The Stars, Like Dust

The Stars, Like Dust is a 1951 science fiction mystery book by American writer Isaac Asimov.

The book is part of Asimov's Galactic Empire series and takes place before the actual founding of the Galactic Empire, before even Trantor becomes important. It starts with a young man attending the University of Earth. Biron Farrill is the son of the greatest nobleman on the planet Nephelos, one of the Nebula Kingdoms. The story starts with the news that his father has been caught conspiring against the Tyranni.

The Tyranni, who come from the planet Tyrann, rule a minor empire of 50 planets near the Horsehead Nebula. Tyrann suppressed science and space navigation training in the kingdoms to help maintain control over its subject worlds. The ruler of Tyrann in the story is called the "Khan," suggesting that Asimov took the Mongol dominion over the Russian principalities as a model, much as he used the declining Roman Empire for his Foundation series. (See the "Golden Horde" for the real-world history that Asimov drew upon and adapted.)

Asimov once called it his "least favorite novel."[3]

The Stars, Like Dust
Stars like dust
Dust-jacket from the first edition
AuthorIsaac Asimov
Cover artistWhitney Bender[1]
CountryUnited States
SeriesEmpire series
GenreScience fiction, Whodunit
Publication date
February 15, 1951[2]
Media typePrint (Hardcover/Paperback)
Preceded byRobots and Empire 
Followed byThe Currents of Space 
GXY5101 0000fc
The Stars, Like Dust was serialized in Galaxy Science Fiction as Tyrann in early 1951, and issued in book form around the same time.

Publication history

The story was first published with the title Tyrann in Galaxy magazine.[4] It was serialised in three parts in the January, February, and March 1951 issues. It was published as a novel on February 15 of that year by Doubleday with the title The Stars, Like Dust.[2][4] It was first published as a paperback in 1954 with the title The Rebellious Stars: but this version of the story was heavily cut without Asimov's permission and was bound together with An Earth Gone Mad by Roger Dee.[4]


The story is set long before Pebble in the Sky, but it was written one year later. The Trantorian Empire is not directly mentioned; it would be located far away, having been settled not long beforehand and before its first great wave of territorial expansion. Earth's radioactivity is explained as the result of an unspecified nuclear war. That contradicts what Asimov later wrote in Robots and Empire. One could suppose that history has become muddled over the intervening centuries since the final Robot novel: "many of the inhabitants of the planets near the Horsehead Nebula now believe it was named after an explorer called Horace Hedd." Other theories exist, and when Biron pretends on Rhodia that he comes from Earth, the Earth is not recognized, and he has to identify it as "a small planet of the Sirian Sector."

In contemporary terms, however, Asimov wrote the Empire series in the early years of the Cold War, when a nuclear World War Three seemed a realistic future; its widespread and enduring radioactive contamination might be remembered, at least in folklore, for thousands of years. By the time he wrote Robots and Empire, that was no longer so. However, in the intervening years, he had mentioned the contamination and the resulting abandonment of Earth in many stories. He therefore retained both elements but gave a different cause than nuclear war.


Biron Farrill, about to complete studies at the University of Earth, is told by Sander Jonti that his father, a rich planetary leader who is known as Lord Rancher of Widemos, has been arrested and killed by the Tyranni and that his own life may be in danger. On Jonti's advice, he travels to Rhodia, the strongest of the conquered planets. There, from the Director of Rhodia's brother Gillbret, he hears rumours of a world on which rebellion against the Tyranni is secretly being plotted.

Escaping with Artemisia oth Hinriad, the daughter of the Director of Rhodia and her uncle Gillbret in a Tyranni spaceship, they travel to the planet Lingane. It is not part of the Tyranni conquests but maintains "peaceful" relations with them.

There, they meet the Autarch of Lingane, who is revealed to be Sander Jonti, the man who sent Farrill to Rhodia from Earth, who seems to possess knowledge of a rebellion world. With him and his followers, the group travel to the heart of the Horsehead Nebula and believe that for any rebellion world to exist and not be known to the Tyranni, it must be located in a place like the Horsehead Nebula.

The Tyranni spaceship that was stolen by Farrill is being tracked by a fleet of Tyranni vessels led by Simok Aratap, the Tyrannian Commissioner. With him is the Director, who is shown to be nervous about the well-being of his daughter and his brother. They keep themselves at a distance for fear of Farrill discovering them until Farrill lands on one planet in the heart of the nebula.

The Autarch believes that the planet is the rebellion world. However, there is no sign of life anywhere. When the Autarch and Farrill leave the spaceship, apparently to set up a radio transmitter, Farrill faces the Autarch and accuses him of getting his father killed at the hands of the Tyranni. The Autarch affirms the accusation, and Farrill adds that the Autarch feared his father's growing reputation and so Farrill's father's death.

In a fight, Farrill subdues the Autarch with help from the Autarch's aide, Tedor Rizzet, who reveals that he is ashamed of the Autarch for killing a great man like Farrill's father. Later, as Farrill and Rizzet try to explain everything to the rest of the crew they picked up from Lingane, the Tyranni fleet arrives and takes them prisoner. Aratap interrogates Farrill, Artemisia, Gillbret, and Rizzet to ascertain the co-ordinates of the rebellion world, but they do not know where it is. However, the Autarch reveals the information to Aratap. Rizzet kills the Autarch with a blaster in anger.

While Aratap interrogates Farrill, Gillbret manages to escape to the engine room of the spaceship and short the hyperatomics. Farrill, realizing the danger, manages to contact Aratap. The engines are repaired, but Gillbret is injured and later dies.

The space jump is made with the co-ordinates given to them by the late Autarch. However, they find a planetless system with only of a white-dwarf star. Aratap lets Farrill and the others go, believing that there is no rebellion world. Aratap makes it clear that he will never to be chosen as Director. Biron and Artemisia are allowed to marry.

It is eventually revealed that there is indeed a rebellion in the making, on Rhodia itself. The Director is its leader; he deliberately took on the persona of a nervous and timid old man to throw off suspicion from himself and his planet.

It is further revealed that the Director, who possesses a collection of ancient documents, has searched for and has found a document that will help a future empire, likely Trantor, govern the galaxy. The document is eventually revealed to be the United States Constitution.


Asimov noted in his autobiography that the genesis of the Constitution subplot lay with H. L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy magazine. Asimov felt that Gold's judgment was at fault by attributing too much power to the Constitution as a document. Asimov later considered the premise highly improbable and became annoyed at Gold for having persuaded him to insert the subplot into the novel.[3] Whatever Asimov's opinion of the novel, he never actually withdrew it from publication.

Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin termed the novel "a first-rate piece of imaginative story-telling".[5] The magazine's Floyd C. Gale told readers "Don't miss" it and the other Empire novels.[6] In Astounding Science Fiction, Villiers Gerson declared the novel successful despite its "unidimensional" characters because of "Asimov's skill as a story-teller of suspense."[7] The New York Times found the novel "a rousing adventure story of the remote future."[8]

Reviewer Jane Fowler noted, "Making the re-discovery of the United States Constitution into the climax of the plot implies that the space civilization depicted is going to take up this Constitution as a model for building a new political structure, that the "space feudalism" which dominates the political system depicted in the book will be transformed into some kind of a federal, representative democracy. That could have worked fine if this was a stand-alone novel. As part of a series, it does not work because we know that galactic civilization is not going to develop in this way. Trantor will expand and expand, until the entire galaxy is included in its empire. Trantor and its empire have many points in their favor, but it is not a democratic federation. So, the re-discovery of the US Constitution led nowhere, it did not shape a new political reality, and in the end probably ended up right back in a collection of old documents. Of course, the fact is that when Asimov wrote this he probably did not yet fully realize that this was going to be an integral part of a comprehensive long series."[9]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Books Published Today". The New York Times: 27. February 15, 1951.
  3. ^ a b Asimov, Isaac. In Memory Yet Green. Avon, 1979, p. 600
  4. ^ a b c Joseph D. Olander, Martin Harry Greenberg, (1977) Isaac Asimov, pages 231-2. Taplinger Publishing Company.
  5. ^ "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf," Galaxy Science Fiction, May 1951, p.84.
  6. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (June 1962). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 190–194.
  7. ^ "Book Reviews," Astounding Science Fiction, July 1951, p.156
  8. ^ "In The Realm of the Spacemen," The New York Times Book Review, June 3, 1951
  9. ^ Jane B. Fowler, "Predicting the Politics, Sociology and Religion of the Future," pp. 26, 31

External links

Preceded by: Series:
Followed by:
Isaac Asimov's Utopia
by Roger MacBride Allen
Empire Series
Foundation Series
The Currents of Space

1951 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1951.

—Opening line of The Catcher in the Rye

David Starr, Space Ranger

David Starr, Space Ranger is the first novel in the Lucky Starr series, six juvenile science fiction novels by Isaac Asimov that originally appeared under the pseudonym Paul French. The novel was written between 10 June and 29 July 1951 and first published by Doubleday & Company in January 1952. Since 1971, reprints have included an introduction by Asimov explaining that advancing knowledge of conditions on Mars have rendered some of the novel's descriptions of that world inaccurate. The novel was originally intended to serve as the basis for a television series, a science-fictionalized version of The Lone Ranger, but the series was never made, in part because another series called Rocky Jones, Space Ranger was already in the planning stages.

Earth (Foundation universe)

This article is on the history of Earth, as presented in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Robot series, and Empire series.

Humans from Earth colonize the Spacer and, later, Settler planets; an anti-Earth plot causes the planet's crust to become radioactive, greatly reducing its population. Many small empires rise and fall throughout the Milky Way Galaxy as various worlds trade with and fight each other. Over time one planet, Trantor, founds a true Galactic Empire. By then Earth is only one of millions of member worlds, and the radioactivity makes it a quarantined backwater; by 827 G.E. (Galactic Era, the number of years after the empire's founding), the setting of Pebble in the Sky, only 20 million people live on Earth. Most non-Earthlings are skeptical of the scholarly theory that the obscure planet is the original home of all humans, believing that humans evolved on many planets simultaneously. By 12000 G.E., the setting of the Foundation series, although many believe that humanity originated on one planet, Earth is one of several candidates.

Earth in science fiction

An overwhelming majority of fiction is set on or features the Earth. However, authors of speculative fiction novels and writers and directors of science fiction film deal with Earth quite differently from authors of conventional fiction. Unbound from the same ties that bind authors of traditional fiction to the Earth, they can either completely ignore the Earth or use it as but one of many settings in a more complicated universe, exploring a number of common themes through examining outsiders' perceptions of and interactions with Earth.

Far future in science fiction and popular culture

The far future, here defined as the time beyond the 10th millennium, has been used as a setting in many works of fiction or popular scientific speculation.

Foundation series

The Foundation series is a science fiction book series written by American author Isaac Asimov. For nearly thirty years, the series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Asimov began adding to the series in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation's Edge, Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation. The additions made reference to events in Asimov's Robot and Empire series, indicating that they were also set in the same fictional universe.

The premise of the series is that the mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second great empire arises. Seldon's calculations also show there is a way to limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome and reduce human misery during the intervening period, Seldon creates the Foundation – a group of talented artisans and engineers positioned at the twinned extreme ends of the galaxy – to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for the accelerated resurgence of this new galactic empire.

Galactic Empire (series)

The Galactic Empire series (also called the Empire novels or trilogy) is a science fiction sequence of three of Isaac Asimov's earliest novels, and extended by one short story. They are connected by their early place in his published works and chronological placement within his overarching Foundation Universe, set around the rise of Asimov's Galactic Empire, between the Robot and Foundation series to which they were linked in Asimov's later novels.


Hyperspace is a superluminal method of traveling used in science fiction. It is typically described as an alternative "sub-region" of space co-existing with our own universe which may be entered using an energy field or other device. As seen in most fiction hyperspace is most succinctly described as a "somewhere else" within which the laws of general and special relativity decidedly do not apply – especially with respect to the speed of light being the cosmic speed limit. Entering and exiting said "elsewhere" thus directly enables travel near or faster than the speed of light – almost universally with the aid of extremely advanced technology.

"Through hyper-space, that unimagineable region that was neither space nor time, matter nor energy, something nor nothing, one could traverse the length of the Galaxy in the interval between two neighboring instants of time."Astronomical distances and the impossibility of faster-than-light travel pose a challenge to most science-fiction authors. They can be dealt with in several ways: accept them as such (hibernation, slow boats, generation ships, time dilation – the crew will perceive the distance as much shorter and thus flight time will be short from their perspective), find a way to move faster than light (warp drive), "fold" space to achieve instantaneous translation (e.g. the Dune universe's Holtzman effect), access some sort of shortcut (wormholes), utilize a closed timelike curve (e.g. Stross' Singularity Sky), or sidestep the problem in an alternate space: hyperspace, with spacecraft able to use hyperspace sometimes said to have a hyperdrive.

Detailed descriptions of the mechanisms of hyperspace travel are often provided in stories using the plot device, sometimes incorporating some actual physics such as relativity or string theory.

Authors may develop alternative names for hyperspace in their works, such as the Immaterium (used in Warhammer 40,000), Z space in Animorphs, or "Underspace" (U-space), commonly referred to in the works of Neal Asher.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov (; c. January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer who wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.Asimov wrote hard science fiction. Along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the "Foundation" series; his other major series are the "Galactic Empire" series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are set in earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation series. Later, with Foundation and Earth (1986), he linked this distant future to the Robot stories, creating a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction novelette "Nightfall"; in 1964, it was voted the best short science fiction story of all time by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction. Most of his popular science books explain concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery. He wrote on numerous other scientific and non-scientific topics, such as chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, history, biblical exegesis, and literary criticism.

He was president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, a crater on the planet Mars, a Brooklyn elementary school, and a literary award are named in his honor.

Isaac Asimov book series bibliography

This is a bibliography of books by Isaac Asimov organized by series chronologically and by series timeline (i.e. prequels first).

See also Isaac Asimov bibliography (chronological), Isaac Asimov bibliography (alphabetical), and Isaac Asimov short stories bibliography.

List of Foundation universe planets

This is a list of Foundation universe planets featured or mentioned in the Robot series, Empire series, and Foundation series created by Isaac Asimov.

List of science fiction novels

This is a list of science fiction novels, novel series, and collections of linked short stories. It includes modern novels, as well as novels written before the term "science fiction" was in common use. This list includes novels not marketed as SF but still considered to be substantially science fiction in content by some critics, such as Nineteen Eighty Four. As such, it is an inclusive list, not an exclusive list based on other factors such as level of notability or literary quality. Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, ignoring the leading articles "A", "An", and "The". Novel series are alphabetical by author-designated name or, if there is none, the title of the first novel in the series or some other reasonable designation.

Nebulae in fiction

Nebulae, often being visually interesting astronomical objects, are frequently used as settings or backdrops for works of science fiction.

Pebble in the Sky

Pebble in the Sky is a science fiction novel by American writer Isaac Asimov, published in 1950. This work is his first novel — parts of the Foundation series had appeared from 1942 onwards, in magazines, but Foundation was not published in book form until 1951. The original Foundation books are also a string of linked episodes, whereas this is a complete story involving a single group of characters.

Robot series (Asimov)

The Robot series is a series of 38 science fiction short stories and five novels by American writer Isaac Asimov, featuring positronic robots.

The Currents of Space

The Currents of Space is a science fiction novel by the American writer Isaac Asimov, published in 1952. It is the second (by internal series chronology) of three books labeled the Galactic Empire series, but it was the last of the three to be written. Each occurs after humans have settled many worlds in the galaxy, after the second wave of colonization that went beyond the Spacer worlds, and before the era of decline that was the setting for the original Foundation series.

Asimov stated in 1988 in the "Author's Note" to Prelude to Foundation that book #6 in the Foundation universe chronology was The Currents of Space (1952) and that it was "the first of my Empire novels." Book #7 was The Stars, Like Dust (1951), which was "the second Empire novel."

The Portable Star

"The Portable Star" is a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov that appeared in the Winter 1955 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. "The Portable Star" was Asimov's least favorite story.


Tyrann may refer to

The Stars, Like Dust, a novel by Isaac Asimov serialized in Galaxy Science Fiction as Tyrann

The fictional planet Tyrann, part of Asimov's Foundation universe continuity

Tyrann Mathieu, American football player

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