Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Feb 15 11:26:49 EST 1990

Raymond's Reviews #9

%T Nemesis
%A Isaac Asimov
%I Doubleday
%D Oct 1989
%O hardcover, $18.95
%P 364
%G 0-385-26619-7

This book is very boring, and that's sad.

Isaac Asimov's enormous popularity has never been built on pulse-pounding action, steamy romance, evocative prose, or subtle and complex character- ization. Not to put too fine a point on it, his oeuvre consists primarily of talking-heads scenes wired together by perfunctory plotting.

Now, this is not necessarily a Bad Thing. In Dr. Asimov's stories the Idea is King. If you are sufficiently stimulated by Ideas (and many SF fans including this reviewer are) good ones can more than make up for the lack of conventional story-telling virtues. In Asimov's work the ideas have often been fascinating, and so his work has achieved great success among fans of the genre.

The problem with Nemesis is that its Ideas are either nonexistent or hackneyed. Did we really need another novel in which the day is saved by a misfit 15-year-old with Special Powers? Another in which the villain is a megalomaniac el-maximum-lider out to prevent mongrel Earthmen from pol- luting the vital bodily fluids of his Settler flock? Another in which the plot turns on the establishment of telepathic contact with a lonely planetary hive-mind?

And all these cliches are swathed about by endless reams of talk-talk. And the only character who comes even partly to life (i.e. does anything at all surprising after introduction) is an obvious mouthpiece for the author. And the attempts to write `relationship' scenes mostly come off as though the characters were bloodless geriatrics in a cosmic trailer park. And...oh, I can't go on. Suffice it to say that if the manuscript had been submitted by an unknown it would doubtless have been bounced hard enough to achieve escape velocity.

Dr. Asimov has written much better in the recent past, and we can hope he will do so in the future. This one, though, wins the first Raymond's Reviews Golden Turkey award for Conspicuous Waste of Paper by a Major Talent.

Note: despite Dr. Asimov's introductory disclaimer, the book (especially the last 20 pages) is loaded with foreshadowings and references that tie it to the Foundation/Robots future history; in particular, it sheds a considerable light on the origins of the Spacer culture. Completists may wish to plow through it for that reason alone.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Feb 15 11:26:49 EST 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>