Published three years before the death of one of the great masters of sci-fi in 1989, “Nemesis” is a stand alone novel. Unusually for Asimov there is a strong central female character in the shape of Marlene, a plain but highly intelligent teen, who is very perceptive about what others are thinking. Her character is developped as the story progresses.
The Nemesis of the title is a Dwarf Red Star which is heading towards the Solar System. It hadn’t been detected earlier because it wasn’t very bright. The setting is the twenty-third century, Earth is over crowded and 1% of humans have left for self-sustaining orbital settlements. Most of these settlements orbit various asteroids but one, Rotor has left the Solar System with a secret hyperspatial drive, to lock into an orbit around Erythro, a moon orbiting a gas giant orbiting Nemesis. Marlene is on Rotor but feels the attraction of Erythro, where the only life detected is on the tiny bacterial scale (erythryotes), enough to give the moon a breathable atmosphere but seemingly not enough to present a threat to the humans. Rotor is a white separatist’s dream being –
“Snow White,” said Fisher. “I never saw one black person there.”
Earth’s hope is in a prototype ship theoretically capable of superliminal travel, on board a crew of five volunteers including Marlene’s father.
Asimov has a science background and a career of prolific publishing. The physics and biology necessary in the story is presented in realistic detail, even if, for example, superluminal travel proves impossible in the future.
I read a lot of Asimov as a teen and it was interesting reading him again after so long. The pacing of the novel is good, encouraging page turning although the ending is a little predictable. I have seen many unfavourable reviews of this novel but I found it good, I found the characters interesting especially Marlene and the story entertained me.
My rating 4 out of 5