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Just a few islands in a planetwide ocean, Thalassa was a veritable paradise—home to one of the small colonies founded centuries before by robot Mother Ships when the Sun had gone nova and mankind had fled Earth. Mesmerized by the beauty of Thalassa and overwhelmed by its vast resources, the colonists lived an idyllic existence, unaware of the monumental evolutionary event s Just a few islands in a planetwide ocean, Thalassa was a veritable paradise—home to one of the small colonies founded centuries before by robot Mother Ships when the Sun had gone nova and mankind had fled Earth. Mesmerized by the beauty of Thalassa and overwhelmed by its vast resources, the colonists lived an idyllic existence, unaware of the monumental evolutionary event slowly taking place beneath their seas... Then the Magellan arrived in orbit carrying one million refugees from the last, mad days on Earth. And suddenly uncertainty and change had come to the placid paradise that was Thalassa.


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Just a few islands in a planetwide ocean, Thalassa was a veritable paradise—home to one of the small colonies founded centuries before by robot Mother Ships when the Sun had gone nova and mankind had fled Earth. Mesmerized by the beauty of Thalassa and overwhelmed by its vast resources, the colonists lived an idyllic existence, unaware of the monumental evolutionary event s Just a few islands in a planetwide ocean, Thalassa was a veritable paradise—home to one of the small colonies founded centuries before by robot Mother Ships when the Sun had gone nova and mankind had fled Earth. Mesmerized by the beauty of Thalassa and overwhelmed by its vast resources, the colonists lived an idyllic existence, unaware of the monumental evolutionary event slowly taking place beneath their seas... Then the Magellan arrived in orbit carrying one million refugees from the last, mad days on Earth. And suddenly uncertainty and change had come to the placid paradise that was Thalassa.

30 review for The Songs of Distant Earth

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Baker

    Spoiler Alert! The Songs of Distant Earth is a very thoughtful science fiction novel. It's not chock full of chases and weird experiments or other derring-do, but it keeps the reader involved and more importantly it makes the reader think. It is a good example of what is known as “hard science fiction.” Written by Arthur C. Clarke, a man who is no stranger to science, the book deals more with real possibilities than with theories that have no apparent foundation in reality. The main portion of the Spoiler Alert! The Songs of Distant Earth is a very thoughtful science fiction novel. It's not chock full of chases and weird experiments or other derring-do, but it keeps the reader involved and more importantly it makes the reader think. It is a good example of what is known as “hard science fiction.” Written by Arthur C. Clarke, a man who is no stranger to science, the book deals more with real possibilities than with theories that have no apparent foundation in reality. The main portion of the book occurs somewhere during the 39th century, around 200 years after the Earth's sun has gone nova. With the benefit of a thousand years' warning, mankind has developed and sent seed ships to the stars with the most hospitable planets orbiting them. The ships contain the seeds to rebuild mankind, from humans to domestic animals to bacteria necessary for human survival, to be shepherded into life by robots. The ships cannot travel very fast so the great distances take hundreds to thousands of years. But humans keep making the ships better and by the time the solar system is incinerated, they have developed a quantum drive, which allows them to travel at close to 20% of the speed of light. One of these advanced starships, among the last to leave Earth, the Magellan, is travelling toward a system with a planet that has been named Sagan Two. The planet is presently inhospitable to life, but is covered in massive amounts of ice. The Magellan aims to terraform the planet by melting the ice and using their quantum starship to maneuver the planet into a more biofriendly orbit. Along the way, they travel very close to the planet Thalassa, which had been the destination of an earlier seed ship, which reported in upon colonization, but then had lost contact with Earth. The Magellan decides to investigate and to look into using the water on the planet to re-ice their deflector, which has become worn out from constant collision with space dust. Thalassa is a beautiful planet, mostly covered in oceans, but with three large islands that support a functioning human society. But it is a society that has become complacent and happy in their idyllic existence. The Magellan upsets this becalmed life when it appears and sets up its ice factory. The crew from the Magellan mingle with the population and become involved with the people who live there. Of course, the inevitable happens and several crew members want to stay on Thalassa. Others want to end the mission and stay permanently on Thalassa, using the volcanism of the planet to create new land masses for the colonists sleeping on the ship. Ultimately, the novel deals with the question of whether humanity can thrive without the existence of challenge. Our history has been the story of struggle against the elements, survival against the wild beasts and survival against each other. Our literature is full of strife and most people would say that any good story depends on it. What happens when that gets bred out of the species? If you remove challenge and aggression, will we stagnate? It is a well-written story that I highly recommend.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Heather Twidle

    Sci-fi lit geeks tend, I've learned, to fall into one of two categories: Asimov fans, or Clarke fans. I loved the Foundation trilogy as a kid, but this simple novel - even with its fairly bland characters - was so delicate and sad that it launched me firmly into the Clarke camp, and not just because there was a pony in it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mina

    When Clarke dealt with science, he was brilliant. When Clarke dealt with sociology and the nature of man as he did in this work, he did not shine so brightly. If you want to know what an atheist thinks mankind could or would be if he could just rid himself of all that cumbersome superstition (aka religion and morality) and also shed all his violent tendencies including the will to power, then you should read "Songs of Distant Earth" because that is the main theme of the work. You should be warne When Clarke dealt with science, he was brilliant. When Clarke dealt with sociology and the nature of man as he did in this work, he did not shine so brightly. If you want to know what an atheist thinks mankind could or would be if he could just rid himself of all that cumbersome superstition (aka religion and morality) and also shed all his violent tendencies including the will to power, then you should read "Songs of Distant Earth" because that is the main theme of the work. You should be warned however that you will be subjected to a portrayal of passionless sexual relationships with essentially no rules within a population of bland characters who lack not only faults like jealousy but also interesting qualities like enthusiasm and ambition. The bit about them discovering what might be intelligent life in their ocean felt like a nod to the idea of the "Prime Directive" worked in to add a bit more science fiction to what is essentially a handbook on how to achieve utopia by assisting the evolution of the species.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Villines

    The Songs of Distant Earth reaches considerably close to being the science-fiction novel of my dreams. For some time, I’ve longed for a sci-fi novel that invested as heavily into its characters as it did in science and the future. In this way, this ideal sci-fi novel would achieve a balance between characters, plot, and setting. This book does just that. The Songs of Distant Earth is a human story. Its message speaks to who we are and its contemplations speak to who we may become. Clarke engaging The Songs of Distant Earth reaches considerably close to being the science-fiction novel of my dreams. For some time, I’ve longed for a sci-fi novel that invested as heavily into its characters as it did in science and the future. In this way, this ideal sci-fi novel would achieve a balance between characters, plot, and setting. This book does just that. The Songs of Distant Earth is a human story. Its message speaks to who we are and its contemplations speak to who we may become. Clarke engagingly tells us that we can indeed control our destiny and that all the -isms that plague us as a species are not necessarily inherent in our makeup. But he also warns us that changing who we are absolutely requires a conscious choice that can only be made by a universally informed decision. It’s these rich observation on humanity that create an intellectual depth within The Songs of Distant Earth that adds to the fullness of the story. And the story takes the time to let us know and understand its human characters. They live and breathe in the human worlds that are (or were) their homes and they give a fundamental meaning to Clarke’s overarching observations on humanity. They are indeed precious and Clarke makes them so. In the end, I wanted to know them better and I wanted to know their futures. Finally, the science presented in this book is a staid type of science that keeps its feet in reality. As a result, the science becomes amazing when Clarke reveals its potential. In Clarke’s introduction, he calls out Star Trek for being a fantasy because it takes science beyond the possible. I see that as a form of courage in sci-fi writing, and it set a challenge for Clarke before the first chapter even started. I am here to say, however, that Clarke delivered.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jose Moa

    A atipical novel of Arthur Clarke more focused in cultural and human relations than in tecnichal aspects ;the novel relates the arraival in manteinance of ice shield of an interestelar ship carryng millions of criogeniced humans escaping of a solar destruction of earth in a journey to colonice another habitable planet,the place of the scale is a planet named Thalassa where in an small continent live a ancient and near utopical human comunity open minded.The narration focuses on cultural shock be A atipical novel of Arthur Clarke more focused in cultural and human relations than in tecnichal aspects ;the novel relates the arraival in manteinance of ice shield of an interestelar ship carryng millions of criogeniced humans escaping of a solar destruction of earth in a journey to colonice another habitable planet,the place of the scale is a planet named Thalassa where in an small continent live a ancient and near utopical human comunity open minded.The narration focuses on cultural shock between thalassans and the maintenance crew of the ship and in the frienship and couple relations between both comunities so strong that there is near a motin because the crew had finded a paradisiacal place and the sadness of breaking forever the relations in the departure.A rather poetic sf novel

  6. 4 out of 5

    Allen

    As a fan of both science fiction and Arthur C. Clarke, I must admit that I was disappointed with this book. There were some positive aspects to this book. The writing style is characteristic of Clarke with it's convincing descriptions of science fiction worlds and technology. There is also a fairly convincing romantic relationship that developed in the story. I especially enjoyed how this relationship was not of the usual sort but rather based on post-WW2 progressive/liberal notions of sexual fre As a fan of both science fiction and Arthur C. Clarke, I must admit that I was disappointed with this book. There were some positive aspects to this book. The writing style is characteristic of Clarke with it's convincing descriptions of science fiction worlds and technology. There is also a fairly convincing romantic relationship that developed in the story. I especially enjoyed how this relationship was not of the usual sort but rather based on post-WW2 progressive/liberal notions of sexual freedom. On Thalassa the sexual and romantic aspects of a relationship were severable. Clarke convinced me that this was viable at least on Thalassa. The negative aspects of this book circle around the book's plot, which follows. SPOILER Scientists haphazardly come upon a new type of radiation, which informs humanity of the impending destruction of the Sun - fortunately for Earthlings several thousands of years beforehand. Humanity is able to reorganize its society, develop extraordinary stellar space travel, and achieve a wonderfully enlightened culture. As part of this society's efforts to preserve itself, Earth sends colonization probes to various potentially inhabitable planets. One of these probes lands on Thalassa, Greek for 'ocean' by the way, a watery world sporting only three islands, two of which are inhabitable and colonized. This society develops into a progressive wonderland where sex is free, democracy is truly democratic, education and healthcare are universal and irrational violence is unknown. All is very characteristic of science fiction-scapes. The book essentially chronicles the consequences of when Earth's final refugee vehicle on its way to a distant star stops on Thalassa both because the starship needs ice from the planet's oceans to rebuild a shield against stellar debris and because Thalassa's transponder was long ago destroyed by the planet's volcano leading Earth to believe that the probe's colonization had failed and left Thalassa untouched by humanity. In short, the planet and the starship mingle and revel in the exchange of culture and information yet boil in predictable but unproductive conflict. After an arduous cooperative effort to reconstruct the ice shield for the starship, the ship's crew prepares to leave for their original voyage to the distant star. The ship does in fact disembark and the fates of the crew and the planet are never to cross again because of interstellar/relativistic travel mumbo-jumbo. The End. That was the plot. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, there was something weird about ocean-dwelling Lobster creatures. These creatures might have had intelligence, society and culture but Clarke just doesn't tell us. We are led on by the major part of the middle part of this book to think that these lobsters were fantastical and worthy of our suspense but Clarke just doesn't explain any part of it well enough. I remember thinking that just maybe these creatures belong somewhere in the plot - maybe just maybe I should care about all of this! So you could have just added the following footnote to my summary above. "Footnote: On Thalassa existed some potentially intelligent life that seemed to resemble lobsters which farmed sea kelp, collected shiny objects and had some sort of societal organization." If you like science fiction, skip this book and enjoy one of Clarke's better stories such as Childhood's End or the Odyssey series. Note also that Clarke wrote this originally during the 1950's as a short story. I believe that it should have stayed that way. This was one of those books that you could just barely keep reading and one whose final pages were you counting so you could put the book down and pick up the next book that teases you from the bookshelf/iPad.

  7. 5 out of 5

    WarpDrive

    It is an OK book, but I must admit I was left slightly disappointed by it. In truth, I was expecting something much more remarkable and less forgettable by one of the creators of the "Space Odyssey" masterpiece. The characters are bland, there is no trace of the sense of awe and of epic exploration of a beautiful and enigmatic Cosmos that so pervaded Space Odyssey, and the society of Thalassa bored me to tears. The plot feels incompletely developed - there are some interesting and promising them It is an OK book, but I must admit I was left slightly disappointed by it. In truth, I was expecting something much more remarkable and less forgettable by one of the creators of the "Space Odyssey" masterpiece. The characters are bland, there is no trace of the sense of awe and of epic exploration of a beautiful and enigmatic Cosmos that so pervaded Space Odyssey, and the society of Thalassa bored me to tears. The plot feels incompletely developed - there are some interesting and promising themes, but none of them are developed in enough detail. The finale is also quite underwhelming. On the more positive side, the psychological aspects related to the very long time frame required by interstellar travel are explored in some depth and with some interesting insights, and the author does not indulge into too much unscientific speculation - the quantum drive engine is quite cool. Overall a decently written, pretty pleasant read, with some interesting insights, but nothing earth-shattering. A good piece of science fiction, overall, but I could not see here much of the creative genius that was so visible in the Space Odyssey series. I think that in a few months' time I will have completely forgotten this book. 2.5 stars - rounded up to 3.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This was an interesting novel and contained a sorrowful but essentially hopeful vibe about the future of humanity and of our Earth. The thing with Arthur C Clarke were his scientific predictions; satellites being the most prominent that he was renowned for. The Songs of Distant Earth takes his visionary foresight a step further (it is worth mentioning at this stage that I have only read a barebone fraction of his massive amount of literature and short stories, but had grown up with his Televisio This was an interesting novel and contained a sorrowful but essentially hopeful vibe about the future of humanity and of our Earth. The thing with Arthur C Clarke were his scientific predictions; satellites being the most prominent that he was renowned for. The Songs of Distant Earth takes his visionary foresight a step further (it is worth mentioning at this stage that I have only read a barebone fraction of his massive amount of literature and short stories, but had grown up with his Television programs as a child, such as 'Mysterious World' during the early 1980's, and of course the seminal '2001' joint collaboration with Kubrick), this time about future space exploration, the colonisation of new planets many light years away from a dying Earth, Quantum Drives (which he never really explains in the short book, but hides that away as saying no one really understood how they worked on the space shipMagellan either), and really just about the survival of Human culture, art, music - love and emotions too - and so on. The premise of the novel is this: The Earth is going to go super-nova around 3600AD, so mankind sends out cryogenically frozen people in 'seeder ships' to colonise other planets. Some succeed, some are lost, but one that survives starts inhabiting another far-distant planet called Thalassa. Cue the Magellan. Before the Earths Sun goes nova, the remnants of humanity finally develop a Quantum Drive, which allows faster-than-light travel, about 100 years before extinction. The Magellan, containing about a million frozen people, arrive at Thalassa on their way to colonise another planet called Sagan 2, to reinforce their shield (made from ice to shield the ship from space dust), many hundred of years after the original seeder ship arrived. The Thalassans have created their own island-based society, away from all of previous humanities influences, hence they have become a peaceful, loving, egalitarian society with no hangovers from the Earths past, such as religion or warfare. It is a veritable Utopia, almost. The crew of the Magellan ask the islanders for assistance with the production of ice for the repairs for the ship, and start to mingle with, what is essentially their elders who left earth around 2700AD. The intermingling with the islanders and the awakened members of the ship is the books main theme, detailing romances, emotions, the passing of knowledge from both islanders and the ships crew, free love and other quite progressive themes. Of note, Aldous Huxley wrote a book called 'The Island', that deals with a Utopian society which, if my memory serves, is very similar to Thalassa, or at least I gained that impression. I liked the future science that Clarke, in one of his visionary states of mind, waxes lyrical about. He actually prophesies mass data storage, holding all the worlds knowledge in terabytes of data ('holding a million books between thumb and forefinger' - Kindle anyone?), the development in the Earths final century of its existence of the 'Quantum Drive' (that only a very few scientists understood how it actually worked, I do not think even Clarke knew), space elevators and so on. So whilst, and for what Clarke was known for, the Songs of Distant Earth covers future science (the book was written in 1986 but based on a much older short story he wrote in the 1950s), it also covers social aspects such as the eradication of organised religion on Earth around 2100AD, and goes into some depth with a crew member trying to explain to a Thalassan the concept of the Alpha and Omega 'God', Alpha being the personal 'God', that ended up being incorporated into religion which led to conflicts, and the Omega God - the creationist belief in the formation of the Universe. The Thalassans do not have any organised belief structure on their islands hence no conflict, the book seems to suggest. I found it an interesting book, containing some progressive visionary themes. The ending is quite emotional, whereby when the Magellan finishes the repairs and heads onto Sagan 2 to colonise and terraform that planet (it is 300 light years away), some of the personal relationships that had been developed between the islanders and the ships crew have to end. I found it quite a sorrowful but I think a positive ending. If you really want to get into the books theme deeper, then it is worth checking out Mike Oldfields (of Tubular Bells fame) album of the same name, which is quite an interesting concept album based on the book. 4 stars for being a visionary science fiction read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Zapata

    I was vaguely disappointed when I finished this book, but I am not exactly sure why. The story was mostly interesting, and yet never captivated me like others of Clarke's have done. It felt a little jumbled, bouncing around from here to there, and yet that could just be my state of mind these days. I may not feel the same about the book if I re-read some day when my own life is not bouncing around. Thalassa is a planet that was colonized by robot ships when the Sun was close to going nova. But ev I was vaguely disappointed when I finished this book, but I am not exactly sure why. The story was mostly interesting, and yet never captivated me like others of Clarke's have done. It felt a little jumbled, bouncing around from here to there, and yet that could just be my state of mind these days. I may not feel the same about the book if I re-read some day when my own life is not bouncing around. Thalassa is a planet that was colonized by robot ships when the Sun was close to going nova. But even though that had been centuries in the past, suddenly there arrives a starship with millions of people from Earth on it (most of them in cryogenic sleep). Thanks to the discovery of quantum drive, all of these people were unexpectedly able to escape into space and are on their way to a planet called Sagan Two. But they need to rebuild their heat shield, which is really a big block of ice. So they spend a year or two on Thalassa. Relationships develop, and some of the 150 or so awake crew members want to stay on this lovely small planet instead of continuing their journey. Life would be so much easier here! How will the captain of the Magellan handle this issue? And what are those creatures in the ocean? The ones that seem to be tending a plantation of the sea kelp that is their main source of food? Are they intelligent in what would be considered a human way? Or does it merely seem that way? There was an excellent mini-lecture about religion by one character, and a few other compelling sections but overall I just couldn't get as worked up over this one as I expected to be. I still plan to read more Clarke when I have access to a library again, I just don't think I will buy any more unless I read them first and can say WOW when I reach the end.

  10. 5 out of 5

    muthuvel

    A fable about two societies in which the one who managed to emerge in a far-away panthalassic planet called Thalassa from human and contemporary creatures seed-ships which were sent by Earth People to nearby various habitable planetary systems in case they didn't make it before the sun goes into Nova, and the other society who had sent the seed-ships in the first place who managed not to annihilate amidst the chaos and chose to wander the stars from the solar system to furthering the survival of A fable about two societies in which the one who managed to emerge in a far-away panthalassic planet called Thalassa from human and contemporary creatures seed-ships which were sent by Earth People to nearby various habitable planetary systems in case they didn't make it before the sun goes into Nova, and the other society who had sent the seed-ships in the first place who managed not to annihilate amidst the chaos and chose to wander the stars from the solar system to furthering the survival of human species and on their way to their destiny, they had a stint at Thalassa and that is all it's about. I felt the storyline and the briefing very different from what I'd experienced from his previous works (Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End) as this work primarily deals with the socio-psychological contents attributed to our conscious and subconscious ponderings. I do have a favorite chapter which is about discussing God. It is really fun and intriguing to know such perceptions especially on these kinds of stuff. Poignant tales that could remind the humble beginnings of life who ever tried to understand such history and I've been feeling that the time spent with it, is worth spending.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ram

    A utopian human colony in the far future that is visited by travelers from a doomed Earth, as the Sun has gone nova. The story is set in early 3800s, on an oceanic planet called Thalassa. Thalassa was populated by an embryonic seed pod, one of many sent from earth when humans discovered that the sun would go nova and burn earth and all the solar system. 700 years after it's population, Thalassa is visited by a seed ship that was sent from dying earth on it's way to a distant planet. As communicati A utopian human colony in the far future that is visited by travelers from a doomed Earth, as the Sun has gone nova. The story is set in early 3800s, on an oceanic planet called Thalassa. Thalassa was populated by an embryonic seed pod, one of many sent from earth when humans discovered that the sun would go nova and burn earth and all the solar system. 700 years after it's population, Thalassa is visited by a seed ship that was sent from dying earth on it's way to a distant planet. As communication with Thalassa was lost, the ship assumes that the planet is uninhabited and they are surprised to find humans there. This is my kind of Science fiction. Without complex scientific inventions , the author manages to present the reader with a story and dilemma's that we can identify with .

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stella

    I decided that one of my favorite thing about Clarke's books (read 6 so far) is his faith in human kind. I enjoy his utopias he obviously envisioned we will achieve with further development of technology. Some readers say nothing happens in this book/even his other books. I think those are completely missing the beauty of his opus. Miracles of unbeliavable vision happen. The Utopia of Thalassa (and yet so realistic) and the last Millenia of Earth are stories withing a story. And of course the sc I decided that one of my favorite thing about Clarke's books (read 6 so far) is his faith in human kind. I enjoy his utopias he obviously envisioned we will achieve with further development of technology. Some readers say nothing happens in this book/even his other books. I think those are completely missing the beauty of his opus. Miracles of unbeliavable vision happen. The Utopia of Thalassa (and yet so realistic) and the last Millenia of Earth are stories withing a story. And of course the scientific phenonmena and theories are explained - that's what happens. Wish i could share some of the many passages I underlined on my Kindle, but i am writing this from my phone. Maybe another time. Anyway, just like all his books I read so far - well worth a read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    Clarke's sci-fi always stands the test of time, he was visionary enough for his ideas to be relevant for a very long time. I also like his blend of philosphy and future. The story was a blend of a ton of different ideas, mutiny, extr-terrestrial intelligence, population control and a species without a home. Lots to think about, unfortunately for me, too much. I never got caught up in any of the issues, too surface an exaamination for a 4 star rating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke written deliberately against science fantasy of star wars, this is the beauty, the awe, the wonder, from actual scientific extrapolation. i like this for the elegiac promised future for earth and how we might change, yet be the same, ever as we go out to the galaxy… here are others read by ACC- 5 stars- Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke i remember this book as a kid, but have read it at least 3 times as an adult. this is a comforting, engaging, ty The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke written deliberately against science fantasy of star wars, this is the beauty, the awe, the wonder, from actual scientific extrapolation. i like this for the elegiac promised future for earth and how we might change, yet be the same, ever as we go out to the galaxy… here are others read by ACC- 5 stars- Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke i remember this book as a kid, but have read it at least 3 times as an adult. this is a comforting, engaging, typically arthur c clarke future: conflict is between man capital m, and the constraints of the universe- and incidentally, of course, the religious forces- but science trumps them all. sf as engineering fiction written by engineers for engineers. something quaint, something i am sentimental about. i like the hope, the dream, the rational utopia, even as it seems thin and improbable. also that the narrative is divided by showing the contemporary era of building this elevator to the stars, and the historical era of constructing the king’s garden and the fountains of paradise. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke there is this movie, there is this book… neither is complete without the other. stanley kubrick’s masterpiece and this radical elaboration of one of clarke’s short stories. developed together. written concurrently. if you want to be amazed by understated awe of images- watch the film. if you want to understand what you just saw- read the book. four stars- The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke by Arthur C. Clarke every short story ever published by this man who defined the earlier possibilities of science fiction- but not just a cheerleader for sf, he wrote some masterpieces not entirely triumphal eg. nine billion names of god, the star. all required reading if you love sf. three stars- Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke it is not about evolution for clarke- it is all about transcendence… The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke what direction will humankind go: ever outward, ever inward…? version 2 of Against the Fall of Night Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke utopia and its discontents… Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke version 1 of The City and the Stars Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke first read this before my personal golden age of science fiction, i was 12… two stars- Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke big dumb object…? not my favourite, not enough to read on sequels. 3001: The Final Odyssey (Space Odyssey, #4) by Arthur C. Clarke sequels gradually diminish returns… A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke catastrophe on a moon bus? okay… Prelude to Space by Arthur C. Clarke characters? we don’t need no stinkin’ characters! Prelude to Space nonfiction on arthur c clarke- Arthur C. Clarke: A Critical Companion The Space Odysseys of Arthur C. Clarke

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    This is not my favorite Arthur C. Clarke book, but it has its moments. Since he's my favorite of the Big Three 20th century SF writers (Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein), I've been meaning to check it out. What spurred me to do so now is that I just finished Adrian Tchaikovsky's Arthur C. Clarke-Award-Winning Children of Time, which is a much newer and different book, but one with some Clarke-style Big Ideas (multiple waves of far future space exploration, hibernation, animal intelligence, etc.). In This is not my favorite Arthur C. Clarke book, but it has its moments. Since he's my favorite of the Big Three 20th century SF writers (Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein), I've been meaning to check it out. What spurred me to do so now is that I just finished Adrian Tchaikovsky's Arthur C. Clarke-Award-Winning Children of Time, which is a much newer and different book, but one with some Clarke-style Big Ideas (multiple waves of far future space exploration, hibernation, animal intelligence, etc.). In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Tchaikovsky was influenced by this book. Let's start with the things I didn't like. Have you ever wondered how Arthur C. Clarke handles sexual and romantic relationships? No, nobody ever has, and for good reason. But don't hate him for it. That's not his thing. Nobody reads Clarke for the sex (although I'm sure someone has written HAL-9000 erotica). It's also obvious this was originally a shorter piece that got stretched and merged with other ideas, especially when the novel is lagging in the middle with short chapters on all of the ideas Clarke had written down but couldn't get into another project (underwater lobster creatures on the verge of culture? Cool! Mutiny? Neato. Politics? Sure. Future history? Sign me up. Language has barely changed in hundreds of years? Um, that's, convenient, I guess... But don't expect much of this to get a lot of treatment or really drive the plot. But at least the lagging chapters are quick, and the book isn't too long. There's also a bit of philosophy. A lot of it's the kind of 20th century "science has killed God, thus making religion superfluous in the future" kind of stuff that only Richard Dawkins really believes anymore (I'm not a religious type myself, but I don't see religion disappearing any time soon). There's a chapter that was painful to read that describes the future history of discarding most of the religion and literature of the world (although Clarke has the decency to describe it as dystopic in the long run to eliminate a lot of the accumulated wisdom of humanity). Buddhism gets some special treatment, maybe not a surprise as Clarke lived in Sri Lanka. After a genuinely amusing bit on how probability dissolves the problem of evil while leaving humanity with a widely accepted case for atheism, he has the intellectual decency to have a spacefaring character say, after pontificating to his native girlfriend/student, "No serious philosophical problem is ever settled" (p. 260). (This is also a good example of the fact that both groups of humans seem to be depicted as egalitarian even though almost all of the scientists and smart people are men and the women are mostly there as romantic partners and sounding boards, but maybe I'm being too hard on Clarke. I'm not sure.) But it all ends with a nice dose of the cosmic melancholy Clarke does best. And there's some genuinely moving stuff, especially in the final chapters. There are a lot of great lines, like this one that explains the title, "All these the listeners heard in the music that came out of the night--the songs of distant Earth, carried across the light-years..." (p. 288). The aching beauty of conscious beings grasping into a mind-expanding void is a feeling nobody does better than Clarke. And that's why you should read this or any other Arthur C. Clarke book. My blog review: https://examinedworlds.blogspot.com/2...

  16. 4 out of 5

    P.J. Wetzel

    'Songs of Distant Earth' is a masterpiece because Arthur C. Clarke took the time to make it one. It began life as a 12,000 word short story in 1957, was turned into a screenplay in 1979, and then expanded into its final form in 1985. Clarke considered this to be his own favorite novel, and it shows. It combines hard science fiction with in-depth character development and some good sub-plots. The basic story is one of an encounter, on a tropical paradise world called Thalassa, between two differen 'Songs of Distant Earth' is a masterpiece because Arthur C. Clarke took the time to make it one. It began life as a 12,000 word short story in 1957, was turned into a screenplay in 1979, and then expanded into its final form in 1985. Clarke considered this to be his own favorite novel, and it shows. It combines hard science fiction with in-depth character development and some good sub-plots. The basic story is one of an encounter, on a tropical paradise world called Thalassa, between two different populations of colonists sent from Earth a thousand years apart--the established Thalassans and an arriving ship, the 'Magellan,' that stops in requesting only a load of water to rebuild their ablation shield--the ships protection as it hurtles through space at speeds approaching a quarter that of light. There's not as much cultural friction as one might expect, perhaps because the host Thalassans are depicted as very laid-back folk. The visitors plan to stay only for about a year as they transform ocean water into blocks of ice and transport those to the Magellan via a space-elevator-like hoist system. This provides enough time for romantic relationships to develop and for some dissent to surface among the Magellan's crew--as might be expected, some want to stay on this idyllic world rather than continue on another 75 light years to their destination planet, Sagan Two, which is far less hospitable. I must take the time to mention two annoying aspects of the book: first the author has a habit of making jarring transitions in story line and point of view at the start of nearly every chapter. They are written in such a way that the I often felt disoriented as I began chapters. The other issue I had was Clarke's over-indulgence in preaching his particular religious biases. He casts a favorable light on Buddhism and spends an entire chapter spouting simplistic atheist dogma, yet finishes that 'sermon' by generously declaring: "Don't believe anything I've told you--merely because I said it. No serious philosophical problem is ever settled." Great--and true--but none of this added any value to the story. He just had to pontificate. So back to the story. There's some exploration of the sticky problem of the Earth colonists interfering with the evolution of life on their adopted planets. Sagan Two is described as being lifeless, at least in terms of organic life as we know it, and the last ships leaving earth were all destined for such targets, and bypassed other planets that showed possible signs of life. But a millennium earlier the early seed ships had shorter range and therefore fewer choices. It turns out that Thalassa has indigenous life, and an intriguing sub-plot develops as a result - no spoilers here. We're also given a sketch of the future-history of Earth, which has to be abandoned when the sun goes super-nova in the year 3620. Clarke's premise of a quick demise of the sun is based on real physics at the time of the book's writing. There was something called the 'solar Neutrino problem' - the sun was not producing nearly as many of them as theory expected. The problem has since been resolved and we can rest assured that our sun will live to a ripe old age of perhaps ten billion years. The hard sci-fi fans are further treated to a clear and well-considered discussion of a few of the real-life problems of long distance space travel. Clarke prides himself in sticking to known physical principles and realistic future technologies, most of which are actually being studied today. The Thalassans came to their planet in the form of genetic code and were reconstructed by robots. But that was 1000 year old technology, and the 'Magellan' is transporting a million physical humans kept in suspended animation. The difference is that during those 700 years a much more powerful propulsion system called a 'quantum ram jet' was invented. I've yet to be disappointed by anything I've read by Arthur C. Clarke. Don't be surprised if more of his works show up on my GoodReads bookshelf.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    I read this book back in 1987 and rediscovered over the holidays. Earth and the solar system has been destroyed by a dying sun. The last of mankind has set out on a long journey to a new home on a rugged distant planet. Very much like sailors traveling the oceans they stop along the way for supplies and discover that a colony they feared was destroyed hundreds of years ago is actually doing quite well. Do they stay with the colony or continue on to their destination? I really enjoyed the book an I read this book back in 1987 and rediscovered over the holidays. Earth and the solar system has been destroyed by a dying sun. The last of mankind has set out on a long journey to a new home on a rugged distant planet. Very much like sailors traveling the oceans they stop along the way for supplies and discover that a colony they feared was destroyed hundreds of years ago is actually doing quite well. Do they stay with the colony or continue on to their destination? I really enjoyed the book and recommend it for anyone who likes classic science fiction. The chapters are short and each one gives you a little tidbit that makes you want to read more. Some of the details are a bit dated now but it didn’t take away from the good story. Clarke struck a nice balanced with the characters and the conflicts in the story, their aren’t too many to make it confusing or too few to make it boring. If you’re looking for an action packed, guns blazing type of story this isn’t it. If you’re looking for good thoughtful science fiction then this is a nice choice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The huge interstellar space ship Magellan has docked for a while on the world Thalassa, which had been peopled with earthlings years before our solar system self-destructed. The newcomers must make repairs to their ice shield, and Thalassa is the right place to do it, as it is almost entirely ocean. Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth is a tale of the differences between the new arrivals and the original colonists, who resemble nothing so much as the Polynesians being visited by Captain The huge interstellar space ship Magellan has docked for a while on the world Thalassa, which had been peopled with earthlings years before our solar system self-destructed. The newcomers must make repairs to their ice shield, and Thalassa is the right place to do it, as it is almost entirely ocean. Arthur C. Clarke's The Songs of Distant Earth is a tale of the differences between the new arrivals and the original colonists, who resemble nothing so much as the Polynesians being visited by Captain Cook. Except here, violence doesn't break out; but frequent misunderstandings do. The overall ton of Clarke's book is sadness of earth's demise, and the centuries-long task of terraforming a new destination that is still some light years ahead of them.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    One of my favorite hard sci-fi novels of all time So, I've re-read this book many times now, and it is one of my favorite hard sci-fi novels. Not a lot of dramatic action, but a story very well told. It looks back from the far future; scientists discovered that Earth's sun was doomed to supernova, so humanity tried to colonize the stars. Thalassa, an ocean world with very little landmass, was colonized over 700 years ago. The people have developed a unique culture, a planned one, when a ship arri One of my favorite hard sci-fi novels of all time So, I've re-read this book many times now, and it is one of my favorite hard sci-fi novels. Not a lot of dramatic action, but a story very well told. It looks back from the far future; scientists discovered that Earth's sun was doomed to supernova, so humanity tried to colonize the stars. Thalassa, an ocean world with very little landmass, was colonized over 700 years ago. The people have developed a unique culture, a planned one, when a ship arrived - from Earth. The Magellan is the very last ship to leave earth, powered by a new, last-minute invention - the Quantum Drive. But the Magellan came only to replenish its ablative ice-shield for the rest of its journey to its destination, Sagan Two. They are surprised to learn humanity thrives on Thalassa - the Thalassan interstellar antenna was accidentally destroyed early on, and Earth had assumed the colony had failed. So there is a slight clash of cultures, a brief mutiny plot as someone a few do not wish to continue the journey, an accidental death, etc. The most tantalizing plotline is the slow realization that a native Thalassan species that lives in the ocean may represent alien intelligence, but the Magellan is going to leave long before this can be fully investigated - and it is not really the point. This story and the way it is told appeal very !ugh to me personally - your mileage may vary!

  20. 5 out of 5

    J. Boo

    Read in the 80s/90s, but not sure exactly when. I do know I bought the book, which was a terrible mistake on my part. Pretty sure it was the last time I knowingly read anything by Clarke. I hated him for writing it, the publisher for publishing it, the bookstore for selling it, the loggers for cutting down the trees which produced the paper, and the trees for not having better defense mechanisms.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David Elkins

    Meh. Really, this book has almost no tension or conflict. There was nothing to look forward to at the end. Nothing to resolve. Just forgettable characters and a lazy plot that could have been so much more. There are many very interesting ideas and questions about humanity that could have been pursued. But the effort seemed only half-hearted. The synopsis of the book at the top of its entry in Goodreads is more interesting to read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    E.E.

    This is by far one the most endearing science fiction novels I have read. There is a CD by Mike Oldfield (from 1994), with same title and based on the novel, that captures perfectly the beauty of Clarke's idea. I would say the novel and the incidental music complement each other perfectly. Both are amazing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews

    This is a nice story, and there's not much I can say that has not already been said. It's not hard to see why Mr. Clarke is so well-regarded in science fiction, I enjoyed this novel as it was one of my favorite sub-genres (dying earth) and the perspectives and possibilities between the Lassans and the travelers, it really opens into some nice food for thought for the reader.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    “Why is the universe here?” “Where else would it be?” This is why Arthur C. Clarke is thought of as among the Big Three of science fiction. This novel was written in the 1980s, based on a short story originally written in 1957. Don’t read the blurbs; they’re both misleading and spoilers. Too many topics to comment on or even lift his quotes about, but Clark still manages to insert an engaging story. “No serious philosophical problem is ever settled.” Golden Age science fiction. In many ways Clark i “Why is the universe here?” “Where else would it be?” This is why Arthur C. Clarke is thought of as among the Big Three of science fiction. This novel was written in the 1980s, based on a short story originally written in 1957. Don’t read the blurbs; they’re both misleading and spoilers. Too many topics to comment on or even lift his quotes about, but Clark still manages to insert an engaging story. “No serious philosophical problem is ever settled.” Golden Age science fiction. In many ways Clark is better than anything being written today. He deals with big issues but gets the details of science and people right. Yes, great portions of his text are sermons on various hobby horses, but that’s been true of literature forever. And he’s honest enough to acknowledge his limitations, a concept unknown to modern polemicists. “Unmistakable signature of life, an abnormally high percent of oxygen.” “The presence of more than a few percent of oxygen in a planet’s atmosphere is definite proof that life exists there. The element is far too reactive to occur in the free state unless it is continually replenished by planets—or their equivalent.” Clark suggests we “hold a decade” in the search for extraterrestrial life. It’s been three decades, and we’re no closer to a definite answer. “Anyone—anything—could have detected that beacon, signaling to all the universe that intelligence had once passed this way.” “Like almost all Terrans for more than a thousand years, Loren would have been happier without his clothes than without his comset.” Star Wars, Star Trek, et al., not to mention Marvel and DC comics and movies, are fantasy; this is science fiction. Clark invents technologies impossible with today’s science, but he posits a reasonable basis for them. “A minus sign had been accidentally changed to a plus. Instantly, the whole world was changed. The road to the stars has been opened up—five minutes before midnight.” “The universe came equipped with only one electromagnetic spectrum, Dr. Kaldor—we have to make the best use of it we can.” “I wish we could have a straight vote without any arguments and discussions.” Voting before you know what you’re voting on is not pure democracy, but pure stupidity. His social, political, and philosophic musings are often silly, but that’s his right as the author. “Yet it’s our emotions that make us human; who would abandon them, even knowing that each new love is yet another hostage to those twin terrorists, Time and Fate?” Any Buddhist; Clarke claimed to be a “crypto-Buddhist.” “If the word ‘sacred’ had meant anything to him, he would have used it.” Clark posits having purged the missions of all religion, but stumbles in the implementation. He writes, “It is possible to build a rational and humane culture completely free from the threat of supernatural restraints,” and “A thousand years ago, men of genius and goodwill had rewritten history,” and “They purged history and literature of ten thousand years, and the result has justified their efforts.” Yet he bemoans, “Lost in the purge were virtually all the works of the supreme novelists, poets, and play-wrights, which would in any case have been meaningless without their philosophical and cultural background,” then he refers to Odyssey and War and Peace, which are laced with religious references. “Beautiful palomino gelding”?! Quibbles: His lunar physics wouldn’t work. “Two close satellites! Perhaps it was just that their tides were barely perceptible.” “five- and seven-day cycles clashing discordantly.” Such an orbital dissonance would be unstable and threaten life on Thalassa. “Only a handful of men had ever really comprehended the geodynamics of superspace—and they were now centuries dead” Stupid not to bring them. “One result of Thalassa’s total atheism is a serious shortage of expletives.” Silly. “Carefully selected genetically.” To be “remarkably free from such unpleasant traits as envy, intolerance, jealousy, anger.” Sillier. “Selecting a head of state was relatively unimportant. Once it was universally accepted that anyone who deliberately aimed at the job should automatically be disqualified, almost any system would serve equally well, and a lottery was the simplest procedure.” Silliest, as demonstrated by the last two American presidents. “Even though he disagreed in principle with any form of censorship, often he had to admit the wisdom of the deletions.” Beyond silly. “Now I can rejoice that I knew you, rather than mourn because I lost you. One day the pain will be gone; but never the memory.”

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elfira

    I picked this book as an introduction to Sir Arthur C Clarke because a) It is not a series b) Wiki says that it's the author's favourite. I had high expectation and honestly a little bit scared that I would be a convert, that I would prefer him than my current favourite of the big three, Isaac Asimov (I haven't read any of Heinlein's books). And I was no traitor. Until half of the book I was the loyal Asimov fan. It was not bad, it just seemed ordinary. It made me wonder whether I should have gon I picked this book as an introduction to Sir Arthur C Clarke because a) It is not a series b) Wiki says that it's the author's favourite. I had high expectation and honestly a little bit scared that I would be a convert, that I would prefer him than my current favourite of the big three, Isaac Asimov (I haven't read any of Heinlein's books). And I was no traitor. Until half of the book I was the loyal Asimov fan. It was not bad, it just seemed ordinary. It made me wonder whether I should have gone with his other book. Starting the second half, I started to appreciate the way the story was told. If it was a drawing, i think it would be a dotted picture. There's a tiny gap between chapters which I find enjoyable. One part of the story told about how most men would abandon religion in 2400ish because the great good it had done being eclipsed by greater evils. Now I'm wondering if there's any sf works that portrays good thing about religion in the space travel time. Because I only remember the religious extremist group in second book of Honor Harrington series. I have read The Left Hand of Darkness, would there be some there? I don't remember, should reread the book. Coming to the end, really, it is only near the end of the book I realize that I love many things in this book: - how the story could be told in form of imaginative dialogue to the dead wife - the idea of how human grow as a race where there's no God introduced from the beginning (the Talassan are very peaceful) - the idea of meeting fellow human from another centuries through indirect time travel - the heartbreaking end that seems really appropriate Though I'm not a convert, my love for Clarke had grown to a four star and a promise to read his other books.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Donna Craig

    I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, interesting read. However,I didn’t connect with the characters. I seem to have this problem with many books written by male authors, especially in sci-if that isn’t new. Certainly, I’ve connected deeply with the characters in books by some male authors; I’m just saying the lack of connection isn’t uncommon for me when I read male authors. Does that make sense? Anyhow, I certainly wasn’t ever tempted to put the book aside. I liked it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Baelor

    I must say that although I am a fan of Arthur C. Clarke, this book was a disappointment. While it did have intriguing plot points, it cannot be said to be a meaty or particularly incisive novel. First, its strengths. As with all of Clarke's works that I have read, he is a master at balancing hard sci-fi with elegant prose, kneading the science into his stories rather than shoving lumps of scientific exposition in as needed. In other words, although his novels include thought experiments, they can I must say that although I am a fan of Arthur C. Clarke, this book was a disappointment. While it did have intriguing plot points, it cannot be said to be a meaty or particularly incisive novel. First, its strengths. As with all of Clarke's works that I have read, he is a master at balancing hard sci-fi with elegant prose, kneading the science into his stories rather than shoving lumps of scientific exposition in as needed. In other words, although his novels include thought experiments, they cannot be reduced to a mere framework for them. TSODE examines the apocalypse, space colonization, societal stagnation, mutiny, the question of intelligence, polyamory, human history, cultural preservation, and curiosity. Quite impressive for such a short novel! Clarke's treatment, as it often is, is hardly subtle, but there is an appeal to this approach: real humans explicitly ponder these issues, so why not let the characters converse about them as well? It is refreshing to read about characters with some level of self-awareness. I also found the general lack of plot pleasant. Such would be insufferable in a longer work, but is acceptable here (although some reviewers disagree). Clarke eschews the rapid-fire plot so common in short sci-fi novels in favor of letting the effects of the contact between the Thalassans and the Earthlings unfold gradually, weaving in thinner threads of the marine life of Thalassa and love triangles (among others). This produces a relaxed feeling that is appropriate given the languid lifestyle of the Tarnans. The novel, however, fails to reach its potential for identifiable reasons. First, none of the plot points are permitted to develop in enough detail. Clarke has proven himself capable of giving the readers tastes of many ideas without sacrificing depth (q.v. Against the Fall of Night). He fails to do so here. Are the scorps intelligent? What happens on Sagan Two? How is Thalassan life actually changed? Does Thalassa remain cut off from the other colonies? etc. Such questions deserve answers. Clarke's thought experiments are set up but not explored or resolved, and thus may as well have been presented without the framework of a novel. The second obvious shortcoming of the novel is the shallow thought present in it. Clarke essentially asserts that most religion has led to moral wrongs, that it is obsolete, etc. Such a cursory treatment is intellectually irresponsible, especially since Clarke espouses morality that is fundamentally based on principles as unverifiable as those upon which many theological systems are also based. His Mary Sue characters expound what one may assume to be Clarke's position on human society and philosophy with nothing be the most receptive of Mary sue-filled audiences. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And offensive, given the depth of many theological texts that are simply handwaved away by someone who has clearly not engaged with them seriously. Third, the lack of character depth. I think that focus on psychological changes in characters is very much overemphasized among modern readers, but because this novel explicitly involves the psychological effects of Earth's devastation on the exiles and the mutual changes wrought upon the exiles and the Thalassans following their first contact, the absence of said psychological analysis is unacceptable and feels like a gaping hole that Clarke does not even attempt to fill. I would still, however, recommend this book. I can certainly understand why it was one of Clarke's favorites, given that it is also his most masturbatory. Those interested in Clarke as a person should read it on that basis alone. It still, however, is a smooth read and manages to provoke thought on all the subjects it treats, even if it only treats them perfunctorily. Certainly not my favorite of his works, though, and I pray that human society will not develop along the lines that Clarke clearly hopes it will.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Excellent science fiction by Arthur C. Clarke, rightly considered on of the grand masters of the genre. I have always admired the simplicity of Clarke's writing: he is almost like Hemingway in how sparse and simple his language is, yet he manages to tackle the most profound questions facing humanity with simplicity and clarity. He is the opposite of Ray Bradbury (who I also love): there is nary a figure of speech to be found in Clarke's writing, yet he still manages to stimulate my mind and imag Excellent science fiction by Arthur C. Clarke, rightly considered on of the grand masters of the genre. I have always admired the simplicity of Clarke's writing: he is almost like Hemingway in how sparse and simple his language is, yet he manages to tackle the most profound questions facing humanity with simplicity and clarity. He is the opposite of Ray Bradbury (who I also love): there is nary a figure of speech to be found in Clarke's writing, yet he still manages to stimulate my mind and imagination like few others can. The Songs of Distant Earth is set a few thousand years from now, after our sun has unexpectedly gone nova. Humanity has about 1,500 years to figure out how to survive once Earth is gone, and their solution is to send out automated 'seed' ships to likely planets where humans can survive. One such planet, Thalassa, is almost completely water, and it is there that a colony of humans has lived for almost a millennium, peacefully, quietly, and out of contact with what remains of mankind. One of the more interesting premises of the book is that the colony was given restricted access to human history: they do not know what religion is, or philosophy. They do not have access many of the great works of humanity--art, music, literature, history-- because it was the hope of the colony's planners that bad ideas could be avoided, and that mankind would have a fresh start. The result is a pleasant, somewhat hedonistic world that's safe, quiet, and a trifle boring. Humans don't fight, really, and have a lot of heterosexual and homosexual sex, on a planet that is pretty much a tropical paradise. Until...a ship of earth born humans arrives. Rather than a seed ship, this ship contains actual people born on the mother world, and their contact wit the Thallasians makes up the central premise of the book. I won't go on and on about the plot; there really isn't any dramatic conflicts or nail-biting climaxes, but I found the book deeply moving and insightful. Truly a humanistic story; one that I found both moving and interesting. I cared about the characters, and felt...I don't know what. Wistful, I guess. Lonely, almost, as I read about this tiny little group of men and women moving through the vast emptiness of space, trying to survive. One of the better science fiction books I've read in a long time. Highly recommended. Not action packed in the least, but highly thought-provoking.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Doug Armstrong

    One of the only sci-fi books I've ever read twice. This book is a great example of hard sci-f-- the characters are all basically ancillary to exploring and explaining the central premise of colonizing other planets in a future where the sun goes nova in about 1600 years from now. Arthur C Clarke has an amazing way of picking one technology that is so far beyond what we have that it might seem impossible, but explaining it in such detail that it becomes totally plausible, and making that the one One of the only sci-fi books I've ever read twice. This book is a great example of hard sci-f-- the characters are all basically ancillary to exploring and explaining the central premise of colonizing other planets in a future where the sun goes nova in about 1600 years from now. Arthur C Clarke has an amazing way of picking one technology that is so far beyond what we have that it might seem impossible, but explaining it in such detail that it becomes totally plausible, and making that the one concession to science fiction (or maybe fantasy is a better word) you need to make amongst all the other technologies that are firmly grounded in hard science. Here, you're asked to accept that at the 11th hour on earth scientists discover how to tap the boundless energy in the void of interstellar space, enabling travel at practically the speed of light (maybe not quite as fantastic as it sounds since apparently the "void" of space is anything but). Otherwise, all the technology is familiar; only in the advanced stage it might be 1600 years in the future. Not that the characters are lifeless or boring themselves-- they are all interesting enough (except the women, Clarke can't write women characters for shit)-- but their conflicts and interplay are all in service of expounding on the theme of colonization. I won't spoil any of the specifics, but the novel gives you so much to think about. What is intelligence and how do you measure it? Is it ethical for a species to colonize a planet that contains intelligent life? Is it ethical to colonize a planet with only bacteria, possibly altering the course of the evolution of a future intelligent species? How far should humans go to bend their environment to their will? Those are a few of the questions I was left contemplating. Sure, those are fairly common themes in sci-fi, but Clarke has a way of making you think about them in a practical way instead of just purely philosophically. Great book, highly recommended for anyone who loves the science part of sci-fi.

  30. 5 out of 5

    David Nichols

    SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH was one of the last stand-alone novels that Arthur C. Clarke wrote before he decided to focus, in the final years of his career, on sequels and collaborations. The novel's central concept, which Alastair Reynolds and Charles Stross have recently employed with even greater success, is a respectable one: imagine an interstellar civilization bound by the laws of modern physics (i.e. no faster-than-light-travel) and by the likelihood that there are no spacefaring alien races a SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH was one of the last stand-alone novels that Arthur C. Clarke wrote before he decided to focus, in the final years of his career, on sequels and collaborations. The novel's central concept, which Alastair Reynolds and Charles Stross have recently employed with even greater success, is a respectable one: imagine an interstellar civilization bound by the laws of modern physics (i.e. no faster-than-light-travel) and by the likelihood that there are no spacefaring alien races anywhere in our local interstellar neighborhood. The novel itself is engagingly written and graced with an elegant future chronology spanning two millenia of interstellar colonization and technological change, with a solar nova and planetary extinction looming balefully over it. Clarke's story, however, is an antiseptic one. There is a lot of exposition, some description of the pleasant but stagnant colony of Thalassa and its contact with travelers from Earth, a tepid love story, an unexpected death, and a biological mystery – a few surprises, but no significant conflict or character development. One may blame this on Clarke's utopian mindset: he found it difficult to imagine a future society plagued by war, scarcity, ecological devastation, religious conflict, or any of the other issues that actually matter to twentieth and 21st-century humans. These were all problems Clarke assumed a 39th-century society would have solved. Maybe so, but he neglected to provide that society with any new challenges to confront (apart from one or two he hints at), which makes his characters and plot rather bloodless. This novel's setting is a pleasant place to visit, but one leaves it thinking “Did anything actually happen in this story, or is it just me?” Clarke originally wrote TSODE as a short story (1957), and for a time was trying to make it into a movie, but Hollywood wasn't interested. Not sure whose loss that is.

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