Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain

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I think I've mentioned my placement of Isaac Asimov's SF novels on my to-be-(re)?read list a few years back. Here's the latest entry, one I actually hadn't read before. For good reasons, it turns out.

Semi-interesting background: Dr. Asimov wrote the novelization for the fondly-remembered movie Fantastic Voyage back in the sixties. It was based on a screenplay written by someone else, and it told the story of the miniaturized submarine Proteus as it carried a life-saving laser to destroy a life-threatening blood clot in the brain of a defecting Soviet scientist.

Asimov was apparently long-bugged about the movie's total disregard for even remote scientific plausibility. (His book cleaned up some issues, but far from all.) Hence this "reboot".

There are a lot of differences. There is a handwaving attempt to justify the miniaturization process as a localized field where Planck's Constant (h) is reduced. So everything that depends on h (mass, atomic size, quantum forces, etc.) gets "smaller" proportionately. Cool!

It's set at some point in the 21st century, far enough ahead so there are permanent moon bases. Amusingly, although Asimov wrote this in the mid-1980s, much of the plot revolves around the rivalry between the US and the still-nasty, still existing, Soviet Union. The protagonist is essentially shanghaied to participate in a Soviet mission to recover the thoughts of a comatose Russian scientist. (He's comatose because—gulp!—a previous minaturization experiment went awry.) The crew is plagued by inner dissension and the many obstacles inherent in trying to find a likely brain cell that might be used to extract the right combination of brain-wave patterns.

The miniaturized vessel does not even have a name. Sigh.

The talk/action ratio is high, maybe higher than usual for Asimov. While the underlying science might be better, they all spend an unusual amount of time yakking about it. The result is not too interesting, let alone thrilling.

Last Modified 2022-10-05 12:22 PM EDT