Tag Archives: arthur c. clarke

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (unabridged audiobook read by Peter Ganim; 9 hrs on 8 discs): An unidentified celestial object, dubbed Rama by astronomers, is thought to be a comet as it approaches the solar system. When it is discovered that the object is cylindrical and very clearly artificial, a crew is dispatched to check it out. Like much hard SF, this book is more about ideas than story or characters. Some of the “future morality” – polygamy, shared spouses – felt kind of thrown in, whether for shock value or just “hey look how different society is now” I don’t know. It didn’t add anything to the story, but it didn’t really detract either. It just seemed extraneous. Still, the focus of the novel remained on Rama, as it should. I had a very difficult time wrapping my head around the geography of Rama, but I found much of the science – the gravity, the strange weather systems, the critters – quite compelling. If you like hard SF, well, you’ve probably already read this one. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to it, but I’m glad I did. It’s certainly quite the thought experiment.

A note on the audio: Despite his often engaging character voices, Ganim’s regular narration was pretty dull.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Ghost from the Grand Banks by Arthur C. Clarke

The Ghost from the Grand Banks by Arthur C. Clarke: It’s always interesting to read books that take place in a future that is now the past. Granted, this one has a much shorter timeframe – it was written in 1990 and takes place in 2010 – so things aren’t all that far off, but the differences are more noticeable for it. I wonder how the story would have changed had Clarke envisioned smart phones. I was especially amused to read about the couple who made their fortune “sanitizing” old movies by removing all evidence of cigarettes. Anyway, this is about two semi-rival attempts to raise the Titanic using two very different methods. Luckily, they’re each content retrieving a different half of the ship so there isn’t much rivalry aside from who gets it to the surface first. And honestly, it’s really not all that good. The technology is passably interesting but the characters are too thin, the disasters are too convenient, and the Mandelbrot Set theory is jammed in sideways with no apparent connection to anything else in the story. This might appeal to a Clarke or Titanic enthusiast, but if you’re new to either, you’d be better off picking up something else.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke: Just as man is about to achieve space flight, a group of alien ships appear over every major city in the world. The aliens, whom the human race refer to as The Overlords, bring peace and prosperity to the entire planet over the course of the next hundred years. The Overlords are mysterious and secretive, never revealing their true purpose – until one day they announce that the current generation alive will be the very last of mankind ever. It’s a difficult read, though admittedly not quite as depressing as, say, On The Beach by Nevil Shute, but sobering nonetheless. Another interesting facet is the view of the future from the past: here, for example, it’s the mid-1970s and we still haven’t reached the moon. But I wouldn’t mind the near-instantaneous travel, where people living in Australia can attend a dinner party in South Africa. So while this isn’t what one might consider a rolicking adventure, it’s a fascinating look into one possible first contact scenario. One final note: at the beginning of my copy is a disclaimer that the views held within this novel are not held by the author. Which views, however, are not specified, so I am left to speculate. Does it refer to the polygamy of men? The passive submission to the Overlords? Something else? Hard to say, but in all honesty it added to my enjoyment of the book, because I paid more attention to the subtle clues of what, if anything, the author is disavowing.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Weekly Geeks

WG 2009-39 is about book recommendations. To be perfectly honest, most of the book recommendations I follow come in the form of books literally shoved into my hands by fellow BC in DC members. We get passionate sometimes, and more than once I’ve shown passing interest in a book, only to get a glowing “OMG you must read this”-style exclamation from whoever brought it. More often than not, I give it a try. And am rarely disappointed. I’ve come across several great authors this way, including Simon Singh, Neil Gaiman, and Catherine M. Petrini. Basically if a book looks interesting, regardless of genre, I’ll give it a shot.

Sometimes the books I read are a random find, such as the infrequent occasion when I catch a BookCrossing book in the wild, or if I happen to win it in a contest. I usually have a large number of to-be-read (TBR) books on my shelves, so it is rare indeed for me to finish my current book and have to go searching for something else to read. If I do, though, there’s always The Book Seer, Literature-Map, and Debbie’s Idea, all of which are fine tools for discovering new books and authors.

The official assignment this week involves reader participation. Since the vast majority of my readership exists solely in my head, I may have to play music to drown out the crickets, but hey, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But anyway. The assignment is to ask for recommendations, and give my own, both within a single genre. So I’m going to choose science fiction/fantasy (SFF) as my genre. Some people may protest and tell me that’s two genres, but I beg to differ. First, several popular authors write books that are difficult to categorize as one or the other (e.g., Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Stasheff), and as Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

First off, I’d love to hear your recommendations. I don’t mean stuff that necessarily aligns with my established tastes, I mean great SFF books in general. What are some titles/authors I simply should not miss?

And now for my recommendations, again in SFF. The WG page suggests I start with something like “If you’re looking for…” which could just mean narrowing it down by genre, but I’m going to narrow it down a little further. So here goes:

If you’re looking for a rowdy yarn set in the far future… Mike Resnick is your man. Most of his books are set within the future chronology laid out in Birthright: The Book of Man, but my personal favorites are Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future and the Penelope Bailey trilogy.

If you’re looking for a beautiful fairy tale… then march right up to Neil Gaiman and Stardust. This is one of the few books I’ve kept and intend to reread. I hear Neverwhere is his best novel, but I haven’t read it yet (though I do have a copy on my shelf).

If you’re looking for a powerful tale of children in an adult world… I cannot recommend Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card highly enough.

If you’re looking for hilarious satire in the guise of SFF… then you want definitely to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

If you’re looking for time travel… The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is your best bet. There are other notables in this sub-genre, but Wells tops them all IMHO.

If you’re looking for good YA SFF… I really enjoyed the Borderlands books, especially Elsewhere and its sequel Never Never by Will Shetterly.

If you’re looking for great concept stories… Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov are all excellent choices for expanding your horizons.

And finally, if you’re looking for mythology in the modern world… you’re sure to get a kick out of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

So there you have it.  I’m sure I’ll missed a bunch, but this is a good start.  What glaring omissions do you spot on this page? Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?

Most importantly: enjoy! :)

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