Pebble in the Sky is the third of Asimov’s empire novels in terms of timeline, but the first in chronologically written order, and, in my humble opinion, the best. It had originally been written as a novella called Grow Old Along With Me, the title of Robert Browning’s paean to old age (Interesting to have read this when I was young, and to be reading it now in my youthful old age. Makes you pause). Anyway, the novella was rejected a couple of times and nearly lost to the dustbin of history when Asimov received an offer for it to be published if he would turn it into a novel, which he did.
This is the place where Asimov first established the fact that the Earth was radioactive (chronologically) and something he had to account for in the other robot and empire novels until he finally retconned the thing and provided the explanation in Robots and Empire. In the timeline order, it brings us a step closer to the Foundation books. The Empire is still growing and has yet to show signs of decay.
And it’s a time travel novel that also considers the practice of euthanasia on a population neutral zero sum Earth. Also, Earth as the origin of mankind has not been lost to history yet. All of this is folded into a great tale Asimovianally told. Just for grins, I read the original Grow Old Along With Me and it’s a fascinatingly different piece and kind of instructive about the art of writing if, like me, you’re into that sort of thing. The original can be found in a book called The Alternate Asimov’s. Next up on my march with Asimov through the galaxy… Prelude to Foundation.