Saturday 16th December, two days away as I post this, would have been Arthur C. Clarke’s 100th birthday.
Throughout the year, in celebration, we’ve been re-reading his books:
The Sands of Mars (post here)
Childhood’s End (post here)
Earthlight (post here)
The City and the Stars (post here)
A Fall of Moondust (post here)
2001, A Space Odyssey (post here)
Rendezvous with Rama (post here)
The Fountains of Paradise (post here)
2010, Odyssey Two (post here)
The Hammer of God (post here)
The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke (post here)
But even that barely scratches the surface. So here are some other books you should be looking out for if you want to keep up with the work of one of the very best science fiction writers.
One of the earliest of Clarke’s novels, this grew out of his membership of the British Interplanetary Society, and is an account of the development of the first spacecraft capable of reaching the moon. It’s meant to be a plausible account, and was intended to demonstrate that space travel was a technological possibility. It doesn’t really stand up against how rockets actually developed (the spacecraft has a nuclear engine to start with), but it was very convincing for its time.
This was a fairly late novel (it came out between Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise) and it represents Clarke at his most socially liberal. He had always been more inclined to include extra-marital relationships or multiple marriages in his work than most of his contemporaries, and in this he features homosexual relationships, along with cloning, and other unusual family characteristics. It concerns a delegation from Titan to join the celebrations of America’s 500th anniversary.
This was the first of his collaborations with Stephen Baxter (though in this case that basically means that Baxter wrote the novel based on a synopsis that Clarke provided). It concerns a development of wormhole technology that allows people to observe people and events from any time in the past. The novel reveals a host of consequences of this discovery: crime is reduced, sexual mores and ideas of privacy are radically revised since any act might be observed by others, and the truth behind historical events, religious beliefs and mythology are revealed.
This was Clarke’s last novel, and was written in collaboration with Frederik Pohl. In truth, it’s not very good, but it is interesting in the way that it seems to recapitulate elements from so many earlier Clarke novels: the demonic aliens from Childhood’s End, the space elevator from The Fountains of Paradise, the olympics on the Moon from The Hammer of God and so on. It’s about a Tamil mathematician who proves Fermat’s Last Theorem, while at the same time aliens arrive because they recognise a new Earth weapon as a threat to galactic peace.
Clarke wrote an awful lot of non-fiction. Much of it hasn’t aged well as scientific discoveries and ideas have moved on (though it you want a good selection of his popular science essays, you should try Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!). But this is what passes for his autobiography. I say “passes for” because it’s not really his life story so much as an account of the science fiction he read ever since he first encountered Astounding Stories when he was 13, and of how the science and science fiction he was interested in shaped the science fiction he wrote.
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.