I finished reading THE CURRENTS OF SPACE (1952) by Isaac Asimov the other day. As the cover blurb from the New York Times says it's "a merry tangle of interplanetary politics." Couldn't have said it better myself.
Asimov's tale is part spy novel, part mystery. Rik, a Spatio-Analyst, discovers something dire that spells doom for the planet Florinia. But before he can reveal his findings, he's captured and psycho-probed, erasing his memory. Cut to one year later. Rik, now a worker in the kyrt mill begins to slowly recover his memory. The more he remembers, the more of a threat he is to the powers that be. Thus begins an extended chase as Rik, his woman friend Lona and Townman Terens go on the run to remain one step ahead of the authorities while Rik's memories keep returning.
About that kyrt mill. Kyrt is a substance grown only on Florinia. It is used, like cotton, for clothing, but it has a variety of other uses. Since it's only grown on one planet, it has enormous value to the galaxy at large (ala spice in Frank Herbert's DUNE) and especially to the planet Sark which rules Florinia. The Squires of Sark want to maintain control over the planet and the kyrt trade but the galactic Trantor empire is aware of what's going on between the planets and becomes involved in diplomatic negotiations.
Everything comes to a somewhat rushed and abrupt end. We find out Rik's secret and the identity of the person who psycho-probed him but it's not an entirely satisfying ending as some characters are simply abandoned from the narrative and things are wrapped up rather too neatly.
CURRENTS OF SPACE is the third Asimov novel I've read in the last couple of years along with THE END OF ETERNITY and THE NAKED SUN. I found all three books readable and enjoyable but I must be honest here and risk blasphemy, I don't think Asimov was that great a writer. He was far from incompetent and he does spin a good yarn but I have yet to come away from one of his books thinking "Wow! That was great!". Of course, CURRENTS was written more than 60 years ago, fairly early in Asimov's writing career. I know he's widely considered one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time but in my opinion he's good but not great. Still, CURRENTS OF SPACE is well worth reading if you're a science fiction fan. Hell, if you're reading this and you're a science fiction fan, you've probably already read it.