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Clarke's Universe
Arthur C. Clarke
iBooks, 343 pages

Arthur C. Clarke
Born in 1917 in Minehead, Somerset, England, and living in Sri Lanka since 1956, Arthur C. Clarke is best known for his 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), based on his short story "Sentinel of Eternity." His Against the Fall of Night (1948) and Childhood's End (1953) are also among his best titles. Clarke was voted Grand Master at the 1986 Nebula Awards. His short story "The Star" (1955) won him a Hugo award, as did the movie adaptation of 2001. A writer of hard SF, though not without some elements of mysticism, Clarke has also written a large volume of science-popularizing non-fiction for which he has won UNESCO's Kalinga Prize (1962) and a non-fiction International Fantasy Award in 1972 (for The Exploration of Space). Clarke has also received many honours from the scientific community, in particular for his work in the development of today's geosynchronous communication satellites.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Other Side of the Sky
SF Site Review: Childhood's End
SF Site Review: The Collected Stories
SF Site Review: The Fountains of Paradise
SF Site Review: The Light Of Other Days
SF Site Review: The Light Of Other Days
SF Site Review: Profiles of the Future
SF Site Review: Arthur C. Clarke & Lord Dunsany: A Correspondence

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Clarke's Universe Clarke's Universe is a collection of three stories by Arthur C. Clarke: one novel and two short stories. While in most cases when a collection like this is put together, there is some link between the stories, any link between "The Lion of Comarre," A Fall of Moondust, and "Jupiter V" is tenuous at best. All three are set in the future in our solar system and were written by Clarke, but that is about as far as the link goes.

"The Lion of Comarre" is set on a far future Earth in which society has taken to heart the probably apocryphal quote attributed to Charles H. Duell, the U.S. Patent Office Director in 1899: "Everything that can be invented has been invented." The story opens, however, with Richard Peyton III shocking his father with the declaration that he wanted to see what else there was to create. This simple statement leads Peyton on an epic quest to find the fabled city of Comarre, where inventors may still reside.

While Peyton's quest is epic, the telling of the quest isn't. Clarke never really manages to connect Peyton's need to invent and find a lost world of inventors with any sort of salvation for the world at large. Instead, even as Peyton makes his way toward Comarre, with the assistance of a lion he meets on the way, the ennui and stagnation of the world at large tends to overshadow anything of importance Peyton is doing.

Clarke manages to raise the emotional stakes, however, with the novel A Fall of Moondust. This novel tells the story of a lunar sightseeing cruiser which winds up trapped when a shift in the regolith sucks it into the Sea of Thirst. Although the novel may have seemed a bit melodramatic in 1961 when it was first published, it would prove to be extremely prescient a decade later when Apollo 13 ran into a variety of similar problems en route to the moon.

Clarke's characters in A Fall of Moondust are somewhat two-dimensional, from the misanthropic Dr. Lawson to the ever-capable Chief Engineer Lawrence to the larger than life Commodore Hansteen, however they do react in realistic ways (although the lack of even momentary panic on the stranded moonbus seems a bit farfetched). Their decisions are not entirely correct, although for the most part they move towards salvation for the stranded passengers.

Some of the mistakes made by Clarke's characters lead to increased dangers for the moonbus, and solutions wind up creating new and unforeseen problems, although in a realistic fashion as demonstrated by the events on the Apollo 13 mission. Furthermore, the moon creates further difficulties for the rescue by simply applying natural law to the problem and imperiling the tourists, no matter what the rescue teams try.

The final short story, "Jupiter V" is set on the moon now known as Amalthea. As with the other stories in Clarke's Universe, "Jupiter V" isn't about the characters, who all seem to come straight from Pulp Fiction central casting. What "Jupiter V" does offer, however, is a clever puzzle based on orbital mechanics.

In many ways the story is dated with regard to Jupiter's system and the exploration of it, but the strength of the story is that is retains an interest and could easily be considered to be set somewhere other the Jovian orbit.

The novel and second short story in Clarke's Universe are both highly entertaining. If "The Lion of Comarre" doesn't quite work, it doesn't detract from the other two stories and those allow the reader to see Clarke at his strongest. An odd selection, but a book worth reading.

Copyright © 2006 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a five-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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