Read Paria dei Cieli by Isaac Asimov Carlo Pagetti Giuseppe Lippi Online


One moment Joseph Schwartz is a happily retired tailor in Chicago, 1949. The next he's a helpless stranger on Earth during the heyday of the first Galactic Empire. Earth, as he soon learns, is a backwater, just a pebble in the sky, despised by all the other 200 million planets of the Empire because its people dare to claim it's the original home of man. And Earth is poor,One moment Joseph Schwartz is a happily retired tailor in Chicago, 1949. The next he's a helpless stranger on Earth during the heyday of the first Galactic Empire. Earth, as he soon learns, is a backwater, just a pebble in the sky, despised by all the other 200 million planets of the Empire because its people dare to claim it's the original home of man. And Earth is poor, with great areas of radioactivity ruining much of its soil—so poor that everyone is sentenced to death at the age of sixty. Joseph Schwartz is sixty-two. This is young Isaac Asimov's first novel, full of wonders and ideas, the book that launched the novels of the Galactic Empire, culminating in the Foundation series. This is Golden Age SF at its finest....

Title : Paria dei Cieli
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9778080
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 230 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Paria dei Cieli Reviews

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-04-07 08:15

    In Isaac Asimov's first published novel, Joseph Schwartz, a retired Jewish tailor, is instantly transported from 1949 Brooklyn to a time many thousands of years in the future, through an odd nuclear accident (scientific unlikelihood, but we'll let it pass). He finds himself on an Earth marred by high levels of radiation, presumably from past nuclear wars, that (scientific impossibility) apparently hasn't resulted in any physical ill effects to Earth's population, but has resulted in Earthmen being completely ostracized from humanity's galactic society as third-class citizens. Fan's of Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy will recognize references to Trantor here. And for some not-quite-explained reason, although this future Earth has a far lower population than now, everyone thinks there are not enough resources to go around, so this is an Earth where everyone over age 60 is euthanized, unless you're a government bigwig or some such. Bad luck for Schwartz, since he's already 62.Schwartz ends up getting treated by a local scientist's brain-enhancing machine (more unlikely science) and gets major (view spoiler)[mind-reading and mind-control (hide spoiler)] powers. Meanwhile, the scientist and his (of course) beautiful daughter are caught in the middle of a deadly plot that could have galaxy-wide consequences, which draws in a handsome (of course) galactic archeologist. Pebble in the Sky is a little rough around the edges and shows its 1940s roots, with the outdated science and social attitudes. Other than the love interest, who is occasionally awesome but too often of the hand-wringing variety, and a cameo appearance by a farmer's wife, no women grace the pages of this book. But there are also some creative and intense parts where you see what would make Asimov such a great SF writer. It's kind of corny but it has its charms, if you like really old-fashioned science fiction and are okay with some major disbelief suspension.

  • Alina
    2019-03-24 16:18


  • Sandy
    2019-03-30 14:28

    In a now-famous interview, sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov once revealed how he avoided getting stuck with writer's block. The hugely prodigious author would often be working at four or five books at the same time, with five typewriters arrayed side by side, and when he would get inextricably bogged down with one book, he'd simply move to the neighboring typewriter, and recommence work on that one! Thus, one can almost understand how it was possible for Asimov--who claimed, in his later years, to do nothing but write, eat, sleep, and talk to his wife--to rack up the almost superhuman tally of just over 500 books written before his death in 1992, in every subject category of the Dewey Decimal System (does anybody here even remember the Dewey Decimal System, or am I just aging myself uselessly?) except, I believe, philosophy.Yes, over 500 books, 38 of them sci-fi novels, not to mention 213 (by my count) short stories, and around 1,600 essays! (I urge you to go to the author's official website at to check for yourself!) But every great novelist's career must begin somewhere, and for Doc Ike, that beginning was his very first sci-fi novel, "Pebble in the Sky," which was initially released in 1950, when Isaac was 30 years old. Asimov had already come out with 37 short stories at that point since his very first, "Marooned Off Vesta," had appeared in the 3/39 issue of "Amazing Stories" … including several that would soon be collected to form his "Foundation" trilogy. But "Pebble in the Sky" was his first genuine book. I had not had the pleasure of reading this one in almost 30 years, but a recent perusal has served to remind me of what a terrific, exciting and genuinely fun first novel this is.In the book, the reader encounters a 62-year-old, retired ex-tailor, Joseph Schwartz, who is walking down the street in modern-day (i.e., 1949) Chicago when he is hit by an energy beam of some sort and instantaneously whisked far into the future. (Internal evidence would seem to suggest that Schwartz winds up at least some 50,000 years hence, in the year G.E. 827.) In this age, Earth is a largely radioactive pariah planet; the lowliest member of a Galactic Empire that comprises some 200 million worlds! Schwartz is taken in by a farming family and later brought to the local government laboratory, where volunteers are needed to test a new device, the Synapsifier. Schwartz is treated by the gizmo's inventor, Dr. Affret Shekt, with the result that Schwartz' mental abilities are greatly enhanced, to the point where he can read minds, control the movements of others, and even slay a human being using his mind alone! But what Schwartz is unaware of is that Earth's Society of Ancients, fed up with centuries of second-class Galactic status, is fomenting a revolution against the Empire, and has acquired a weapon that might just enable them to lay waste to 200 million other worlds. And through a series of wild coincidences and unlikely misreadings, the Ancients soon come to believe that Schwartz, as well as visiting Sirian archeologist Bel Arvardan, not to mention Shekt and his young daughter Pola, are all Galactic spies out to stop them. Arvardan, who has really come to Earth to prove his pet theory that this lowly planet is the actual cradle of mankind, falls in love with Pola at their first chance meeting. But can this love-struck pair (Asimov describes their first kiss as "limitless seas of sweetness"!), her aged physicist father, and the befuddled Schwartz, even with his newly acquired powers of rapid learning and mind control, avail against the massed might of the Ancients and their superweapon?At one point toward the end of this complexly plotted narrative, an Earth colonel, apprised of recent events by Arvardan, replies "A very confusing story, all this," and indeed, one of the principal virtues of "Pebble in the Sky" is its complicated story line. The capsule description that I have just offered here does not even begin to suggest the many twists and turns, the labyrinthine machinations, that the book dishes out. Fortunately for the reader, we have Isaac Asimov at the controls, an author who would later admit that clarity in writing--as opposed to such authorial tools as elegant purple prose, experiments in technique, symbolism and suchlike--was the ability he most hoped to achieve. Thus, even in his first novel, Asimov maintains a firm grasp on the book's constantly shifting developments.Schwartz, obviously a Jewish character close to the author's Jewish heart, is a hugely sympathetic fellow for the reader to identify with, as is Arvardan, a Galactic citizen who is liberal enough to accept the low-grade Earthfolk as equals, and even fall in love with an Earthwoman. At times, the people of Earth almost seem like stand-ins for the blacks and other minorities of Earth's mid-20th century. Thus, we have a despicable Galactic lieutenant telling Arvardan "…what I can't understand is the working of the mind of an Earthie-lover. When a man...can get so low in filth as to crawl in among them and go nosing after their womenfolk, I have no respect for him. He's worse than they are...You've got a black Earthman's heart…" By the same token, it is clear that the relationship between the Jews here (Schwartz, the Shekts) and the Galactic Empire is meant to suggest a tip of the hat to the Jews and the Roman Empire back in Earth's ancient times, and if that analogy isn't apparent enough, Asimov tells us that the title of the Empire's resident chief representative in the radiation-free Himalayas is...Procurator!Interestingly, in Asimov's first book, it is the rulers of Earth who are the bad guys (indeed, the Secretary of Earth's High Minister is a villain in the hissable classic mold), while a pudgy, 20th century tailor--two years over the limit for mandatory euthanasia--and a scholarly Galactic citizen are our heroes. The Ancients completely and repeatedly misconstrue Schwartz' presence and all subsequent actions, in a series of events that might be comic, if they were not so dire for the galaxy at large."Pebble In The Sky" enjoys a very solid reputation today, almost 70 years since its release. Writing in his "Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction," Scottish critic David Pringle calls it "good fun," although he has elsewhere admitted to having little enthusiasm for the author. Sci-fi writer L. Sprague de Camp, however, has said that the "suspense is almost unbearable" in "Pebble in the Sky," and indeed, the ticking-clock finale in the book really is kind of harrowing. Personally, I found the novel to be absolutely unputdownable, and tore through this one over the course of three very pleasant evenings.All of which is not to say, of course, that "Pebble" is a perfect creation. Its story line is a little too dependent on multiple coincidences to move things along, and the reason why Schwartz is zapped into the future is never satisfactorily least, for this reader. Indeed, the lab accident in the 20th century physics lab--something to do with a flask of crude uranium--that seems to precipitate Schwartz (walking in the city many miles away) 50,000 years into the future is of so vague a nature that Asimov can only tell us "nuclear physics had queer and dangerous crannies left in it." Almost as unconvincing is this business of the Earthfolk of G.E. 827 being able to live in the radioactive pesthole that Earth has become with few ill effects by dint of a heightened immunity. As a matter of fact, in his introduction to "Pebble In The Sky"’s 1982 edition, Asimov would admit that he had indeed underestimated the potential lethal nature of radiation when he had written his novel 33 years earlier.But these are quibbles. The bottom line is that "Pebble in the Sky" is a most impressive debut novel, both exciting and highly imaginative. As it turned out, the book was just Part 1 in what would eventually become Asimov's loosely linked "Galactic Empire" trilogy. Part 2, "The Stars Like Dust," was released the following year, and that book is where this reader will be heading next....(By the way, this review originally appeared on the FanLit website at ... a most ideal destination for all fans of Isaac Asimov....)

  • Davyne DeSye
    2019-04-16 11:20

    Very enjoyable! This is Asimov’s first science fiction novel (published in 1950), and is a wonderful example of the science fiction of the era.This book has time travel, a galaxy-wide human civilization, deadly viruses, hyperspace, blasters… plenty of the traditional early sci-fi necessities.It starts with time travel: Schwartz, a 60-year-old retired tailor, is enjoying his morning walk in downtown Chicago… Because of an unexpected phenomenon at a nearby research facility, Schwartz, between one step and the next, is whisked forward in time some 10,000 years to a spot near the (much smaller) future city of Chica. Believing himself to be insane or an awakening amnesiac, he makes his way to a nearby house. Naturally, the people there cannot understand his spoken English, nor can he understand their language. Believing him to be an imbecile (since he doesn’t know how to put on their style of clothing or understand anything around him), they take him to a hospital in Chica to be put under the experimental Synapsifier – a device which allegedly improves brain function. Unbeknownst to even the scientist operating the Synapsifier, not only does it improve Schwartz’s ability learn, it eventually brings him the power to read minds… Wow. Great stuff!Now, add in a megalomaniac high in Earth’s government who intends to bring the entire galaxy to its knees with his secret weapon, an Outworlder archaeologist who wants to prove that Earth is the original planet of humanity (against great opposition) and a pretty girl, and you have a wonderful story full of all the classic science fiction action and adventure you could want.On this background, Asimov also delves into racial prejudice, decries the atom bomb and comments on political ineptitude, making the novel richer than it otherwise would be.This is also the last of the trilogy now dubbed “The Galactic Empire” series (although it certainly was not written as a series and is a standalone novel), leading me with great excitement and pleasure to Asmiov's Foundation series! Highly recommended to lovers of the Golden Age of science fiction.

  • Sesana
    2019-03-22 14:24

    Greatly entertaining, though that's no surprise. After a somewhat slow start, it turns wonderfully tense. Although this is the most cartoonish villain I've encountered in an Asimov book, the rest of the characters have the same "realness" that I've come to expect from his casts. Even though the Galactic Empire books don't really relate to each other on a plot or character level, it's been interesting to watch the Empire develop from one book to the next. I don't know yet how it will relate to the later Foundation books, but I'm still interested in going forward chronologically.

  • Michael Battaglia
    2019-03-19 09:07

    Don't you just hate those days when you're walking down the street just minding your own business and then suddenly poof! you're in another time completely? That's how Joseph Schwartz's day starts, and it more or less goes downhill from there. Before too long he's volunteered for a scientific experiment because everyone assumes he's mentally damaged (due to nobody being able to understand a word he's saying, and vice versa, thanks to a several thousand year language gap) and that, hey, it can't make him any worse. So what if all the animals we've tried it on so far have died? This time's the charm! Besides, it's not like he'll be able to complain to anyone. And that's all before the plot really begins to start.The Empire novels are kind of the misbegotten children of the Asimov stable of SF novels. Not only were they early works (this is apparently his first real novel, unlike stuff like Foundation and I, Robot, which were collections of linked short stories) but they don't have the thematic weight that the other series have, basically winding up being those stories that were set between the Robot and Foundation years, and even that was kind of determined after the fact. There don't seem to be continuing characters and are essentially a trilogy in all but name.But even here Asimov clearly has something going for him. His idea of the future is topsyturvy in parts, with Earth being radioactive and an extremely minor player in galactic affairs. Everyone is ruled by a massive empire now and no one believes that they all came from Earth, except for some archeologists. The plot of the novel sneaks up on you, where you think it's going to mostly be able Schwartz and his acclimation into future society, but he hardly even gets a chance to become used to his surroundings before people start chasing him in the name of science, until he gets the ability to fight back. His injection into sideways politics, a bystander who manages to upend the scene, isn't what you normally saw in Golden Age SF of the time, generally your protagonist was a go-getter space hero character, where nobody here falls into that category. It gives a weird everyman perspective to events, which only makes it seem stranger because everything is new for us, but with all the rapid changes even the characters don't seem to know which end is up.It makes for fun reading when it gets going, which like most Asimov books it takes a bit to really kick into gear. Still, even at this point in time he had some of his old tricks, his allergy to anything resembling action is already apparent, with the ending coming along as people walking in from offscreen mopping their brows and going "Whew, that was tough. I almost didn't think we'd make it through!" It's the collision of ideas that sparks the mind here, as everyone tries to imagine the future in their own way, and coming to a type of happy medium doesn't seem to be an option. He makes you care, even though the stakes aren't anything we can really relate to and our one viewpoint character is absent for good chunks of a fairly short novel to begin with.For amusement purposes, it's also interesting to see a future that doesn't seem to involve computers or the Internet (or famously, robots, which would get him into a pickle later when he tried to link the series) but there's a reason why SF never attempted to predict the future. But Asimov started out strong and while he's not in his prime here, he clearly has a taken on the genre that's groundbreaking in its own way, even if its more a quiet revolution than anything else.

  • Cheryl
    2019-04-09 09:28

    Wow. Holds up very well. Even to the point where it's the bad guys who diss the female. I don't know how readers who have never read the old stuff will like it, but I was weaned on these kinds of stories, this kind of writing and I love it so much I can't fully explain why. Very thoughtful, with great lines, plot, and ideas. The future may not be futuristic enough (but then, we are on a backwater, primitive planet) or the politics complicated enough (thank goodness, as I do not like intrigue), but overall a surprisingly interesting and satisfying read."What was left then, but short snorts, long naps, and slow madness?"

  • Manny
    2019-03-27 13:07

    He steps through a wormhole in space and ends up in a future world where he has exotic Super Powers -Like what, I hear you ask? Right, listen to this. He can obtain a deadly attack as White from the variation of the Spanish which starts 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Nc3. Impressive, huh?I know. Alekhine showed it was possible a couple of times. And then there was the game Spassky won against Beliavsky in 1988. If you can play through that and not conclude that Boris had Super Powers, then all I can say is that you're a far more skeptical person than I am..._________________________________Another demonstration of how Google is steadily depriving us of our sacred right to bullshit. I figure I'd better post this correction before someone else does.Well, it occurred to me this morning that some chess geek must have determined by now where the game in Pebble comes from. It only took a minute of searching to find out: it's Verlinsky - Levenfish, 1924, with a slightly altered conclusion. But here's the really annoying part. The game is indeed a Spanish with 5. Nc3 - I remembered that correctly. Unfortunately, the guy with the Super Powers is Black! I could have sworn on a stack of bibles that he was White.Oh well. By the way, if you're curious, the same source revealed that the chess game in 2001: A Space Odyssey is Roesch - Schlage, 1910. So now you know too.

  • Ryan
    2019-04-16 09:25

    Peple said the early books Asimov wrote on his galactic empire were a little raw and ultimately quite skippable. I didn't want to believe it, mostly because I had yet to not love one of Asimov's works.This trilogy of books however haven't had the greatness I expect of Asimov. They seem to lack the ambition of the Foundation and Robot series. Concentrating on smaller stoires when a subject as big as a whole galactic empire beckoned to be explored.I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit in places but also being completely disengaged with it at times. And so 3 stars is probably a fair rating. Not terrible Sci-Fi just not Asimov good.Hopefully I will return to Asimov a little later and his more refined work won't let me down

  • Travis O.
    2019-03-27 09:15

    I’m going to begin this review with a generalization: every fan of science fiction should read at least one Isaac Asimov book in their life. Whether or not they enjoy it in the end is superfluous; it is the tax one pays to the (arguably) first patriarch of the genre as a concrete entity. Pebble in the Sky, the book on my docket today, was Mr. Asimov’s first novel, though it had been published serially between January and June of 1933. I came upon the book years ago, after binging on the Foundation series, and decided at the outset of the year to make a second pass at the Asimov fiction, because I’ve always had such fun with it. Pebble, though I'm reviewing it 80 years after its debut in Galaxy Publications, does not disappoint.One of my favorite functions of science-fiction is its ability to preserve the cultural and scientific principles of the moment it was written in, and Asimov’s wonderfully optimistic, pre-transistor prophecies of a technocratic and interstellar future is a uniquely earnest sensibility that always makes me tingle. Reading Pebble can be as much about opening a time capsule of historically dissociated technological prophecies as it can be about the adventure and intrigue of its plot.Though you might not expect it from Asimov, a writer who tends to indulge fantasies of million-world-strong galactic empires, sentient robots, and dangerous neighboring stars, Pebble in the Sky is a novel about "mere" time travel (with galactic empires set to just the background), and the shell-shocking effects of arriving very suddenly in a foreign culture. By way of mad chemical science (I can’t think of a better word for it, and Asimov himself calls it a “wrinkle in nuclear physics that was never replicated,) a beam of mysterious energy transports retired tailor and genial old Joseph Schwartz, aged 62, into the far future. Schwartz’ language, an incredibly archaic version of Galactic, is unintelligible, as are the new customs of the descendant Earth on which he finds himself. Readers of Asimov’s Foundation series, however, will begin to pick up some elements that will help them navigate this strange new world: mentions of a galactic empire, of a planet spanning-city called Trantor, and, of course, the spaceship-and-sun insignia of a fated civilization. The story that follows is regularly simple, told from only a few mostly-male focal points, in which Schwartz, an archeologist from Sirius, an experimental neurosurgeon, and his daughter, are all implicated in a fabricated dangerous counter-intelligence operation to stop rebel Earth from threatening the whole galaxy.Simple, right? In any case, it’s fun, and Asimov’s cheery, personality-rich prose is in full force here. It’s difficult not to like any of the protagonists, and easy to despise the singular antagonist, who also features as an occasional plot-driving focal point. The arching conflict is that Earth, heavily irradiated by some sort of nuclear disaster in the distant past, maintains that it is the sole progenitor of the human race: that from its cradle, mankind crawled out into the stars. The rest of the galaxy disagrees, and what follows is an entire novel of some of the best anthropological what-ifs I’ve ever gotten to experience. The characters debate heavily the Radiation theory (man spreads from one location) against the Merger theory (wherein Man is the ultimate biological endpoint of nitrogen-oxygen biospheres in the galaxy). While silly at the surface, Asimov explores the implications of having millions of worlds, and a civilization of vast breadth and history, and the confusion begins to make sense.But why put an argument like that so close to the core of a time travel novel? Because the rebel forces of Earth, which adhere a dogmatic regime of belief regarding the Radiation Theory and the treatment of bigoted Outsiders (galactic citizens not from Earth) need to win that theory in order to be justified in their actions. Using dogmatic history to support one’s fascist agenda is hardly a new idea to us, now, but Hitler’s nonsense hadn’t yet started when this was first published as a serial in 1933. It was only just beginning.Because of the vast differences that swim in the gulf of time between his writing and our reading, we have to be careful not to let the lens quality of sci-fi confuse our understanding of the context in which it was written. In 1933, remember, the great depression was on in the US, and forces were beginning to churn in continental Europe that looked hopeful, then; TIME did nominate Hitler Person of the Year in 1938, remember. But we ought not to downplay the prophetic nature of the work, either; Asimov’s books are full of anti-imperialist and anti-fascist sensibilities. After all, the Empire is hardly a force to be sided with in Pebble, let alone in Foundation. Presently, it is a bully task force on Earth that keeps the radiated “sub-race” in line, fenced in with some of the most efficiently rendered fictional prejudice I’ve ever read. Though the Earthmen are correct about their heritage, and their measures extreme, it isn’t for the Empire that readers will find themselves rooting: it’s for the survival of the race. Here, in the encouragement of rational thinking and moderation, is Asimov at his best: dogmatic and desperate, greedy thinking are what lead to totalitarian regimes, not unlike the descendant Earth poor Joseph Schwartz must find a way to survive on.Like the ability to preserve the writer’s sensibilities, the genre also preserves that technological sensibilities and limitations of its parent era. Asimov’s writing is wonderful in that regard because he goes to such painstaking lengths to name and identify everything his readers might have hoped for. In the time before televisions were a universal affixture, for example, he illuminates us about the coming “Field-shielded visicasters.” The book is full of chuckle inducing techno-babble that gives much of the golden-age sci-fi its personality, and one of the reasons that I love to return to that era of speculative fiction. Unfortunately, it’s also full of some un-masked sexism.With the exception of Pola, the neurosurgeon’s daughter, and Loa, whom we only ever hear from once, Pebble is a male-dominated story in which the women aren’t really allowed to speak unless it is to be romantic or get frustrated, or cry. In this way, it preserves the cultural mores of the time, as science fiction is so good at, and readers ought to be warned that the “shut up and let the big boys talk” attitude of the book can be at times pretty offensive to contemporary sensibilities. Loa is a throwaway “farm wife,” a flat character that Asimov doesn’t even use take pretense to develop. Pola, on the other hand, is a proper focal character, though relegated to second-class status, like her father. Her sole role in the story is to serve as a native grounding focus for Bel Avardan, the galactic citizen and archeologist, whose dashing good looks and brash behavior immediately grip the woman’s heartstrings. Bel’s service to the story is to find common ground with Earth, and to stop the rebellion from happening.To do that he needs Pola to reel him in. She is alternately weak, so that he feels the need to protect her, seductive so that he is attracted to her, and panicking, so that he can dominate the situation and protect the princess, whom he describes over and over again as being relatively plain, not particularly intelligent, and even prone to panic. But he falls for her anyway, an “Earthie-squaw” (not Arvardan’s words, but see what I mean about the prejudice?), and at one point is mocked for “going native.” I’m sure that attentive readers can project where the male-dominated relationship, set to paper in the 1930’s, ends up, but suffice it to say that despite his chivalrous bearing, Bel Arvardan would be torn to shreds in the feminist literary circles of today. And as well he should be. Problems like that are rampant through the story; the privileged class is the only one to get a turn to speak or to act with import, here, and even the up-and-comers are usually slapped back down or killed.Despite that, I like it. I like Asimov’s writing, and the antique charm in the 30’s-accented dialogue is too fun to ignore because a man writing before the post-modern revolution felt it was OK to relegate women to the position of plot-device. It’s OK to read this, not because of the assumptions of superiority that run through it, but because it preserves that attitude in a clear form for study and reaction against. Seeing such Spartan interest in female characters, now I as a writer have learned a bit about how to be better at using women effectively and meaningfully within my own narratives. The same goes for attitude, dialogue, and technology, all bound up in this eighty-year-old book’s two hundred pages.It isn’t every day that you get to explore a story your grandparents might have picked up from the news stand and then been made fun of for reading: a fast, fun, and pretty obviously sexist adventure romp. Consider it a Twilight of the Great Depression, if you want, but there’s a lot to be learned, and a lot of fun to be had, with reading Pebble in the Sky, and I recommend it to any fan of the Foundation series, and of course to Asimov fans in general.

  • Jared Millet
    2019-04-12 12:28

    (2013 Asimov Re-Read, book 2)So when I decided to revisit Asimov this year, my battle plan was to do the original Foundation Trilogy interspersed with the three Galactic Empire novels in the order of publication. I enjoyed Foundation as much as I did back in high school, but I remembered having a hard time with Pebble in the Sky. I'd hoped that I'd appreciate it more coming to it as an adult, but while it has plenty of interesting ideas, they don't quite fit together as a novel. This was Asimov's first stab at a novel-length story, and it shows that he still hadn't quite figured out what to do with the longer format.The book opens in the "present day" of 1950 or so, when due to a nearby nuclear accident, retired tailor Joseph Schwartz gets zapped 50,000 years into the future to an Earth that has been ravaged by radiation and marginalized by the rest of the Galaxy. This is a great hook and would have been a fascinating premise had Asimov stuck with it as the main thrust of his story. However, instead of sticking with Schwartz finding himself in a strange new world, the plot veers all over the place, bringing in an archaeologist from Sirius, a scientist experimenting on enhancing people's brains, his plucky daughter, a family of farmers hiding an elderly relative from the law, and a power-mad politician planning to wage a one-planet war against the whole of the Galactic Empire.Seriously, Pebble in the Sky has about as many plot threads and point-of-view characters as a Tom Clancy novel, but at 200 pages has none of the length required to do any of the book's ideas justice. What's worse, none of the characters except Schwartz are sympathetic in any way, and he vanishes from the story for chapters at a time. The book picks up steam toward the end when most of the plot threads converge, but the resolution happens completely "off stage" while the reader is subjected to twenty pages of pompous, annoying characters screaming at each other.Oh well. Can't win 'em all. Next stop: Foundation and Empire.

  • Joan
    2019-04-08 11:11

    It has been a while since I read this, so I decided to listen to it as part of my listening homework. It is an excellent, all too believable, story about a possible future earth that is radioactive with a much diminished population from the mid 1900s, which is when Joseph Schwartz is from. Suddenly he finds himself many centuries in the future through a device that was probably the weakest part of the sci fi story: a beam of radiation let loose and sent him into the future in the midst of taking a walk. However, the rest of the sci fi in this story is wonderful. Particularly believable was the scientific rationale for the plot fanatical earth leaders had planned against the empire. Schwartz is one of Asimov's nicest characters. He has a strong moral compass but also the intelligence to know when to make use of his unique skill to read minds and even control or kill through his mind touch. I did enjoy the listening experience of this book. Still not sure I'd ever really turn to audiobooks over print but we will see what happens with time.

  • Simon Mcleish
    2019-03-31 15:32

    Originally published on my blog here in October 2000.In 1949 when he was writing his first novel, Isaac Asimov had already had some success with published short stories. Pebble in the Sky shows both experience as a writer and inexperience in the longer form, as it tends to jump around rather too much for a continuous narrative to emerge. The style is basically fully developed, and (in his fictional writing) did not change a great deal over the next forty years.In terms of the rest of Asimov's fiction, Pebble in the Sky is set in the galaxy ruled by the Galactic Empire based on Trantor whose downfall is the starting point of the Foundation trilogy. Its central character is an archaeologist, who sets out to prove the crackpot theory that Earth is the original home of mankind (the orthodox position is a form of convergent evolution). Earth is a galactic backwater, largely radioactive, ruled by a religious cult in uneasy co-existence with the Galactic authorities, a portrayal clearly based on the position of Judea in the first century Roman Empire. Any question of human origins and the source of the radioactivity is going to conflict with this cult, causing the trip to have major political repercussions.This in itself would make an interesting story, but Asimov weakens it with his second major element. On twentieth century Earth a physics experiment goes wrong spectacularly, catapulting an unsuspecting passerby into the future. No explanation is given for what happens (which is unlike Asimov), and the presence of the time traveller is in the end used rather ineptly, as a treatment given to him to increase the learning capacity of his mind so that he can pick up the language turns him into a kind of superman. The whole of this strand of the plot is rather like a stereotype of a Marvel comic, and the original physics experiment is strikingly similar to that which kicks off E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark.It is interesting that his big success of the next few years, the Foundation trilogy, is made up of shorter, pre-published elements. If I remember the chronology of Asimov's novels correctly, it was some years before Asimov wrote another novel conceived as a whole, the SF whodunit The Caves of Steel.

  • John Park
    2019-04-09 16:33

    Two and a half stars. Mainly curiosity value, but . . .This was Asimov's first published novel; it preceded 1951's Foundation by a year, though most of the contents of the latter were older, having appeared in magazines in the 1940s.Coming belatedly to Pebble after reading other Asimov novels was something of a revelation. It has energy, variety, some sense of human complexity, and female characters who show occasional spirit. Asimov's narrative voice tends to be garrulous and undisciplined but it is quite engaging, and he weaves the threads of a rather complex plot together effectively. Notably several scenes are set outdoors, and in fact very few are of the boardroom-confrontation type he often relied on. He even generates a fairly convincing sense of a galaxy-spanning empire.Still, it was a bit disconcerting to find that Pebble's biology was completely protein-based, but although Asimov was a biochemist, he was writing before Watson & Crick, at a time when DNA was merely an obscure minor component of biological matter.One of Pebble's themes is racial (or in this case, planetary) stereotyping and persecution, and Asimov gives us glimpses of galactic imperial forces abusing the despised Terrestrials. His main character, Joseph Schwarz, plucked from 1949 and projected into this galactic future, talks of wars and nuclear weapons, but neither he nor Asimov ever explicitly mention Jews or what happened to them historically and in WWII in particular. It sounds like some quirk of self-censorship and feels odd now.Inevitably there are other moments of awkwardness and contrivance in the narrative, and today an aura of quaintness hangs over it, but still, comparing Pebble to the Foundation books left me wondering simply, what went wrong?The 2008 Tor edition states that Asimov was born in Brooklyn; other sources agree on Russia.2015 June 24

  • Sakacaca
    2019-04-11 12:32

    El ultimo libro del Galactic Empire novels. Muy parecido en disfrute a sus predecesores... supuestamente me los leí alberrez... el primero de ultimo, pero la verdad esto no afecta en nada ya que las historias no están relacionadas, se hace alusión a algunos planetas pero nada mas... por ejemplo Trantor. Asimov es simplemente brillante, las historias son tan creativas, que es rajado pensar que fueron escritas hace tanto tiempo. El mae hasta profético es en algunos tech gadgets y no me extrañaría que sus creadores hayan sacado las ideas de alguno libro de este Dios de la ciencia ficción. Algo recurrente es que la series de asimov son cíclicas, comienzan donde la luna (como ejemplo, cero spoilers) es un lugar mierda en el espacio, pasa a ser pichuda dentro del universo y después es una mierda de nuevo, en el medio pasa de todo... Lo mismo paso con el robot series. Me recuerda a The Stars, Like Dust porque el principal siempre anda viendo como putas se salva o como putas encuentra un lugar o como putas entiende lo que pasa... etc..

  • Mary JL
    2019-04-14 12:19

    As a long time fan of Isaac Asimov, I enjoy almost everything he wrote. Certainly some books are a bit more dated than others, and this is his first book. Nevertheless, Asimov tells a good story. The idea of Earth being hated by the Outer Worlds, instead of being the center of everything, was an unusual idea at the time this was written. And I found some of the political in-fighting interesting. I also liked the idea of a man from our time going so far in the future that everything he knew was lost forever. The dialogue is dated and the portrait of the main female character will irk some readers.Nevertheless, a quick interesting read that captures the feeling of 1950's Classic SF really well. For any SF reader .

  • Charlotte
    2019-04-10 09:15

    Such an interesting book. I think that in a way this book should be read really close to 1q84 not only because they have a similar starting point, but also because they complete each other. The story was fascinating and I have to admit, very close to the end I was so much into it that I almost screamed in anger when it seemed that there is no hope left for the Galaxy. However, there is one thing that I couldn't swallow, and that is Bel and Pola's relationship, which at times felt forced and out of the blue.

  • Kellyann
    2019-03-25 14:05

    my favorite type of sci-fi! time travel comparing pre-present day to the far future. In this future, Earth is the embarrassment of the galaxy, backward with outdated traditions and customs and a deep distrust of the rest of "mankind", who more than returns the sentiment. Lots of talk about radiation (written prior to our full understanding of radioactive weapons) and centered on one poor guy who accidentally slips through time because of it. A really fantastic book. Asimov's reputation is well-earned.

  • Justin Rees
    2019-04-02 10:19

    This was my first Issac Asimov novel, and it made me an instant fan. Any man who can think of a story like a simple tailor being lifted into the future over a crack in the sidewalk, and actually make it substanial and brilliant, is a genius in my books. A must read for all science fiction lovers as this is where it all begins...

  • Chaitanya krishnan
    2019-04-05 09:09

    One of my all time favourites by Asimov. Have re-read it several times over the years. one of the central plots of the old, elderly being thrown aside like they don't matter, left deep impact on my mind when i read it as a school student. It also has one of the most creative+accidental modes of time travel i've seen in scifi so far.

  • Gary
    2019-04-17 16:07

    I first read this book in 7th grade. It was my first science fiction book, and it hooked me. I think it is the reason I’m always looking for “fish out of water books. Asimov did a great job in placing a late 1940’s Chicago tailor into a world that was so different as to be unrecognizable to the main character.

  • Leslie
    2019-03-28 13:17

    Maybe 3½ stars. This first novel of Asimov's was fun although the plot had some flaws. Perhaps most interesting was seeing the appearance of certain ideas which show up in his later books as well.

  • Dragos Iosif
    2019-03-30 08:28

    There are far too many coincidences, almost no science and the is barely a plot. Forgettable characters, no twist, nothing innovating.It really has absolutely no redeeming value.

  • Tom
    2019-03-20 10:34

    Interesting to see earlier Asimov, especially in the setting of the galactic empire. But the romance here (and overall sexism) was ridiculous, as well as so much random and disorganized plot. And the psychic powers are pretty weak, too. I'm also not sure what to make of his "I find no fault in this man." We clearly have a Pilate character as well as a Sanhedrin and so on, but the exact setting and characters don't map over exactly, so I'm not sure fully what was intended. Anyway, some good food for thought here and there, if you don't the book too seriously in the details.

  • sologdin
    2019-03-27 10:12

    Nutshell: bucolic twerp ripvanwinkles into a galactic imperial crisis. A’s first novel, which displays an elevated rhetoric in comparison to later texts. I likes.Protagonist had an “indiscriminate voracity” and a “trick memory” (9)—so, similar to Heinlein’s protagonist in Starman Jones, who also had a plot-significant eidetic memory. As readers of the Robot, Empire, and Foundation novels, we might chuckle at the irony in protagonist’s naïve but well stated belief “that Earth would [n]ever see the sunlike hell of an atom exploded in anger” (10).Principal conflict arises out of the debate among earthlings over assimilation to the galactic empire; nativist xenophobic teabagger types with revanchist/irredentist/fascistic goals ultimately prefer to kill everyone else than submit to foreigners. Setting is described at this point as based on “hundreds of thousands of years of expansion through space” by humanity (24), which may not be entirely consistent with other Foundation texts. Nevertheless, Earth’s sky is “intermediate”: it had not the unbearable glory of the skies of the Central Worlds, where star elbowed star in such blinding competition that the black of night was nearly lost in a coruscant explosion of light. Nor did it possess the lonely grandeur of the skies of the Periphery, where the unrelieved blackness was broken at great intervals by the dimness of an orphaned star—with the milky lens shape of the Galaxy spreading across the sky, the individual stars thereof lost in diamond dust. (53) Aside from being a George Lucas source text, the description is otherwise pregnant. Reference to robots, sly: he had written a monograph on the mechanistic civilization of the Rigel Sector, where the development of robots created a separate culture that persisted for centuries, till the very perfection of the metal slaves reduced the human initiative to the point where the vigorous fleets of the War Lord, Moray, took easy control. (25)Archaeologist thinks that there is a solitary origin point of humanity, which theory is considered contrary to the dominant “merger theory” (25), whereby human life is the apex of evolutionary development anywhere life arises. (I know, right?) Archaeologist chases the origin point to Earth, “the least significant planet in the Empire” (26) which indicates that Earth is a poorly functioning archive, in derridean terms, insofar as archives must both commence and command.Antagonists wish to re-urge the significance of the least significant planet, to re-order the archive, as it were, primarily by means of biological warfare to which they are immune and against which the remaining quadrillion or so galactic citizens have no defense. So, very charming! Galactic governance is sufficiently federalist to permit that “all subdivisions of the Empire are to remain undisturbed in their local customs” (37), which allows Earth “so much ritual in its daily life and adheres to it with such masochistic fury” (id.). Life on Earth is thoroughly radioactive, and it is so dicked up that everything must be rationed, included lifespan (60 years, so a double Logan’s Run.)Late exposition clears it up:The Assimilationists, with their tolerance and belief in wholesome compromise, have more than once been a power on Earth. I am one. Or, at least, I was once. But the Zealots rule all Earth now. They are the extreme nationalists, with their dreams of past rule and future rule. It is against them that the Empire must be protected. (131-32)It’s an oddly effective text that makes one sympathize with those who collaborate with imperialism. That said, the empire is presented as a liberal, civilizing force: “You don’t know of the first centuries of the Empire, when still there was merely a confusion of alternating despotism and chaos. It is only in the last two hundred years, now, that our Galactic government has become a representative one” (150-51). Time-travelling douche with eidetic memory is subject to a brain-enhancer device that makes him supersmarts: “It was as if his mind were an independent entity, using him only as its mouthpiece” (52), which is kinda kickass. Not much is done with it, except that he develops the “Mind Touch,” which sounds gross, but is really just ESP plus psionic attack modes.Standard asimovian social democrat & cosmopolitan concerns throughout. Recommended for those immersed in an atmosphere of bigotry so complete that it is almost invisible, defilers of rationing and production schedules, and those who speak with the silent speech one sends to one’s arm when one wants it to move, a speech so silent one is not oneself aware of it.

  • Simon
    2019-04-13 08:13

    The last Galactic Empire novel and the last book set on earth in the Foundation Universe (although Earth does become the focus again, of course, in Foundation and Earth). Although we know that Asimov didn't have the connected vision of our future history when he wrote this novel and I think it shows, especially with the ending that really doesn't gel with the rest of the series.Still it was an engaging enough read. Interestingly, it is the only story I'm aware of in which he tried to connect the (then) modern day with the future history of humanity. A modern day human is transported, through some freak accident in a lab, who knows how many thousands of years into the future into the heyday of the Galactic empire. A high point for the empire maybe but a low point for Earth whose people are now pariahs and despised by almost all other galactic citizens. We follow both the events of the unwilling protagonist drawn from the past and a galactic archaeologist who travels to earth in order to seek evidence to support his controversial theory that humanity originated on Earth (as opposed to evolved independently on many planets and converged into the same species!)Most of Earth's surface are forbidden areas are are highly radioactive. But still the remnants of earth's population cling to the few enclaves left to them are are relatively safe to still live. Although part of the galactic empire, the people of earth are generally left to rule themselves and are subject to a theocratic tyranny. Life on earth is harsh and they constantly rise up against their Galactic occupiers on a regular basis. A new rebellion is brewing but perhaps this time they will have a chance...So we have time travel and telepathic powers (unleashed by an experimental device called the 'Synapsifier'). Perhaps one can find some allegory in there too in the relationship between the imperial guard and the oppressed Earth people. How pertinent this must have been in 1949?So not a bad story but certainly not one of his best.

  • Yukino
    2019-04-06 12:20

    CHE LIBRO!E già, che libro!letto in un batter d' cosa ci posso fare? lo ripeterò fino alla nausea..Asimov lo adoro!Mi ha catturato da subito...lette solo due pagine e già non volevo separarmi più da libro!Insomma non capita tutti i giorni di camminare e ritrovarsi in un'altra era!Letto ovunque...lavoro (in pausa) treno, metro, mentre cucino, prima di andare a dormire...insomma era sempre con me!Il libro ci introduce nella galassia precedente al ciclo delle fondazioni.Shwarz sarto di sessant'anni cammina per la strada e zac! marciapiede palazzi e gente di Chicago sparita nel nulla! per far posto ad un prato...così il nostro protagonista...cammina e non capisce dove si trova fino a che trova una casetta (un pò strana a dir la verità) e bussa...Capirà di trovarsi un'altra era..dove la Terra è bisfrattata da tutti, è un pianeta pieno di radiazioni e gli abitanti non vengono nemmeno considerati..infatti per evitare che ci sia un sovrapopolamento della terra con conseguente trasferimento degli abitanti sugli altri pianeti, è stato istituito il sessagesimo..ovvero a 60 anni viene applicata l'eutanasia..Ma un archeologo crede che la Terra sia Il Pianeta. Ovvero il pianeta dal quale è partita la vita e la successiva colonizzazione degli altri mondi e così sbarca sulla Terra alla ricerca di prove.Qui insieme a Shwarz l'uomo trasportato in quest'era si troverrà coinvolto involontariamente in un complotto degli Anziani e dei Sacerdoti (ovvero il governo terrestre)contro l'Impero per riacquistare l'antico potere di supremazia sugli altri pianeti.Bè non si può descrivere questo libro infatti credo che la mia spiegazione sia leggermente confusionaria, bisogna leggerlo per capire!Si sono monotona, e il mio giudizio sicuramente è Asimov...è Asimov!Per cui buona lettura!Voto: 5 stelle piene e di più!

  • Michael Nash
    2019-03-28 13:26

    I’ve been pretty negative about Asimov’s Galactic Empire Series, andPebble in the Sky is no different. The Foundation Series is great because it uses a structural view of history to deconstruct Space Opera, whereas the Galactic Empire is just Space Opera.Pebble had a lot of flaws: For a guy famous for “hard” science fiction, a lot of magic appears here, from an atomic particle somehow causing time travel to the same man gaining psychic powers from a device unironically called “the synapsifier.” It has the same awkward social commentary as inThe Currents of Space with its faux-interracial relationship between an “outsider” scientist and an “earthgirl” who are both obviously white. The villain assumes that the protagonists must be part of a massive conspiracy because their chance encounters are too coincidental to be otherwise, a point that might be a meta-comment about the contrived plot, but which is never again mentioned. In similar fashion, in a climactic scene the villain argues with an authority figure that the protagonists have zero evidence for the accusations they are making against him AND IS 100% CORRECT, but the story proceeds as if the protagonists are self-evidently in the right. The ending is weird and relies too heavily on magic for a last-minute happy ending. All that said, though, I actually enjoyed Pebble in the Sky which is more than I can say forCurrents. I don’t know whether it’s the discussion about whether or not Earth is the origin of humanity, which presages the Foundation Series, or slighty-better-than-usual characterization, or the palpable early-50s anxiety about nuclear technology. So, uh, good for a Galactic Empire novel?

  • Melanie
    2019-04-12 09:27

    This would make such a boring movie. No explosions. No evil alien attacks. Not even a whole lot of fighting. The climactic duel is fought first with mind control and then with words. So yeah. Boring movie, but fun book. This was Asimov's first published novel. His author voice must be very strong, because as I was listening to this book, I remembered two other books by him that I had read and completely forgotten. He was a very smart man. And I was so happy that he measures the galaxy in volumes, because that is something that has always bothered me about space exploration books/TV shows. You cannot explore space like you do the Earth. If you set out in a ship and head in a straight line, you will most likely see or hit something eventually because everything is in one plane. But in space, there are many more possible planes, so measuring simply in miles doesn't make sense. Anyway. That's my sci-fi pet peeve. But the one thing that I found interesting about this book was that although Asimov could imagine space travel and nuclear destruction and men living on other planets, he couldn't imagine the role of the woman being any different in millions of years than what it was in the 1950s. Pola (sp? Oh, the limits of book tapes!), although apparently a smart woman since she works with her brilliant physicist father, depends constantly on men to save her and tell her what to do. I would say that we've come just as far in that aspect of life as we have in technological matters in the last sixty years, but there is no inkling of these possibilities in this book. That's so intriguing to me.

  • Thom
    2019-03-31 15:32

    This is Isaac Asimov's first novel, expanded from an unpublished novella titled "Grow Old Along With Me" at the request of Doubleday. He had been writing short stories for more than a decade, mostly for Astounding - including most of what would become the Foundation novels.Like the Foundation stories, these have an allegory to the Roman Empire - in this case, the Jewish revolt of 66 CE. At one point, the main character (Schwartz) is described as a Zealot, and in another section where the Earth people are described as oppressed, he sympathizes. I found the time traveling Schwartz a very believable character, frustrated and depressed and yet coping with his situation.The other main character, archaeologist Bel Arvardan, was constantly angry and fairly flat. Another bizarre future name goes to the doctor's daughter, Pola Shekt. Her character had moments of strength but was primarily weak - unfortunately standard for the time. As likeable as these two are, the villain is equally disreputable; you can almost hear the hiss from the audience when he is on screen.The first third of the story dances around the characters and introduces this future world. After that, the real plot gets rolling - including the classic plot and counter-plot, subterfuge and revelations. The ending feels a bit quick but wraps things up well (to the cheers of the audience).While not "amazing", this is a really good book. I am reading one book for each of the years in the 1950s, and this is a very good place to start.