Book Review: Nemesis

Book Review: Nemesis

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Book Review: Nemesis

Name of Book: Nemesis

Author:     Isaac Asimov was born in 1920 in Petrovichi, Russia. When he
was three years of age, his family immigrated to the United States and settled
in Brooklyn, New York. Asimov turned to full time writing in 1958. This
accomplished writer is best known for his novels dealing with science fiction.
However, his works extend to other subjects. These include humour, mystery,
history, and some volumes involving the Bible and Shakespeare. He has published
around 500 books for both young and adult readers. His most famous science-
fiction writings are I, Robot (1950) and The Foundation Trilogy (1951-1953).
Asimov was dubbed a Grand Master of Science Fiction in 1987 by the Science
Fiction Writers of America. He died in 1992.

Setting: The story takes place in two time periods. One set of events takes
place in the present, while the other set takes place in the past, drawing
closer to the present. It spans over a fifteen year period, beginning in the
year 2220. Although most of the important incidents occur on the planet Erythro
about 2 light years from our solar system, the novel shifts between Earth, space,
and the Settlement named Rotor, which orbits the foreign planet.

Main Character:

     Marlene Fisher is a very intelligent young woman at fifteen years of age.
As a child, all who encountered her sensed that she was different. Her wide
eyes absorbed all that was around her and seemed to know a great deal. Growing
older, her “uniqueness” established itself as a gift in which she is able to
read into the body language of others. A slight movement, a stuttered word, the
smallest hesitation gives her indication as to one's true feelings and motives.
Some mistake this gift as her being a “psychic”, but she is not. Marlene has
only learned how to interpret little signs often overlooked.
     Now a young woman, Marlene's uncanny ability has become quite developed.
She finds herself constantly watching people's reactions, and does not hesitate
to bluntly speak out what she has learned. Her intuitions sometimes get too
interfering and she often crosses the line of being helpful. Many become
extremely uncomfortable whenever in her presence, so she is advised by her
mother against showing this talent. She tries to follow her mother's warning
and her annoyance at the falseness of those surrounding her dwindles.
     Although Marlene is obviously an exceptional youth, she has troubles and
stresses just like any other teenage girl. She knows she is rather plain
looking and senses that others agree, but she has come to accept this fact.

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In
her unrequited love for Aurinel, Marlene is perplexed that her intelligence,
which should outshine beauty, does not. However, as time passes and life
becomes more complicated, she soon buries these feelings.
     Marlene knows that she can use her talent to her own advantage and does.
When on Rotor, she yearns to be on Erythro, not knowing why but making a firm
resolution to do everything in her power to make her desire reality. She
confronts the Commissioner of Rotor about his dislike for her and her mother,
thereby accomplishing Marlene's goal of being transferred to the nearby planet.
Bathed in red light from the star Nemesis, she is more at ease with herself on
Erythro.
     A mysterious illness plagues the planet, especially those of higher
intelligence. Though many fear for Marlene's health, she is extremely confident
that she will not be harmed. Her stubbornness prevents her from giving in to
the advice of others, and she ventures forth into the planet's natural
environment. Meeting with a being of like intellect, her mind is able to
further expand.
     Her new friend, indigenous to Erythro, assists Marlene in using her mind
to communicate with it. Her outings become an almost daily event and, as a
result of her confidences with this alien, she matures. She now understands why
people do not always reveal their true feelings and why they keep things to
themselves. She learns the importance of privacy and has come to terms with her
father's desertion of her. She is now seen as a true adult in the eyes of those
around her.

Theme:

     Nemesis was the Greek Goddess of Retribution, of Justified Revenge, and
of Punishment. In Isaac Asimov's Nemesis, an idea of the theme can be derived
from the title itself. Although it sometimes appears to make changes for the
better, mankind is essentially a self-destructing species which destroys others
along with itself. This theme of human nature and its inability in dealing with
its problems is evident throughout the course of events. Demonstrated in seeing
Earth in the future, which is unable to contend with difficulties despite all
its advancements, Asimov voices his opinion.
     Initially, the future is portrayed as a wonderful world because of its
many technologies. Science has prolonged life, “Settlements” have left Earth
to orbit in nearby space, and occurrences of space travel have increased.
However, this picture of peacefulness soon begins to disintegrate.
     In pre-Settlement times, Earth appears to have completely abolished all
prejudices based on outward appearances. Slang terms for the different races
have not been used for two centuries, of which Earth is quite proud. After years
of struggling to live in peace, with all backgrounds and all features, it has
much improved over the previous hateful times. Nevertheless, as soon as space
travel allows for groups of people to move out into space, this illusion of
total harmony fades.
     Settlements are now quite common as there are hundreds floating around
in near space. Visitors to other Settlements notice the differences between
each and the uniformity within every small establishment. As observed by
Earth's Director:
Like clings to like, because like hates and despises unlike.
Most have adopted a racial unity and those of different ethnicity are
made to feel an inconvenience. The reason for this suspicion of one another
lies in Earth's wild mixture of cultures. Earthmen are proud of this
characteristic and consider it to be a strong point. Then why hate Settlements
for having what Earth would consider a disadvantage? It is fearful that this
racial unity will prove successful. This development of a dislike between
Settlements themselves and between Earth leads to competition in outdoing one
another.
     As faster space travel techniques are established, one particular
Settlement, Rotor, moves away to a newly found star named Nemesis. Despite
their knowledge of the danger it poses to Earth, the Commissioner does not warn
others of the potential loss of lives. Rather, he keep this information to
himself, hoping his Settlement will be the last seed from which all other life
will begin anew. In anticipation for the arrival of representatives from Earth,
he installs locating devices to warn him, and at their signal will blast them
out of space.
     Earth develops a more advanced superluminal flight, thus enabling travel
at the speed of light. Its destruction is inevitable so it is decided that
Erythro will be taken over, to serve as a temporary rescue location before it is
possible for the population to disperse into outer space.
     Regardless of the Commissioner's hate for these people, he is
perceptible in that he sees the fate of humankind far into the future. In order
for civilizations to be successful,
Humanity needs space, size, variety, a horizon, a frontier.
This is the rationalization provided by Earth for expanding into the
outer regions of space, beyond the Solar System. In spite of this given reason,
mankind cannot be expected to live a virtuous life when it was not even able to
handle its problems when on Earth. What more if this problem is allowed to
spread out?

     The same anarchy, the same degeneration, the same
          short-term thinking, all the same cultural and social
          disparities would continue to prevail--Galaxywide.

All vices will be allowed to grow and overflow into other worlds. The
complications of the human race will multiply. Sense will never be made out of
all the confusion.

“Nemesis had indeed come.”

Endnotes

Isaac Asimov, Nemesis (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.,
1989), 11.

“ibid.” 102.

“ibid.” 249.

“ibid.” 385.

“ibid.” 386.
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