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Literature / Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids

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First published in 1953, by Paul French (a Pen Name for Isaac Asimov). This is a Science Fiction action-adventure with Mystery Fiction elements targeted towards a juvenile audience. The second book of the series, Lucky Starr and Bigman solve the piracy crisis in the asteroid belt.

After the previous book helped David in figuring out that there were pirates organizing in the asteroid belt, he proposes a plan for his uncles. They'd build an automated ship whose purpose is to map the asteroid belt. Add in triggered reactions and a booby-trap, so when the pirates try capturing it, they lose a base. Of course, this was all a trick to get Lucky an excuse for joining the pirates in the first place.

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Captain Anton, the boss of the pirate ship who somehow knew about the booby-trap (but not Lucky's presence), seems to consider the idea. He doesn't trust the new guy, though, so he proposes a duel against Dingo, the most bloodthirsty member of his crew. If "Williams" can beat Dingo in a push-gun fight, he's willing to consider it.

After winning, "Williams" is taken to a hermit's rock. Once there, the hermit does their best to convince "Williams" to give up his dream of becoming a pirate. Once the hermit recognizes Lawrence Starr's son, though, Lucky abandons the pretense and helps the hermit go to Ceres. A pirate attack and a couple of near-escapes later and we discover the true conflict in the story; Sirians are trying to organize the pirates to strike an economic blow against Earth to destabilize the solar economy.

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Captain Anton has kidnapped the hermit and is en route to the other side of the solar system, to Jupiter. That's where a small fleet of Sirian military are awaiting the signal that Earth and the inner planets are undefended. The goal is a protracted war between Earth and Sirius, and Lucky must fly through The Sun and find the mastermind behind it all before it's too late!


Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids provides examples of:

  • 2-D Space: After the pirate raid on Ceres, Captain Anton manages to avoid getting his ship photographed by the observatory by going up along the polar rather than along the elliptical. Most ships travel along the 2-d ecliptic plane of the solar system to maintain communication contact. With a twelve-hour head start in the chase, Captain Anton would be in the asteroid belt rather than risk a confrontation with the Terrestrial government before he had delivered his message.
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  • Batman Gambit: Lucky Starr repays his uncles for trying to trick him in the previous adventure by convincing them to build an autonomous mapping vessel and fixing it with a booby-trap for when the pirates take it to their base. But what he actually does is sneak aboard it and try to join the pirates himself, being fairly certain that the pirates would accept his word about not being aware of the trap. (He was mostly right except the Boss recognized who he was.)
  • Belly-Scraping Flight: Lucky tries to take a shortcut by skimming through the corona of the The Sun.
  • Big Bad: The pirate crew know that Captain Anton takes orders from a mysterious "Boss". What they don't know is that their boss is in contact with Sirians, planning for a war against Earth, and that he's Hansen, the hermit.
  • Billed Above the Title: The 1971 cover by Signet includes Isaac Asimov's name at a font size equal to two lines of title.
  • Cover Drop: The original 1953 cover shows Lucky's EVA battle versus Dingo with the push-guns.
  • Dedication: To Frederik Pohl, for being a loveable publishing agent.
  • Duel to the Death: Lucky realizes that Dingo will be trying to kill him before the duel even begins. It's heavily tilted in the pirate's favour, and Lucky has to do some quick thinking to get them both back to the ship when things go wrong.
  • Escape Pod: The lifeboats aboard the autonomous mapping vessel are ejected to make it look as if there were crew abandoning ship because of the pirates.
  • Excited Show Title!: A few chapters end in exclamation marks: Chapter 13 Raid!
  • Fake Defector: Lucky claims to be trying to join the "men of the asteroids" because of the dreariness of life on Earth, Mars, and Venus. He stowed away on a ship he knew was heading towards the asteroids so he could find Space Pirates and join them.
  • Game of Chicken: Lucky challenges Captain Anton to a challenge of wills, where their spaceships are on a collision course. Lucky refuses to change direction because destroying Captain Anton's ship means preventing war. Captain Anton refuses to change direction because a risk of death and proving his confidence are core elements of his personality. Only the hermit Hansen's intervention prevents the two from colliding.
  • The Hermit: Many of the "men of the asteroids" enjoy living solitary lives in their own personal rocks. Hansen claims to be an average hermit whose children have grown up and started living their own lives.
  • Shown Their Work: The second chapter takes a moment to explain a bit about the history behind the asteroids, their relative sizes, and possible creation. A later chapter explains the difficulties astronomers have in calculating asteroid orbits and the mysterious "exclusion zones" where Jupiter causes asteroids to be removed from the belt.
  • Space Pirates: Most prefer to be called "men of the asteroids", but Lucky's adventure this time allows him to cleaning up the last of the pirate leadership from the group that killed his biological parents.
  • Spotting the Thread: Lucky realized something was amiss with Hansen's story as soon as he recognized Lucky's father when Lucky was angry. His suspicions were confirmed when Hansen didn't recognize Lucky's uncles, despite how often they were together.
  • Tagline: "The second Space Ranger novel" — 1983 New English Library cover
  • Technobabble: One of the measurement devices aboard spaceships is the ergometer. In this setting, it detects energy discharge from the hyperatomic motors. In Real Life, it is an exercise machine or a device that measures the work you've done on the exercise machine.
  • A Year and a Day: Dingo, one of the pirates, estimates that repairing the Atlas (the boobytrapped ship Lucky stowed away on) would take too long to be a profitable repair.
    "It would take a year and a Sunday. It isn't worth it."Dingo
  • You Remind Me of X: It's a major Plot Point that the hermit Hansen can recognize Lucky as the son of Lawrence Starr, a member of the Council of Science. The effect is especially noticeable when Lucky gets angry. Councilmen do not have their faces publicized very often. When Hansen is taken to Ceres, he doesn't recognize Lawrence's two friends. David immediately realizes that Hansen must have been the pirate captain who led the attack against the ship his family was on because that was the first time since joining the Council of Science that his father had been separated from his uncles and it would explain why he saw the genial Lawrence Starr in a fury. Lucky keeps this information to himself until the end of the book, since he was busy working of preventing a war between Earth and Sirius.

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