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April 18, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

LUCKY STARR, BOOK 1: David Starr, Space Ranger & Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids and LUCKY STARR, BOOK 2: Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus & Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury by Isaac Asimov (Bantam: $4.99 each; 309 and 307 pp., respectively). During the 1950s, Asimov wrote this series of swashbuckling juvenile novels under the pseudonym of Paul French. Although subsequent astronomical discoveries have invalidated their premises--there are no oceans on Venus, nor canals on Mars--they remain rollicking good tales of derring-do. Asimov keeps the brilliant David "Lucky" Starr from becoming insufferable by playing his stoic virtues against the antics of hot-tempered John Bigman Jones. These mismatched heroes combat such bizarre foes as telepathic Venetian amphibians and heat-devouring aliens who haunt abandoned mines on Mercury. Although intended for adolescent readers, the "Lucky Starr" novels showcase the exceptional talent Asimov displayed before he became obsessed with the number of books he produced.

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