose a garden of plenty, when it has turned out to be more like a game of Jenga. The author’s worship of scientific knowledge as an agent of autodivinity is encapsulated below:

“The manager’s lips trembled. The Council of Science was not an official government agency, but its members were nearly above the government.”

The novel begins with a restaurant-goer dying from eating a contaminated Martian plum on Mars. With a stunning lack of imagination, Asimov has made Mars 18th century America and earth the mother country hungry for the produce of “The Breadbasket in the Sky.” The writing is fine, the dialogue not plagued with predictive diction. But the story is lame, the hero falling into the hands of his adversaries in something of a 1950s Wild West Ranchers verses Townsmen yarn. What is most off-putting is the vision of an officiously conversational world, a world of who-done it debate, flexing of proxy power thews—and yes, a very politically correct, collectivist end time in which the good guys are well-meaning corporate climbers and the bad guys are xenophobic rural hicks…

You know what, maybe in this painfully boring story—albeit punctuated by a well-thought out alien presence—Asimov did predict the future, not of a solar space opera set on a desert planet in which ostentatious energy output is displayed for pure gee whiz affect some hundreds of years from now, but a stuffed-shirt prediction of America in 2019.

I read this book so that you didn’t have to.

You’re welcome.

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