FSFH Book Review

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Abnett, Dan
Adams, Douglas
Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto
Allen, Roger MacBride
Allie, Scott
Allston, Aaron
Anderson, Kevin J.
Barclay, James
Barnes, Steven
Baum, L. Frank
Bear, Greg
Bendis, Brian Michael
Bischoff, David
Bisson, Terry
Blackman, Haden
Bova, Ben
Bowen, Carl
Brooks, Terry
Canavan, Trudi
Card, Orson Scott
Chadwick, Paul
Clarke, Arthur C.
Clarke, Susanna
Clemens, James
Collins, Paul
Crichton, Michael
Crispin, A. C.
Cunningham, Elaine
Daley, Brian
David, Peter
DeMatteis, J. M.
Denning, Troy
Dick, Philip K.
Dickens, Charles
Dietz, William C.
Dixon, Chuck
Donaldson, Stephen
Eddings, David
Edginton, Ian
Elrod, P. N.
Erikson, Steven
Feist, Raymond E.
Foster, Alan Dean
Fraction, Matt
Furman, Simon
Gaiman, Neil
Gemmell, David A.
Gerber, Michael
Gibbons, Dave
Golden, Christopher
Goodkind, Terry
Goodwin, Archie
Graham, Mitchell
Grant, Alan
Green, Jonathan
Green, Laurence
Guggenheim, Marc
Hagberg, David
Hambly, Barbara
Hamilton, Laurell K.
Hand, Elizabeth
Harras, Bob
Harrison, Mick
Heinlein, Robert A.
Herbert, Frank
Herbert, James
Hine, David
Hobb, Robin
Howard, Robert E.
Jacques, Brian
James, Charlie Hamilton
Jenkins, Paul
Jeter, K. W.
Johns, Geoff
Jones, J. V.
Jordan, Robert
Jurgens, Dan
Karpyshyn, Drew
Kennedy, Mike
Kerr, Katharine
Keyes, Greg
King, Stephen
King, William
Knaak, Richard A.
Kube-McDowell, Michael P.
Lawhead, Stephen
Layman, John
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Lewis, C. S.
Lieberman, A. J.
Loeb, Jeph
Lorey, Dean
Lowder, James
Luceno, James
Lumley, Brian
Macan, Darko
Manning, Russ
Martin, George R. R.
Marz, Ron
Matheson, Richard
McCaffrey, Anne
McIntosh, Neil
McIntyre, Vonda
Michelinie, David
Millar, Mark
Miller, John Jackson
Miller, Karen
Milligan, Peter
Moench, Doug
Moesta, Rebecca
Moore, Alan
Nicholls, Stan
Nicieza, Fabian
Nylund, Eric
O'Neil, Dennis
Ostrander, John
Paolini, Christopher
Perry, S. D.
Perry, Steve
Pratchett, Terry
Pullman, Philip
Quinn, David
Reaves, Michael
Reed, A. W.
Reed, Brian
Rice, Anne
Richardson, Nancy
Roberts, Adam
Rowe, Matthew
Rowling, J. K.
Rubio, Kevin
Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Salvatore, R.A.
Shelley, Mary
Shultz, Mark
Simone, Gail
Simonson, Louise
Simonson, Walter
Smith, L. Neil
Spurrier, Simon
Stackpole, Michael A.
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Stewart, Sean
Stoker, Bram
Stover, Matthew
Straczynski, J. Michael
Stradley, Randy
Strnad, Jan
Sutcliff, Rosemary
Tolkien, J.R.R.
Traviss, Karen
Truman, Tim
Turtledove, Harry
Tyers, Kathy
van Belkom, Edo
Veitch, Tom
Wagner, John
Watson, Jude
Whitman, John
Williams, Sean
Williams, Tad
Williams, Walter Jon
Windham, Ryder
Wolverton, Dave
Woodring, Jim
Wurts, Janny
Yeovil, Jack
Zahn, Timothy
Collaborations A - F
Collaborations G - M
Collaborations N - R
Collaborations S
Collaborations T - Z
Anthologies A - R
Anthologies S
Anthologies T - Z
Still to come
Reviewing Literature
The Books of Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, CBE, was born in Somerset in 1917 and went on to become one of Britain's greatest and best loved authors.  Famously, Clarke and Isaac Asimov entered into a pact that involved each declaring the other to be the greatest science-fiction writer ever.  Clarke's novels and short stories are so intricately thought through and scientifically sound, that on numerous occasions he has created ideas that later became reality (things such as commercial satellites).
Average Review Score: 4.7 out of 5 (6 books)

2001: A Space Odyssey
The novel created in conjunction with Stanley Kubrick's film of the same name.  I'm going to put many sci-fi fans into an uproar now and say that I thought the film was utter crap.  Which frankly amazed me, having read this book first.  The novel of '2001' is technically intricate but, as is Clarke's skill, manages to keep a firm core of human emotion, meaning that the story is never drowned by science.  Characters are realistic and likeable and the mysteries surrounding the Monoliths are created with both tension and wonder.  The ending is quite remarkable and has to be one of the finest that I have read in any book.  If anyone was wondering 'What the fu...?' at the end of the movie, then here in beatiful detail we learn that Dave's contact with the alien creators of the Monoliths makes him both progress and regress through the stages of his life until he becomes the celestial Star Child.  Truly one of the best science fiction novels ever written and I'd not be surprised if it's power makes you shed a tear for that homicidal computer with the red eye, HAL 9000.
5 out of 5
2010: Odyssey Two
A brilliant follow-up to '2001' which sees Heywood Floyd leading a mission to recover the space ship Discovery and to find out what happened to Dave Bowman.  First, this novel is given pace by the competition between the three missions that are in preparation, the Americans find themselves (accurately) behind their Cold War enemies in Russia in their plans to travel out to Jupiter.  However a surprising third factor enters the equation when the Chinese launch a mission that is clearly planned far differently than the other two.  To counter their separate short-comings, the Americans and Russians enter into a distrustful agreement to send a mixed crew aboard a Soviet ship.  This Cold War tension (whilst now outdated) is perfectly balanced by the simple human relationships sparked up between the political rivals.  The real magic of this novel is in the undeniable feeling of wonder that each new discovery reveals, you will find yourself completely lost in the exploration of Jupiter's moons and the investigation of Dave Bowman's disappearance.  As a final and stunning twist, millions of giant Monoliths begin to appear on the surface of Jupiter as they prepare for the coming of Lucifer.  Don't understand?  You'd better read this awesome book then.  Oh, and 'Lord of the Rings' fans will be pleased by Heywood Floyd's comparisons between Tolkien's Mordor and the surface of the volcanic moon Io.
5 out of 5
2061: Odyssey Three
A slightly different style of book to the previous two, '2061' is about a hastily assembled rescue mission to save the crew of a space ship that has crash landed on Europa, the moon forbidden to mankind by the mysterious intelligence behind the Monoliths.  Whilst I enjoyed this book, I felt that it lacked the spirit of the other two and that was a shame.  However, there is plenty of Clarke's customary scientific vision as well as his clever human relationships and issues.  A thing that I really like about this book was the idea that Jupiter's massive gravity had compacted it's core into a diamond the size of a mountain, a diamond that was ejected with the creation of Lucifer.  I also felt myself becoming distanced from Heywood Floyd, a character who was remarkably easy to understand and bond with in '2001' and '2010'.  All in all, '2061' is worth a read, but is not the sort of masterwork that it's predecessors were.  I should mention also that the inclusion of a mission to Halley's comet (2061 being the year it'll next make it's presence known in the solar system)  was a very clever idea and I can think of nowhere else where such a scene has been written.
4 out of 5
3001: The Final Odyssey
A slightly disappointing end to the series.  Due to the time gap between this and the previous books, all of the characters we've become accustomed to are dead.  Bizarrely though, Frank Poole (the guy that HAL rammed with a space pod) is resurrected as the main character.  Although this does stretch the imagination, the fact that Frank knows nothing of either the events surrounding the Monoliths or the events of the previous millennium means that there is a strong core story which has him discovering the wonders of the future.  The story this time is that the Monolith on Europa has malfunctioned and has decided that the human race is to be destroyed.  I thought that this clever twist to the Monoliths, which had previously been intent only on the advancment of intelligent life, is '3001's strongest point.  It also leads up to the clever ending, in which the Monolith must be destroyed, that leaves you wondering if it had, in fact, malfunctioned or whether it's purpose was to push the human race to strive to defeat it's superior technology, therefore advancing our culture further.  On the whole, this book, like '2061', lacks the magic of the first two books of the Space Odyssey series but manages to bring the issue of the Monoliths to a neat resolution, although by no means an end.
4 out of 5
The Hammer Of God
The name 'The Hammer of God' referring to an asteroid set to destroy life on Earth clearly reveals this book's core issue, which is the juxtaposition (good word eh?) of religion and science.  Taken from a short story of the same name, I think that 'The Hammer of God' is science fiction of the highest quality.  In fact, as shown by a series of 'Encounters', which relate genuine asteroid impacts or near-misses, this may not be science fiction so much as science possibility.  The story revolves around the work of the Space Guard programme, which is a real programme named by NASA for a similar creation in one of Clarke's earlier book, and their efforts to save mankind from a terror from outer space.  But this is no alien invasion fleet, no, this is but one of many pieces of space debris that could destroy life as we know it and the fact that it is a natural element means that religious fanatics believe it is God's will.  This novel is an excellent read and maintains the Clarke hallmarks of genuine science mixed with a deep and realistic human element.  And, as much of Clarke's best work is, this is a cautionary tale that covers more that the dangers of outer space.
5 out of 5
The Collected Stories
Here in one massive volume is almost all of the short stories that Clarke has written in his long career as one of the greatest science fiction writers ever.  Throughout is Clarke's inexhaustible attention to scientific detail, as well as his firm grasp of philosophy, religion and personal relationships.  Also, as with all great science fiction, most of the stories here have a message or a warning to give and many, written in the height of both World War II and the Cold War, are just as relevant today.  That is the problem with much science fiction, as time goes on it loses relevance and accuracy, but Clarke's visionary skill means that, although some of his ideas have been proved mistaken, the stories are still largely believable even today.  Another of Clarke's great talents comes to the fore in these short stories and that is his unerring ability to see human weaknesses and pick them apart, often using the tool of an alien culture.  Perhaps the most fun to be had with this book is when you read his characters' accounts of some miraculous new invention or discovery that we take for granted, only to realise that the story was written many years before the actual discovery was made!  Some of the best stories here are ones that he would later develop into full-length novels, including 'The Songs of Distant Earth', 'The Hammer of God' and, my favourite, 'The Sentinel' (which would later be developed into '2001: A Space Odyssey'.  Also to be found here is one of the most charming, enigmatic and intelligent characters ever created in science fiction or any other genre; Harry Purvis.  Purvis, appearing in several tales as the teller of the actual story, is so perfect a liar and fantasist that none of Clarke's other, equally intelligent, characters can prove him false despite the obviousness of the fact.  It's a true joy to read as Purvis deftly fends off any criticisms in order to make an often oblique point.  I can't recommend this book enough, it's content is impeccable and it's sheer length means that you won't be bored for a long time to come.
5 out of 5

If you liked Clarke:
Fans of the Space Odyssey series may well enjoy Ben Bova's Grand Tour series and, more specifically 'Mars', which captures that same sense of wonder and discovery.
Another good companion to Clarke's science fiction is the works of his good friend, the equally visionary, Isaac Asimov.

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