Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter

Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter

infobox Book |
name = "Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter"
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = 1984 edition by Del Rey Books.
author = Isaac Asimov
illustrator =
cover_artist = Darrell K. Sweet
country = USA
language = English
series = Lucky Starr series
genre = science fiction novel
publisher = Doubleday & Company
release_date = August 1957
media_type = Print (hardcover and paperback)
pages = 186
isbn = NA
preceded_by = Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury
followed_by = Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn

"Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter" is the fifth 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 first published by Doubleday & Company in August 1957. It is the only novel by Asimov set in the Jovian system.


"Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter" takes place in the Jovian system. In the mid-1950s, when the novel was written, Jupiter had twelve known satellites. The first half of the novel takes place on what was then the outermost known satellite, Jupiter IX, discovered by Seth Barnes Nicholson in 1914. Jupiter IX had been given the unofficial name Hades in 1955, but in the novel Asimov mistakenly refers to it as Adrastea, which was the unofficial name of Jupiter XII. The confusion doubtless arose from the fact that Jupiter IX was the twelfth farthest known satellite, while Jupiter XII was the ninth farthest known satellite. In 1975, the International Astronomical Union gave Jupiter IX the official name Sinope. Asimov describes Jupiter IX as being 89 miles in diameter, but its diameter is now thought to be only 23 miles.

Part of the novel is also set on Io, the innermost of the Galilean moons. Io is depicted as having a thin atmosphere of methane, and fields of ammonia snow and ice, as well as rivers of liquid ammonia.

Plot summary

For six years, Jupiter IX has been the site of a secret project to develop an antigravity, or Agrav, space drive. However, the Council of Science learns that information from the project is being leaked to the Sirians. A month after returning from Mercury, David "Lucky" Starr and John Bigman Jones are sent to Jupiter IX to investigate. Starr brings along a V-frog from Venus to aid in his investigation.

Upon reaching IX, Starr and Bigman are warned away by the head of the project, Commander Donahue. He insists the men on the project are angry about being constantly investigated, and he can't guarantee Starr's safety. Starr and Bigman land anyway, and on their way to their quarters are met by a large group of workers led by a man named Red Summers. Summers insists that Starr take part in a duel in an Agrav corridor against a much larger man called Big Armand. While the duel is taking place, Bigman realizes Summers is using a concealed device to shut off the power to Starr's Agrav harness. Bigman's uses a needle gun to persuade Summers to drop the device, and Starr wins the duel (and Big Armand's friendship).

After reaching their quarters, Starr and Bigman are met by their next-door neighbor, a blind man named Harry Norrich. He tells Starr that Summers is a wanted man on Earth, as are a number of the project's ordinary workers. Summers has earned a position of responsibility on the project, and his fear of having his past crimes dug up explains his hostility towards Starr. When Norrich's last seeing-eye dog died in an accident, Summers used his connections on Earth to get Norrich a new one, a German Shepherd named Mutt. Summers has done similar favors for other workers on the project, and is very popular. Starr assures Norrich that he has no intention of getting Summers in trouble for the duel.

The next morning, while Starr is on the intercom with Donahue and Bigman is showering, someone sneaks into their quarters and kills the V-frog. Afterward, Starr and Bigman meet with Donahue and James Panner, the chief engineer on the project. Starr tells them that the V-frog's death has made the situation much more serious. Since the V-frog used emotional projection to make everyone who approached it like it, it stands to reason that only an unemotional being, a robot, could have killed it. Also, a robot would be able to kill the V-frog, but the First Law of Robotics would prevent it from killing a human, and they were both left uninjured by the V-frog's killer. Thus, there is a Sirian robot masquerading as one of the people on the project. In fact, the likelihood is that the Sirians are using android spies throughout the Solar System.

Donahue, though, is not convinced. He states that they are going to launch an Agrav ship, the "Jovian Moon", to Io the following evening, and that Starr is forbidden to conduct his investigation until after it returns. If Starr refuses, he will be placed under arrest. Starr agrees. The "Jovian Moon" lifts off on schedule, its crew of seventeen including Donahue, Panner, Summers, Norrich, Mutt, Starr, and Bigman. Starr pushed to be included, much to Donahue's annoyance, because he is convinced the spy is on board, either as a member of the crew or as a stowaway. A search of the ship led by Panner shows no stowaway, so Starr knows the robot is one of the crew.

After the "Jovian Moon" reaches Io, Bigman falls through a bank of ammonia snow into an ammonia river below, and is rescued by a spacesuited Mutt. Shortly after lifting off from Io, the Agrav drive fails due to sabotage, leaving the "Jovian Moon" falling towards Jupiter. Starr manages to land the ship on Amalthea, where they find that Red Summers is missing. An investigation reveals that Summers tricked Norrich into reporting him present on the ship when he was really still on Io. Starr realizes that the Sirians had "two" agents planted within the Agrav project: the still-hidden robot spy, and the Earthman turncoat Summers.

Panner repairs the Agrav, and the "Jovian Moon" returns to Io, where Starr and Bigman quickly locate Summers. Summers admits to working for the Sirians, but kills himself before revealing the identity of the robot spy. As Starr looks down at Summers' corpse, he suddenly realizes who the robot is. While Norrich helps to bury Summers, Starr accuses him of being the robot, and Bigman announces his intention to shoot him. Mutt hurries over, then freezes up. Starr opens up Mutt's spacesuit and removes a bomb from his head, revealing that the dog was actually the robot. He froze because Bigman's threat to kill Norrich had presented him with a First Law conflict that overloaded his positronic brain. It was Summers who had arranged for Norrich to get Mutt, and who had insisted that Norrich (and Mutt) be on the "Jovian Moon".

With the exposure of Mutt, Starr has not only found out the Sirian spy within the Agrav project, he also has a lead on the Sirian spy ring on Earth: it must be the people who supplied Summers with Mutt, and they must be supplying other canid robot spies to other key people on Earth. As Starr tells Bigman, they may not have stopped the Sirians, but they have slowed them down.


The introduction of the Sirians in "Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids" marked the beginning of Asimov's transformation of the Lucky Starr series from the masked crimefighter subgenre to the espionage subgenre. For the next two novels in the series, the Sirians served as a distraction from the real solution to the mystery, but in "Rings of Saturn" the Sirians are back in their role as the main villains. As with "Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury", the Three Laws of Robotics plays a part in the novel, clearly revealing Asimov as the true author, though for the sake of series continuity the novel was published under the Paul French pseudonym.

The Lucky Starr series was written over a period of six years, during which Asimov also wrote his first two robot novels and "The End of Eternity". Consequently, there are small inconsistencies between the various novels. In the first, Ganymede is mentioned as a settled world of the Solar System, although in later novels Ganymede has no permanent settlement, and has even served as the location of a secret Sirian base. The first man on Mars is named Wingrad in "David Starr, Space Ranger", but is named Ching in "Moons of Jupiter". The name of the state that rules the Solar System also changes from novel to novel. In "Pirates of the Asteroids", it is the Terrestrial Empire; in "Oceans of Venus", it is the Solar Confederation; in "Big Sun of Mercury", it is the Terran Federation; and in "Moons of Jupiter" it is the Solar Federation of Worlds.

External links

A [ review] of "Lucky Starr and the Moons of Jupiter" by John H. Jenkins.

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