Literature / Lucky Starr
Series of juvenile science-fiction novels by Isaac Asimov
, written in the 1950s under the pseudonym Paul French. The series relates the adventures of David "Lucky" Starr, Councilman of Earth's Council of Science, and his battles against crime and corruption in different regions of the Solar System. He is accompanied by loyal sidekick John Bigman Jones, whose short height and shorter temper contrast him with the tall, cool-headed hero.The series comprises six volumes:
- David Starr, Space Ranger
- Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids
- Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus
- Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury
- Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter
- Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn
In his adventures, Lucky faces off against unusual alien organisms and hostile space environments as well as ordinary human sabotage. The predominating threat throughout comes from Earth's rivals in the system of Sirius, who, although descended from Earthmen, think themselves superior and show signs of wanting to take over Earth's Solar System. The stories usually have an element of mystery as well as adventure, with Lucky having to find a criminal hidden in plain sight, and, in true Asimov fashion, the solution can hang on the tiniest point.
The Lucky Starr
series was written explicitly with the purpose of teaching young people facts about the solar system, which means that it suffers from Science Marches On
perhaps more than the rest of Asimov's work—the title Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus
should be a clue as to how inaccurate it sometimes gets. Nevertheless, the books are still very enjoyable as science-fiction adventures.
Not to be confused with the anime Lucky Star
The first books were also marketed to Hollywood, as the basis for a TV series, which is why Asimov went with the pseudonym. He had seen how Hollywood tended to butcher the works of other SF writers, and wanted to be able to disassociate himself from any resulting series, if he had to. After the TV idea fell through, he started adding elements to the later books that clearly labelled him as the author (such as three-laws robots with positronic brains.)
This series provides examples of:
- Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Shows up from time to time in the books, usually with Lucky ruffling Bigman's hair.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Bigman uses one to access a critical relay which, once disconnected, will keep an airlock from opening.
- Artificial Gravity: "Pseudo-grav" is a common Asimovian term used in the series, and in Big Sun of Mercury, it becomes an important part of the plot due to Bigman realizing that one character was able to anticipate a sudden gravity change, thus proving that he deliberately changed the field strength.
- Awesome McCool Name: John Bigman Jones; he answers predominantly to "Bigman", though he is all of five feet two inches in height.
- Chromosome Casting: A male example. All the more impressive considering it encompasses six books.
- Deflector Shields: The Shooting Starr (as well as other ships) use them.
- Delicious Distraction: In Oceans of Venus, Lucky realizes that the V-frogs seem particularly attracted to petroleum-derived products due to their relative oxygen deficiency. It is this which allows him to break their mental hold at two key points in the story.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first book, Starr encounters an ancient race of Martians who give him a personal force field and dub him "Space Ranger". It was obviously intended as a hero origin story, but all the later books became more of a series of detective novels IN SPACE. He's never called "Space Ranger" again and hardly ever uses the force field.
- Escape Pod: When he was a child, Lucky was placed in one in Space Ranger to save him from marauding pirates.
- Everybody Smokes: Quite a few characters do, but not Lucky and Bigman.
- Exact Words: In one book, an important plot point is that a capsule with valuable intel data in orbit around a planet is said, by an incomplete transmission received from the ship that launched it, to be in a "normal" orbit — which is taken to mean "standard", around the planet's equator. The capsule cannot be found until it is realised that "normal" was actually used in the geometric sense — "perpendicular", a polar orbit.
- Fiery Redhead: Bigman.
- Future Food Is Artificial: The yeast-farms of Venus are the source of many foods that are served on that planet, as well as long-term compact space rations. Said food is apparently indistinguishable from the real thing.
- Future Slang: Sands of Mars! Great Galaxy! Space!
- Laser Blade: Trope Maker, surprisingly enough. They are first featured in David Starr: Space Ranger.
- Gagging on Your Words: Happens a few times in the books. As one example, Bigman, with great reluctance, admits he isn't very tall in Oceans of Venus.
- Go-to Alias: Lucky uses "William Williams", or "Dick Williams".
- Government Agency of Fiction: The Council of Science.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners:
- Hector Conway and Augustus Henree.
Neither Henree nor [Conway] had ever married, and for neither were there any girls to compete with Barbara in memory.
- Possibly also Lucky Starr and John Bigman Jones.
His years with Lucky had been happy, exciting ones. He had lived a full lifetime in them and had faced death without fear. He could face death now, also without fear.
- His Name Is...: In the fourth book, a robot about to shut down says that it received its orders from - well, only one syllable is heard, but its enough to figure out he meant "Earthman" - a project director who once visited its homeworld and stole the servant assigned to him.
- Honorary Uncle: Councilmen Conway and Henree, to Lucky.
- Hopping Machine: "Hoppers" are used by Lucky at one point in his stay on Venus to get out of a large crowd of people without needing to shoulder his way through.
- The Hypnotoad: The V-frogs on Venus have empathic and telepathic abilities. Without human influence to concentrate this ability, it is primarily instinctively used by V-frogs to activate emotions of trust and kindness towards them. With human aid, however, it is possible to read and influence minds.
- Ironic Nickname: John Bigman Jones (5 foot 2, counting the hair he keeps combed straight up).
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: A racist Sirian refuses to use "he" as the pronoun to describe Bigman:
Devoure broke in, "We had an example here a while ago, the Councilman's companion. It infuriated and nauseated me merely to be in the same room with him; a monkey, a five-foot travesty of a human being, a lump of deformity… "