Pebble in the Sky

Isaac Asimov
Pebble in the Sky Cover

Pebble in the Sky


This is Isaac Asimov's first novel, expanded from an unpublished novella titled "Grow Old Along With Me" at the request of Doubleday. He had been writing short stories for more than a decade, mostly for Astounding - including most of what would become the Foundation novels.

Like the Foundation stories, these have an allegory to the Roman Empire - in this case, the Jewish revolt of 66 CE. At one point, the main character (Schwartz) is described as a Zealot, and in another section where the Earth people are described as oppressed, he sympathizes. I found the time traveling Schwartz a very believable character, frustrated and depressed and yet coping with his situation.

The other main character, archaeologist Bel Arvardan, was constantly angry and fairly flat. Another bizarre future name goes to the doctor's daughter, Pola Shekt. Her character had moments of strength but was primarily weak - unfortunately standard for the time. As likeable as these two are, the villain is equally disreputable; you can almost hear the hiss from the audience when he is in the scene.

The first third of the story dances around the characters and introduces this future world. After that, the real plot gets rolling - including the classic plot and counter-plot, subterfuge and revelations. The ending feels a bit quick but wraps things up well (to the cheers of the audience).

While not "amazing", this is a really good book. I am reading one book for each of the years in the 1950s, and this is a very good place to start.