Nemesis by Isaac Asimov (science fiction with an environmental message)

Isaac Asimov's Nemesis is set in the 23rd century. Man has had to populate the solar system because of overcrowding on Earth, but it is soon discovered that the Earth itself is under threat from the impending approach of the previously unidentified star, Nemesis. The race is on to invent some method of travel that would allow the human race to move out of the solar system in order to save themselves. In the meantime, out on a planet circling the dangerous Nemesis is a young girl who may hold the key to saving the planet.

Asimov's vision of the far distant future in Nemesis is certainly a scary one. Increasingly, we are all encouraged to consider the effect of our modern lifestyles on the planet. We know that climate change is already effecting the natural environment, and its negative impact will only get worse over time. Everyone knows (whether they act on it or not is another question) that we all need to do our part to help slow down this process. We know that the planet cannot sustain mankind in current state. What we rarely think of is what real effect this will have on the world in say 3 or 4 thousand years for now.

That is what Nemesis gives thought to. Earth has reportedly become barely liveable. There are food shortages and such severe overcrowding that there was little choice left to mankind but to live elsewhere in the solar system. Although Asimov's picture of the Earth's future is undoubtedly bleak, it certainly made me wonder how accurate it might be.

Racial superiority is also an issue that Asimov has concerned himself with in this book. There is much discussion amoungst the politicians on Earth about the lack of racial variety in the colonies of mankind throughout the solar system. The reader is lead to believe that these colonies are essentially Aryan groupings of people, with anyone not falling into this racial category left the poverty of Earth. Asimov may have meant this as a warning.

Although there were some interesting ideas and themes in the book, there were also a lot of weaknesses.

The story became someone repetitive about half way through the book. The characters tended to have the same conversations over and over again which I began to find very frustrating. Also the characters themselves were not well formed and for the most part were irritating more than anything else. I am not a reader who needs her characters to be either good or bad, but I do need characters that don't irritate me. Marlene, the young girl destined to save Earth, is essentially your common bratty teenager. She thinks she knows everything and she is able to get people to do whatever she wants simply by throwing tantrums. Her mother is your typical overbearing mother who nevertheless always gives into her spoiled child. The list goes on.

Having said all that, Nemesis definitely kept me eagerly reading to the end. I was carried away by the plot and didn't want to put it down until I had finished it. In thinking about all the problems I had with the book, I can't quite pinpoint what it was that kept me so hooked.

5.5 / 8
Really enjoyable and worth reading if you have the opportunity.

How do you think this compares to Asimov's other works if you have read them? If you haven't, what do you think you would find the most compelling aspect of a science fiction novel - the science fiction-y (thats the technical term!) aspects, or the characters?


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