Asimov’s “Nemesis”

Date – internal chronology Story and publishing date
2220-2237 Nemesis (1989)
At this time large numbers of people are living in Settlements – artificial habitats in orbit around Earth and other planets of the Solar System. One of these Settlements, Rotor, develops hyper-assistance, a limited form of faster than light travel. They also discover a previously unknown star, Nemesis, just two light years from Earth. Without telling Earth and the other Settlements, Rotor leaves the Solar System and travels to the Nemesis system, setting up orbit around the planet Erythro.

The story centres on the fifteen year old girl, Marlene, who lives on the Rotor Settlement. Her mother Eugenia is an astronomer, who discovered the star Nemesis. Her father Crile stayed behind on Earth.

Marlene has a unique ability to read body language, to the extent that she can almost tell what people are thinking. She discovers that her mother has been hiding the fact that Nemesis is heading for the Solar System, with possible destruction of the Earth five thousand years in the future. Earth should be warned, so they can start plans to evacuate its population of billions. However, Rotor’s leader, Commissioner Janus Pitt, has forbidden Eugenia to reveal this knowledge, as he doesn’t want Rotor’s location known by Earth.

The planet Erythro has not been inhabited, except for a small scientific outpost within a dome. However for some unknown reason Marlene feels drawn to the planet.

In the meantime on Earth, Marlene’s father Crile, and a female scientist Tessa, are involved in a project to develop true faster than light travel, in the hopes that they can locate Rotor.

The dates are given in the novel. As Asimov explains in his Author’s Note, the story is written in two strands – one in the story’s present (2236 -2237, when Marlene is 15), and the other in the story’s past (starting from 2220) but steadily approaching the present.

Asimov also states that the book is not part of the Foundation, Robot or Empire series, but that he might in future write another novel tying it to these series, or he might not.

It should also be noted that there is a reference to this story in “Forward the Foundation” (1993) (Part IV Wanda Seldon) where Hari Seldon likens his granddaughter Wanda to the girl from the “Nemesis” story. This may be the required tie-in.

There are some elements of “Nemesis” that appear to fit into the Robot/Empire/Foundation series. Although the Settlements are not mentioned in the Robot/Empire/Foundation series, this probably does not rule them out. The main point of conflict I see is the development of faster than light travel. Here the events in this story are at odds with the Robot short story “Escape!“.


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