This is a Science Fiction series, aimed at a juvenile and young adult audience. When it was first published in The '50s, the author was credited as Paul French. It was actually a pseudonym for Isaac Asimov because he wrote these books with an eye towards getting a Hollywood contract for a TV series. 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). In The '70s, Fawcett Crest requested the publishing rights to the series, so Dr Asimov made minor edits, added forewords, and republished everything under his own name.
The Starr of the series is David "Lucky" Starr, councilman of Earth's Council of Science. Each Novel is a new adventure against crime and corruption in different regions of the Solar System. He is accompanied by his loyal sidekick, John Bigman Jones, whose short height and shorter temper contrast against the tall, cool-headed hero.
The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr consists of 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 meets frontier colonists on several worlds, faces off against unusual alien organisms and hostile space environments as well as ordinary human sabotage. Throughout the series, the predominate threat comes from Earth's rivals in the system of Sirius, Transhuman descendants of Earth who show signs of wanting to take over the 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 changes in scientific knowledge 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, and reprints since 1978 have included a preface discussing said changes as needed.
These Starrs provide examples of:
- 20 Minutes into the Future: This series takes place in a future with Casual Interplanetary Travel, pervasive force-field and Artificial Gravity technology, a Colonized Solar System, and a self-sustaining Transhuman society living out in the Sirius system.
- Affectionate Gesture to the Head: After Mercury, Lucky and Bigman are comfortable enough together that Lucky will tousle his sidekick's hair to show affection. In Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, the affection is mixed with frustration, and Lucky goes as far as to "[seize] Bigman's hair affectionately and [tug] his head back and forth".
- Animated Tattoo: Members of the Council of Science, such as David Starr, are given a hidden tattoo. When they need to show it, an oval spot darkens to black. Within it, little yellow grains of light dance and flicker in the familiar patterns of the Big Dipper and of Orion.
- Artificial Gravity:
- "Pseudo-grav" is the term used in this series for anti-gravity machines. They're a pervasive technology that can be set to various levels, most commonly between Earth normal and Mars normal. The difference in gravity between the natural landscape and the artificial gravity within the pseudo-grav is emphasized in each book.
- During Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter, Sol scientists are working on a new project, called Agrav. Ships with Agrav will supposedly be able to ignore the effect gravity has on space-time.
- Atom Punk: This setting presents hyperatomic motors to power spaceships, and micropiles to power small (but powerful) machines, such as their force-field knives and submarines.
- Big Bad: The Sirian government is the biggest threat faced by Lucky, and fought only indirectly until the final novel. The second book reveals that the events of the first book may have been encouraged by the Sirians because they are still attempting to use the asteroid pirates to encourage war within the Sol system. Sirian robots appear in the fourth and fifth books, while Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn is the last book, so Lucky is finally able to confront them directly.
- Billed Above the Title:
- The 1985 Doubleday Omnibuses, The Adventures of Lucky Starr and The Further Adventures of Lucky Starr, has a yellow (or brown) bar at the top of the cover where Dr Asimov's name (writing as included) is written above the title.
- The 2001 Science Fiction Book Club volume containing all six books includes Dr Asimov's name (including writing as credits) as large as the three lines of the title.
- Boxed Set: Signet published a box containing all six volumes of the series in The '70s with their New American Library imprint.
- Casual Interplanetary Travel: Travel from one end of the asteroid field to the other is a matter of days for most ships, and Earth has been colonizing Venus and Mars. Even Sirius is only a matter of a few weeks away. Other star systems are implied to be colonized, but only Sol and Sirius factor in the majority of the series.
- Character Name and the Noun Phrase: After the first book, the titles in this series are in the form of "Lucky Starr and the [Noun] of [Solar System locale]''.
- Da Chief: Dr Hector Conway is head of the Council of Science, which David "Lucky" Starr belongs to. He's also a adoptive father for Lucky, after his biological parents died from a Space Pirates attack.
- Chromosome Casting: An example of an exclusively male cast. There is an aversion in Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus; a housewife with speaking lines who is on-screen for less than a chapter. Otherwise, the protagonists, antagonists, and suspects are always male characters.
- Colonized Solar System: There are Domed Hometowns across the solar system, from as far sunward as Mercury, to the asteroid belt and The Moons of Jupiter. During the final volume, Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, the moons of Saturn start getting colonized.
- Death by Origin Story: Every volume reminds us that David's mother and father died in a Space Pirates attack on their way to Venus. David survived due to being ejected in an Escape Pod. His father, Lawrence Starr, and both of his adoptive parents, Augustus Henree and Dr Hector Conway, are members of the Council of Science. David (or "Lucky" as of the second volume) was raised to be the best possible member of the agency.
- Deflector Shields: Force field technology is shaped in many different ways, creating mundane products such as climbing pitons and self-cleaning tables, to Laser Blades and spaceship shields. They are noted to be dangerous, because the fields generated are designed to be powerful, which can make even tables lethal if you use them the right/wrong way. The shields for spaceships glow when they're reflecting high-energy collisions, like asteroids or lasers.
- 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 the later books became more detective-focused with a Cold War-tone. The mask was used exactly once more, in the second book, and for radiation shielding rather than disguise.
- Based on the later volumes, you'd expect the first volume to mention Mars in the title, but it simply nicknames the protagonist "Space Ranger" (which isn't used again).
- Energy Weapon: The series starts out with blasters, but Bigman's preferred weapon later in the series is called a needle-gun. It seems to be a matter of shape/scale. Blasters and Disintegrators can dissemble an entire person or two in one shot, while the needle-gun affects a much smaller target and is notoriously difficult to aim.
- Everybody Smokes: Lucky and Bigman, the heroes of this 1950s children's series, always decline when other people offer a cigarette. Smoking, however, is still more prevalent in this setting than it is today.
- Floating Head Syndrome: The 2001 Omnibus edition has the bust of Bigman and Lucky "floating" in front of a nebula-like cloud of space.
- Foil: Bigman's Napoleon complex causes him to be eager to prove himself the match of any man. This boisterousness serves as comedic contrast to the much more level-headed Lucky Starr. Also Foil in height; Bigman is barely more than five feet and Lucky is over six feet tall.
- The Full Name Adventures:
- Government Agency of Fiction: David "Lucky" Starr, his deceased father (Lawrence Starr), and both of his adoptive parents (Augustus Henree and Dr Hector Conway), are members of Earth's Council of Science. This gives them the privilege of going into most areas of the solar system and order people around. Lucky Starr operates as a mix between a secret agent and federal official, while Dr Hector Conway is Da Chief.
- Has Two Mommies: Augustus Henree and Dr Hector Conway become David's adoptive parents after his biological parents die in a Space Pirates attack. He calls each of them Uncle.David Starr was [Conway's] son; his and Augustus Henree's. ... They were both mother and father to him...
- Heterosexual Life-Partners:
Neither Henree nor [Conway] had ever married, and for neither were there any girls to compete with Barbara in memory. —narration, David Starr, Space Ranger
- Dr Hector Conway, Augustus Henree, and Lawrence Starr were a three-man team working for the Council of Science. All three fell in love with the same woman, but Hector and Augustus gracefully accepted it when she married Lawrence. The two men decided to adopt their son after the couple died.
- David "Lucky" Starr and his sidekick John Bigman Jones have been living together since the end of the first novel. As the series goes on, their friendship and dedication is constantly reaffirmed. Lucky even claims his apparent betrayal of the Council was made easier when Bigman's life was on the line.
- Honorary Uncle: Councilmen Conway, Henree, and Lawrence were all good friends. The three men were so close that as a child, David sometimes got confused and called his father Uncle Lawrence, too. After Lawrence Starr and his wife died when David was four, the other two men adopted David and raised him to be as awesome as his father would have been.
- Interservice Rivalry: The Council of Science occasionally finds opposition from members of the other government branches. None of the other branches have a specific rivalry with the Council, but the military sometimes resents the fact that Councilmen can order them around.
- The series title is taken from the omnibus printed in 2001 by the Science Fiction Book Club, which includes all six volumes.
- An Isaac Asimov Double: Space Ranger and the Pirates of the Asteroids is a 1972 New English Library book containing David Starr, Space Ranger and Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids. (Republished in 1993 by Bantam Spectra.)
- A Second Isaac Asimov Double: The Big Sun of Mercury and The Oceans of Venus is a 1972 New English Library book containing Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus and Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury. (Republished in 1993 by Bantam Spectra.)
- The Third Isaac Asimov Double: The Rings of Saturn, The Moons of Jupiter is a 1973 New English Library book containing Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter and Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn. (Republished in 1993 by Bantam Spectra.)
- The Adventures of Lucky Starr and The Further Adventures of Lucky Starr are 1985 Doubleday books that merge the first three books and second three books into the two volumes.
- Orwellian Retcon: When Isaac Asimov republished this series in The '70s, he added a foreword to explain the scientific advances that disproved the science facts he had been presenting. No other major changes were introduced.
- Parental Substitute: Dr Conway and Henree had been close friends with Lawrence Starr up until he and his wife died from a Space Pirates attack on their way to Venus. Because David Starr survived the attack, the two councilmen adopted David and raised him to be as awesome an agent as his father would have been.
- Punny Name: Lucky named his personal spaceship the "'Shooting Starr'', a phenomenon that many people think are lucky.
- Same Face, Different Name: Isaac Asimov wrote The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr in The '50s under the pseudonym Paul French. He wrote six volumes of targeting a juvenile audience and hoped to turn them into a television series. Dr Asimov adopted the pen name to make it easier to dissociate himself with the work if the tv series flopped. In The '70s, he republished them with the tagline "Isaac Asimov writing as Paul French".
- Society Marches On: Despite being set far enough in the future to have Casual Interplanetary Travel, women are barely featured in the series (four of the books have no women at all) and certainly none are in positions of power.
- Space Cold War: Even when the primary conflict of the novel doesn't involve people from the Sirius system, there's usually a reference to their efforts to disrupt economic activities in the Solar System. Lucky and Bigman get even more embroiled against Sirian plots during the last half of the series. The last volume, Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, is comparable to the Cuban Missile Crisis (Sirius is installing a military base from which it can launch attacks at Earth within Earth's sphere of influence).
- Subspace Ansible: The subether is a communication method/device that allows for radio transmissions at near-infinite speed. While it is used extensively through the series, its FTL transmission is only explicitly defined in Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn.
- "The astronomical adventures of Space Ranger Starr, agent of the Council of Science" — cover of the Boxed Set by Signet.
- Most of the covers after 1971 include writing as credits to explain why the books were being republished under Dr Asimov's name.
- "Two adventures from the master of science fiction" — 1993 Bantam Spectra Omnibus volume 1.
- "Two complete adventures from the master of science fiction" — 1993 Bantam Spectra Omnibus volume 3.
- Three Laws-Compliant: Dr Asimov's three laws are cited when robots appear in Big Sun of Mercury, Moons of Jupiter, and Rings of Saturn. Their presence serves a typical Asmovian effect upon the mystery, creating situations where the intent of the laws are subverted through environmental damage or robotic ignorance.
- We Would Have Told You, But...: Lucky rarely tells everyone on his side what he's planning on doing. He does this to facilitate false accusations and discovering things that his enemies don't want him to learn, but even his sidekick Bigman is left in the dark. In Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury, Lucky goes into the most detail, explaining to Bigman how he is often still working his way through the problem and Bigman would otherwise run off and make a mistake or lose his temper and blab about their real plans.
- What We Now Know to Be True: Dr Asimov wrote forewords to his novels in The '70s, which are now themselves somewhat out of date. But at least he recognized that Science Marches On and wanted to avoid having the readers of his novels get confused.