A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
It’s always a pleasure to come across a classic that one has not yet read. I grew up on the works of Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein. As an adult I have been disappointed when I’ve gone back to read the works of the latter two so I approached this work with some trepidation. Would it measure up?
I am happy to report that I was fascinated from start to finish. Dating to 1954 this work, a re-write of an earlier work by the author, displays the imagination and technological creativity for which Clarke was so well known. It’s as if in writing this book he made a list of scientific and cultural “givens” and then proceeded to stretch them to the breaking point and beyond.
One wonders what an adult raised on the pulp SF and space opera of the day must have thought about this tale of humanity millions of years from now.
Despite flat character development — which might actually have been the point given the sterile nature of the society from which the main character springs — the imagery painted of the future in this book still amazes. It’s only recently that special effects in movies have given us big-screen equivalents of what we “see” in this novel; I wonder, for example, what the team responsible for the look and feel of Interstellar would do with this book.
Clarke is one of the few writers who can write convincingly and entertainingly to answer the question, “What will the Earth and the Universe look like in millions of years?” In this book he takes us on a tour that attempts to answer such a question and throws in some fascinating plot twists along the way.
I suspect, however, that the flights of fancy displayed here are no longer fashionable. As much as I enjoyed this novel, I can’t help but compare it with the work of a current author like Jeff VanderMeer whose works are as much science as psychological fiction.
I still enjoy both and, as Clarke demonstrates in this novel from 1954, I continue to be fascinated fascinated by a journey to the stars.
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald