© 1952 Isaac Asimov
From Triangle (pp. 1-172). © 1952.
"Then why do you keep them frightened?"
Like The Stars like Dust, Currents of Space is a political-mystery thriller with a futuristic setting. The science fiction elements take a backseat to the puzzle of Rik and Florina's alleged doom and the depiction of Florina and Sark's society. Their relationship is baldly exploitative: the Florinians generate all of the wealth, but it is stolen by Sark -- and Sark keeps the Florinians impoverished and uneducated, staving off rebellion through means of superior force. If the Florinians could gain outside assistance -- say, from Trantor -- they might be able to break the yoke of their masters. Given how keenly Trantor would be interested in breaking Sark, it's a safe assumption they have a part to play in the sinister plots which are afoot. Once the action erupts, the plot advances at breakneck speed over the bodies of anyone who gets in the main characters' way, and it doesn't stop until a revelation in the final pages which surprised me. I started reading this to take a break from the oddness of Robert Heinlin's The Cat Who Walked through Walls, and it may just be my favorite Empire novel.
I have no idea who this woman is supposed to be, but it convinces me that book covers are an essential part of vintage SF's charm.