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on August 23, 2002
Pebble In The Sky is probably the reigning titleholder of "Undiscovered Classic" in Isaac Asimov's impressive lexicon. It may take a little searching to locate this book, but believe me, it's well worth it.
Dr. Asimov constructed a huge universe that traces humanity from the near future (the Robot stories) to its first creaking footsteps into the unknown (the Robot novels), to the founding of a Galactic Empire (the Empire novels), and finally to the ultimate destination of mankind (the Foundation novels), although this was not his original intention - the Robot universe and Empire/Foundation universe were knotted together by later books. Anyway, of these four categories, the Empire novels are easiest the weakest. This is partly because it is very early Asimov (but Foundation and I, Robot, both classics, are equally early), and partly because the idea behind it all maybe isn't as inspired as the others.
However, Pebble in the Sky is a true work of literary genius. It is set on Earth in the year 827 of the Galactic Era. A man called Joseph Schwarz is found by a farming family, who find that he cannot communicate. They take him to a doctor at the city of Chica, Dr. Shekt, who uses his new Synapsifier to increase intelligence. Soon, they discover that Schwarz is in fact from the year 1949 AD, an era thousands of years back. Schwarz is equally amazed to find himself thousands of years in the future. And what a future he finds waiting for him...
I will not give any further information because it may well spoil the plot for you. It is a well-written enjoyable book. It showcases Dr. Asimov's incredible ability to render cultures, as his portrayal of Earth is one of the most haunting things I have ever seen. It is only a shame that he never wrote later Empire novels (maybe team Schwarz and R. Daneel Olivaw together!) to add to this forgotten chapter in his works.
Finally, a quick word about the contradictions. This work was written in 1949 and published in 1950, and so Dr. Asimov's knowledge of nuclear physics was a little rudimentary, as was anyone else's. Only four years removed from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idea of a fullscale nuclear war seemed a very real possibility, and this was the reason that the Earth was radioactive. However, when Asimov wrote a later book entitled Robots And Empire, he realized that this was impossible and devised a more scientific solution. Everyone's belief in the story that it is because of a nuclear war can be put down to folklore - after all, the book does seem to say that much of our knowledge has been forgotten.
Read Pebble In The Sky and enjoy it as the classic that it truly is. You won't be disappointed.
5 out of 5 stars.
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VINE VOICEon June 3, 2001
In this novel, a great deal depends upon a science fiction element not used very often by Asimov: time travel. A strange accident transports an innocent middle-aged man thousands of years into Earth's future from his native mid-twentieth century. Earth is much-changed in this future, as a poisoned backwater world of no importance in the Galactic Empire. The citizens of this Empire not even aware that Earth was the original home of humanity, despite that very assertion by Earth's inhabitants.
An archaeologist seeks to end this dispute by visiting Earth to find proof one way or another about Earth's place in humankind's past. And he happens to be visiting shortly after the arrival of our hapless 20th century American. But things are not to be that easy.
This novel details the efforts of the archaeologist to solve the mystery, the travails of an unintentional time traveler adjusting to his fate, and the others they encounter. Asimov also uses a plot element to be found in both the Robot Novels and the Foundation Novels: Psionics, obviously a favorite concept of his.
The storyline becomes entangled with the politicians of Earth and their feelings toward the Empire as a whole, especially their rancor at being despised by the Empire. Unlike the previous two Empire Novels, this story does not read as a mystery. Rather this novel is more an adventure in the future, with some romantic elements thrown in.
Among the three Empire Novels, this is my favorite. The story may start a bit slow, but once it picks up it does not slow down until the conclusion, where Asimov pretty much sums it up as one might see coming. There was not really anything difficult to anticipate, but the concepts are wonderfully applied. I recommend this book even if you have not read any of the other Empire Novels, as you will really not miss out on anything.
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on September 8, 2004
This story of a twentieth century man thrust into the far future was one of the few S.F. novels of Asimov that I had not read. I picked it up at a garage sale and I was not disappointed. This was a very enjoyable story of time travel and political intrigue.

Tailor Joseph Schwartz gets accidentally transported from modern day (1949) to the far-flung future of the Galactic Empire. (I am always a sucker for a time travel story.) What transpires is a classic Asimov story line. Schwartz is "volunteered" for a science experiment in which he inadvertently acquires the ability to read minds and influence them. This type of "happy accident" is evident in other Asimovian stories. In Robots of Dawn R. Giskard is given similar abilities by a child playfully rearranging his programming. In Foundation and Empire the Mule is a mutant born with such abilities. While this is all OK, I wonder why he used it so much.

Even though I liked the book, the ending came too quickly, which seems to be Asimovian as well.
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on January 19, 2004
Pebble in the Sky is the last of Asimov's Galactic Empire trilogy, which precedes events described in the masterful Foundation Trilogy. Pebble adds further detail about the Empire of Trantor and the place of Earth within it, thousands of years in our future. Humanity is spread across the Galaxy, inhabiting a hundred million star systems and numbering in the quadrillions. Yet atomic warfare has reduced Earth to a radioactive backwater, despised by the other imperial citizens.
This is the world where Joseph Schwartz, a complacent and mild-mannered tailor, finds himself after being catapulted forward in time as a result of an accident in a nuclear lab in mid-20th century Chicago. He soon meets two brilliant scientists: Dr. Bel Arvardan, who is intent on proving that Earth is humanity's birthplace, and Dr. Affret Shekt, physicist and inventor of the Synapsifier, which can boost intelligence in astonishing ways. They team up to foil a plot that could destroy nearly every human alive in the Galaxy.
The book is not without weaknesses. The future science that drives the plot is often a bit dodgy and far-fetched. Schwartz is propelled into the future as a result of an experiment with crude uranium gone freakishly awry, but how exactly this happens is never explained. Nor does Asimov convincingly describe how the biological WMD at the heart of the plot could actually spread across the Galaxy so quickly without the many technologically-advanced worlds of the Empire discovering a way to stop it. Then there is some of the dialog. Even though most of the book takes place so far in the future that humans have evolved miniature appendices and no longer grow facial hair or wisdom teeth, the characters sometimes lapse into dialog reminiscent of American slang straight out of a bad 1950s detective novel. Dr. Arvardan, for example, after knocking down an obnoxious Galactic lawman who has slapped him, asks: "Any other .. think he can play pattycake on my face?" Ughh. These weak spots make suspension of disbelief a bit challenging at times.
As with the other books in the trilogy, however, Pebble's strengths outweigh its shortcomings. It is a worthy addition to Asimov's pre-Foundation future history and a fun read to boot.
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on January 29, 2016
Generic review for Asimov's books because I bought all of them for my collection and am writing ALL of the reviews at once.

I love everyone of his books, and each brings a great story to the table, if you are looking for a good Saga to start reading, check out his Foundation / Robot series. I've read them all the way through several times and each time, loved each book. Each book builds off the one prior and adds a whole new dynamic to the overall universe while still being able to be enjoyed individually. If you are reading this review, Just check out the book, I guarantee it will be worth it.
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This is Isaac Asimov's first published science fiction novel and a nice introduction to 1950s science fiction. I first read it when I was a teenager. This particular story is an interesting look at discrimination. In this book, a 62-year-old tailor is accidentally transported to a distant future. In this future, the Galaxy is populated by man and Earth is only a minor planet within the Galactic Empire. The peoples of other worlds treat Earthlings as being a separate and defective race. An archeologist travels to Earth to find evidence that a single planet, Earth, was the source of mankind. Earth itself has a Procurator representing the Galactic Empire while the local politics are centered about a strict theocracy (reminiscent of ancient Rome and Israel) which controls the size of the population by euthanasia of its citizens at the age of sixty. The population is always threatening to revolt against the Empire. An Earth neurophysicist has discovered a new technique with which the rate of learning can be accelerated. He describes it as a procedure that can alter the dielectric constant between synapses (unfortunately, a change in the dielectric constant would probably result in protein denaturation; but that would ruin the story). Our time-traveling tailor is subjected to this treatment with unexpected results.
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VINE VOICEon May 30, 2000
It is really an enormous tragedy that so many of Isaac Asimov's greatest Science Fiction works remain out of print. The three `Empire' novels by Asimov are a great example. All three books are wonderfully written and fill the gap between The Robot novels and the Foundation series beautifully. These novels are also a glimpse at the state of science in the fifties. If you are an Asimov fan and see any of the Empire novels available for loan or purchase please do so. You will not be sorry. To clear up some confusion on the part of some, the reason these novels are called `Empire' novels is because they take place just before the Empire began, during its infancy and at its peak. Very much fun indeed.
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on June 15, 2015
Read this after "The currents of space" and before the foundation series and after the Robots because it gives you a good understanding of the setting. If I sound like everything I say is for the benefit of the Foundation series, it is because that series to me is the main story, although all the books are equally enjoyable in their own right. My suggested order just makes them all build on each other and make them feel connected.

The only thing I have changed in my order of reading is to put the two prequels to the Foundation series before the series and not after, although they were written by Asimov afterwards. However, my reason for suggesting to read them afterwards is still valid. I just made a personal choice to read them first, since I had already gone through the Foundation series some 20 years ago. So for me they will be both before and after, since I'll be reading theFoundation series again this year.
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on October 8, 2000
I'm writing this review in order to make clear some points which seem a bit confusing about the Empire novels. Dates: -Daneel Olivaw and Elijah Baley novels take place (more or less)in the year 5,000 a.C. -The Stars like Dust 6,000-7,000 a.C. -Pebble in the Sky 13,800 a.C. -Foundation 25,000 a.C. -Foundation and Earth 25,500 a.C.
you can calculate this following R. Daneel Olivaw's life, and knowing it was created in 5,000 and that Hari Seldon was born by 20,000.
It is true that its full of mistakes and errors if we believe what was explained in Robots and Empire: -Earth should be radiactive in 150 years more or less (mandamus said). Regarding this novel, Earth was still inhabited 8,800 years afterwards -It was Mandamus, allowed by R.Giskard Reventlov, who provoked this situation, and not any nuclear war. Anyway, you can imagine that the increase of radiactivity caused a number of wars which have been blamed (afterwards) of causing the increase of radiactivity.
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on January 11, 2015
I noticed this book on my shelf the other day and decided to reread it (only I had to buy the kindle edition because I can no longer read physical books). I think I must have originally read this when I was in high school, back in the dark ages. It has held up remarkably well. The book is still entertaining. The characters are interesting, the plot believable (even if a little outdated scientifically). It reminds me of why I started reading science fiction in the first place.Although it is billed as the third book in the Galactic Empire series, it stands very well on its own, something I really appreciate in a series book.

If you haven't read Asimov, if you think classical science fiction might be boring, think again. Pebble in the Sky is as good a place as any to quaint yourself with some of the best writing this genre has to offer.
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