David Starr, Space Ranger is quintessential "space opera," with both the strengths and the limitations of that formula. Good prevails against evil, science over ignorance, the humans of Earth over threats from elsewhere in the galaxy. Continual action and descriptions of imaginative gadgets keep the pace of the narrative brisk. The lucid, straightforward prose includes frequent explanations of space phenomena in general and the planets in particular. Like its sequels, David Starr, Space Ranger presents a mystery for readers to solve along with the hero.
In addition to a satisfying good versus evil theme and an action-oriented plot with a mystery angle, the novel offers appealing characters. David Starr (later known as Lucky) has brains, athletic ability, courage, and a welcome modesty; young readers can readily identify with this attractive hero. Bigman, the diminutive Martian who becomes David's devoted companion, offers comic relief. The villains are satisfactorily unpleasant.
Written during the cold war years, a time of heightened political tensions and military rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Lucky Starr series portrays the values of the individual who voluntarily fights for a democratic system prevailing over those of evil would-be dictators. (The villains are sometimes conspicuously racist in a way that recalls the crudest of Nazi genetic ideas, as in Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter.) Asimov's insistence on technology's importance to a democratic system reflects that these books immediately precede the crisis caused by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, the Earth's first artificial satellite, in 1957.
In recent years, the reissue of the Lucky Starr books has enabled Asimov to write new introductions to all of them. In them he tells of advances in knowledge since the books' original publication: Mars has no canals; Mercury does in fact rotate and therefore has no permanently cold side; Venus has no oceans but is dry and hot, with a very dense atmosphere composed mostly of carbon dioxide; Jupiter's satellites are in a highly charged magnetic field, and there are thirteen of them, not twelve; and Saturn has another recently discovered satellite, Janus. Each of the new introductions ends with the caution that "the advance of science can outdate even the most conscientious science-fiction writer."
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